What is the definition of sexual harassment? According to Google it is - The ‘Harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.’
The term sounds way too familiar to most of us, from the headlines Harvey Weinstein has been making for his sexual advances towards the women in Hollywood to Jason Momoa (our beloved Khal Drogo) making statements about loving his character in Game Of Thrones because it gave him a chance to rape beautiful women. When stories like these come to light, the rage boils simultaneously amongst women who have had men like these leech on them.
Twitter began something new this weekend, #MeToo. Women (and men) from around the world are updating their social media profiles with the term ‘Me Too’. Why? To show the world that sexual harassment is a prevailing problem that is time and again ignored. ‘Me too’ stands for the fact that I have personally been a ‘victim’ of sexual harassment and I am living with the trauma of that incident. To show our support in the moment, we asked women in POPxo to come forward and discuss their up close and personal encounters with sexual harassment.
It was 3 PM. I was returning from college and like I do on regular days, decided to walk down from the metro station to my house. With my earphones plugged in, I always really enjoyed that walk, it was some time to unwind for me. That day as I was crossing the flyover, I saw a boy sitting on the ledge. He looked quite young and I didn’t pay him much attention while crossing him. But a few seconds later, I felt someone inching closer to me behind my back. I turned to see the boy who now stood in front of me in a way that left me cornered next to the wall. I took out my earphones and looked at him with a disgusted expression on my face. He didn’t say anything or pass a comment so I wondered what he wanted. Until he gestured with his eyes downwards. That’s when I realized he was holding his penis in his hand, out of his pants. It was 3 PM in the afternoon on a flyover. There was no one in sight and before I could register what had just happened he moved away and then ran back.
I talked to a lot of people after that and none of us could understand what had happened. This guy had just come to show me his penis and then ran away. That was the most disgusted I felt. And I couldn’t do anything about it. I stopped walking back home from that day onwards. This was just a boy in broad daylight but what if it was a couple of boys after dark? The thought still haunts me so yes, #MeToo.
- Isheeta Sharma, Junior Lifestyle Editor
As a 16-year-old girl attending one of those massive parties, organized by teenagers, for teenagers. Looking back, I had no business being in a farmhouse with such less security and that much alcohol. I was stepping out of the bathroom, when an older man entered and pushed me back inside. My memory is hazy - but I managed to shove my way out within a few minutes. I spent the rest of the evening in tears, being consoled by my friends. That guy was immediately located and made to leave the premises. But he should've been reported to the police. Even that slight brush with such an incident made me feel mentally weak - I spent the rest of the week randomly breaking down in tears.
- Nitya Uppal, Assistant Editor
I was in 2nd year of graduation at Gargi College. I had just finished band practice and decided to walk across and wait for an auto rickshaw - back in 2009, Uber and Ola were not even in the running. This was around 3 or 4 pm when the Siri Fort road area would get strangely deserted. While I waited, a car stops just a little ahead of where I was standing. He backs up his car to me and asks me to get in, with a slight nod of his head. I didn’t really know what was happening. Was I supposed to know this man from somewhere? Was he a family friend I had met some long time ago? I’m usually very good with faces and this man brought back no recollection, whatsoever. I asked him if he needed help with directions. He laughed, amused. I still didn’t understand what was going on. “You’re a college girl, aren’t you?” he asked me; the smirk was still plastered across his face. I nodded, not knowing what else to do. “Would you like to volunteer for the Commonwealth Games?” he asked. Yes, that was the time when the capital was prepping for one of the most historic events in the country and college students were clammering to get brownie points on their portfolios by being even a remote part of the event. “Why do you ask?” I countered his question. “Because I can give you work,” he retorted, still smiling in a way that starts turning uncomfortable - almost as if he knew what was about to happen and I didn’t. “I’ll take you to my hotel room and explain what work you need to do.” I was baffled, to say the least. I still didn’t know what was going on; moreso because I realise things late and because such a thing had never happened before. “Kyun, dar gayi?” he asked in Hindi. “Ladki ho ke aise bra pehenti ho aur dar gayi?” I was wearing a halter inside with a fully covered black t-shirt and a pair of jeans, by the way. He still noticed the thin strap around my neck when that was literally the only part of my body that was revealed. I somehow, managed to gather my wits, asked him to kindly drive on after mustering a meek voice to reply, ‘No, thank you’ to the man’s ‘generous’ offer. He went ahead and stopped and I stood hoping an auto-rickshaw would come by. One did. He asked for an exorbitant amount of fare because the meters were literally only an object back then. I never hesitated once and told him to drive at lightening speed.
- Dessidre Fleming, Lifestyle Editor
This was a recent memory of experiencing in action what being a 'man of power' in a corporate is really like. I had seen and unfortunately been a victim to his charades at the workplace. Walking around the halls of the office being inappropriate with women, touching, complementing and getting handsy was just another day for him. I could tell, his behaviour seemed justified in his head, since some of the women never objected and then some of us 'normal' ones cringed and squirmed when he attempted those moves on us. However no matter what we did, he didn't seem to get the point. This guy was very, very high up in the management - practically untouchable and feared by everyone else. The incident took place at an International trip to an exotic destination, and this happened at a club during one of the office parties. I was at the bar getting myself a drink and he invited me over to talk to him, I apprehensively went over. Before I could process what went down, a normal conversation led to him spanking my ass. Everything else from that night is hazy, I remember turning around in tears and getting the hell out of there. My colleagues found me weeping in the washroom and before I knew it the entire office found out about what he did. He realised that I’m not ‘one of those women’ and apologized to me the next day. It would account for something had his apology not had the words “I’m like this with everyone in the office, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to offend you. Maybe if you spend a few more years here you’ll do that to me someday.” The worst part of this entire ordeal was that NOBODY tried to go and give him a piece of their mind, because of course hierarchy and fear. It was a bunch of young girls against the management and against a whole bunch of other women who JUSTIFIED his behaviour! I was all alone, in a different country unable to get any flights back home and terrified. I spent the next few days of my trip mentally disconnected from everything. I quit a few weeks later, but it is my biggest regret that I did not take any legal action against that pervert.
- Nidhi Kavle, Senior Beauty Writer
It was 7 pm on a weekday. I was on my own, headed for a movie in one of the biggest and most crowded multiplexes in Ahmedabad. As I entered the empty elevator to get to the 7th floor, a man behind me stepped in with his hands struggling with the chain of his jeans. At first I was confused and a little awkward as to what is the plan here! And as soon as the elevator doors shut, the man pulled out his ‘junk’ from his pants, showing it to me in the broadly lit elevator of a crowded mall! My first instinct was to stop the elevator doors from closing and run out, since we were the only two people and it was a 7 floor ride up, which i have no clue what the man intended to do with! As I ran out of the elevator two men, seeing me visibly distraught, stopped and asked what’s the matter. While doing this, the perpetrator saw an out and ran for it with a wide grin on his face. I screamed behind him, asking people to stop him, but to no avail. I got over the shock and horror of the incident pretty quickly because as women we are pretty good with our flight or fight tendencies, but I wasn't going to let this go easily either. I demanded to see the security footage at the mall, so that the man can be identified. Now, here’s the catch ladies, a big public space with big brands and restaurants operating in it, and no security cameras in the elevators! With such poor infrastructure, how can women even begin to feel safe? Maybe before the bullet trains and smart cities are built, the need of the hour should be to optimize the basic infrastructure we have in place right now! How can you expect to see the harassment done to women, if you don't have eyes everywhere?
- Sumona Bose, Fashion Writer
It happened when I was going back home from college in the afternoon. I took a bus and found a seat near the aisle. A few stops later, a man boarded the bus and stood beside me. Within a few minutes I could feel him pressing against my armpit and it was evident that he was drunk. When I realized what was happening, I immediately stood up and walked to the front of the bus. But it didn’t stop there, as that man stood behind me and made an attempt to press against me, again. As an 18-year-old, with whom nothing of such sort had happened before, I got scared and decided to get down at the next stop. Unfortunately, that man stepped down too, and that moment my heart was beating at an insane rate. I took the next bus and when I was about to step down at my station, I saw that guy walking towards me. The adrenaline kicked in and I ran as fast as I could to my house. I made sure to check if that man was coming after me or not, luckily he wasn’t. This experience had such a bad impact on me that I was way too scared to take the bus for the next few weeks.
- Sonali Pawar, Beauty Writer & Editorial Coordinator
As an 18-year-old, learning to defend yourself is not one of your priorities because it never crosses your mind that you might have to. After all, you’re cocky enough to think that something like this will never happen to you. I was walking from my aunt’s house, which is a block away from my house, to the market nearby with my sisters. We were debating which way to take because there were two and we wanted to take the shorter route. A man, who had been creepily shadowing us for a while, overheard our conversation and assumed that we did not know the way and were new to the area. He tried to be helpful but we brushed off his advances and walked away. He continued to follow us and in a dark alleyway, right behind my house, proceeded to grope us. His hands were everywhere and for a minute all three of us froze because we did not know how to react.
Luckily for us, my father was at home that time and we called him. My sister broke down crying because she’d gotten the worst of it. We did manage to catch the guy and report him to the police but the police let him off on a warning and told us that “Bache uska pura future ruin ho jayega, jaane do.” That was more infuriating than the incident but I really cannot forget how this man had the audacity to touch me inappropriately right outside my house.
- Srishti Gupta, Senior Lifestyle Writer
It happened during my school summer holidays. I was around 11 years old and my parents had taken me and my elder sister to Mumbai for the vacations. We even had a wedding to attend in between all the sightseeing and the weekend trip to Goa. It was there at the wedding that my worst nightmare came true. And I do not have any hazy memories about it… It’s all crisp and clear in my mind to this day. An acquaintance of my father, must be easily around 45 years old came and started chatting with me about my studies. Uncle, as I referred to him was sweet and had a bag full of candies to offer. May I also tell you that the gathering was that of a high ranking officials who we would normally refer to as the high-society. Not the regular shady men you spot on the streets all the time. The uncle then grew extremely interested in my knowledge about computers and asked me to take a walk with him while I boasted about my computer skills. Before I knew it, we were in a secluded corner of the venue and he grabbed me by the waist and kissed me on my mouth. I was too young to know what had just happened. I felt uneasy but I did not know what to do. Next he started fiddling with my barely there breasts. That’s when I knew something was totally wrong and told him I needed to pee. We were taught not to be rude to elders and I was still being respectful while he followed me to the loo. He made an attempt to come inside the cubicle but luckily my sister was right there and he had no choice but to back off. It was only a couple of years later that I realized what had actually happened. That man even came visiting us few years back and I excused myself out of the house before he arrived. Till date, I’ve not got the courage to tell my parents. I probably don’t want to. I probably just want to let it go… Because the truth is, I don’t even know his name, how do I even tell my parents who was at fault.
- Manasvi Jaitly, Wedding Editor
After blaming myself for weeks when I finally told my sister about what happened, I realized that maybe, it's not my fault. I was 19 and quite excited to travel for work. Apart from me, one more girl and 3 men had gone for Comic Con Bangalore to set up a stall and drive sales. After the event was over, my girlfriend and I decided to meet a few friends and grab a drink or two. My friend went to sleep soon after we returned to the hotel but I was well awake. A man from the sales team found out that we'd gone out drinking and came to our room to check on us. Since my friend was fast asleep and I was under the influence of alcohol, this man just assumed that he can whatever he wishes to. He kept coming close to me and before I could even realize, he'd kissed me. He was a married man with a 6-year-old daughter. I was disgusted and instantly wanted to throw up. I immediately asked him to leave the room but he just wouldn't budge. I didn't tell anyone about this incident for about 2 weeks. When I opened up to my sister about the same, she was furious. She spoke to my boss and got the man fired from his job.
- Srishti Sabharwal, Senior Fashion Writer
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