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In a few rare cases, women in India have taken on sexual harassment in a direct, physical manner – confronting the harasser. We explore one such case.
#AskingForIt is an initiative by Breakthrough to mobilize communities and get every individual, both online and in the ‘real world’, to speak out and not treat sexual harassment as ‘normal’.
Have you ever reacted against sexual harassment when you faced it yourself, or saw another girl or woman facing it? Login to write if you have a contributor account at Women’s Web, or use this form to send us your post.
Sexual harassment on the street. We’ve heard of it, we’ve experienced it, we’ve watched it, and we hate it. But how many of us have actually stood up to the harassers? When I mean ‘stood up to’, I mean confront the harasser, and make him realise that you’re not to be messed with.
Silence and ignorance is not the answer. You have to take action, or it will never end. You can’t resign yourself to believing that it’s a part of life. I interviewed a friend of mine who attacked the man who harassed her and taught him a well-deserved lesson. She wished to remain anonymous, but has shared her story with us.
Note: The objective of this interview is not to suggest that every woman necessarily needs to take on street harassers physically, but to explore a situation where a woman fought back, and her state of mind during and after the incident. This is her point of view.
What happened that day? Please share with us.
This happened when I was 17. I was standing at the bus stop, waiting for my friends. The bus stop was deserted, except for one guy sitting on the bench. As I stood waiting for the bus, I felt him stand behind me and he made an extremely obscene remark about my breasts. I couldn’t believe my ears.
Before I could react, he squeezed my breasts, and tried to kiss my neck.
What was your immediate reaction?
I felt shocked, and incredulous. Nobody has ever spoken to me like that before, nor has anyone touched me like that. It took me a second to react, and comprehend what that man just said and did. His atrocious words and actions irked me to no end.
How did you fight back?
I immediately turned around, charged forward and slammed my right fist into his face. I have learnt martial arts, so I know that you must attack your opponent before he makes his next move. I held his neck, and kicked his crotch. If you hit the crotch, it hurts men the most. He tried to strangle my neck, so I hit his crotch again. He wasn’t expecting me to react this way. I held the hand he touched my breasts with, and twisted it. I landed another punch on his face.
After that, he began to yell in pain. “Don’t you dare touch me!” I yelled at him. After that, I walked away in anger.
In hindsight, what do you feel about the whole experience?
I was younger when this happened. I acted on impulse, and the man could’ve been armed. I should’ve checked for that. At that time, I hadn’t learnt how to defend myself against an armed attacker. There is a different way of defending yourself against an armed attacker, which I’ve learnt now. I could’ve been seriously injured if he was armed. I should’ve kept that in mind, I should’ve been more cautious.
But I don’t regret doing it. That guy deserved what he got. If he can’t respect women, then I had no reason to hold back either. I can only hope that he stopped harassing other girls after I beat him up. I refuse to be a victim, and I refuse to let any man misbehave with me.
Do you think its practical for women to learn self-defence?
Of course. Women may face various situations at different places, at any point of time in their life. Is there any harm in learning something that could save your life? Women aren’t harassed just by outsiders. Their own male family members and relatives attack them. You can’t restrain yourself for any reason.
Women are warriors, not survivors and victims. Any man who harasses any woman should be punished. Women can punish the men themselves, or the law can do it. But at times, nobody will be around to help you. In such situations, it is prudent to learn how to defend yourself.
You maybe attacked anywhere now. Better to be equipped than attacked. I may have learnt martial arts just for fun, but I never imagined that a situation would arise where I would have to use my skills outside the arena.
Do you think men’s attitude has necessitated women to learn martial arts?
To a large extent, yes. After the Delhi gang rape incident, women have taken their safety in their own hands. They are working towards defending themselves in all circumstances. Indian men are going to take a long time to alter their attitude about women; until then, we’ve got to show them that we’re not damsels in distress.
Imagine a situation where all women stand up for themselves, men will automatically crouch back in fear.
Does the fact that you have a black belt in martial arts give you mental satisfaction?
Yes. In a way it does. I know how to handle myself. I’ve been learning martial arts since I was 7. I’m a reporter, and I have to go around different parts of town. Traversing into the unknown is dangerous, and after being trained in martial arts, I’m confident that I’m relatively safe.
But practising martial arts in an air conditioned environment and using it in real life are polar opposites.
Martial arts is not what they show on TV, where male actors beat up hundreds of attackers at once. So, when you do decide to hit back, gauge your opponent and contemplate if you can take him on.
I’m just giving you a realistic picture of a situation where you can fight back.
But I highly recommend all women to learn martial arts and self-defence. You will be safer with it, than without it. Men continue with such behaviour, since they know that most women won’t retaliate.
But once you hit back, they may learn to back-off. If all women prove that they won’t stand this nonsense, men will automatically learn to avoid repeating such behaviour. I feel this is the only way you can make men realise that they have to change their attitude.
Read all posts written @ #AskingForIt blogathon
Top image of woman saying No via Shutterstock
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