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But If He Didn’t Touch You Or Say Anything Inappropriate, How Is It Sexual Harassment?

Posted: May 20, 2020

Sexual harassment may not always be an inappropriate touch or comment. Some times, it is something seemingly mundane as phone calls too!

I have been meaning to write this for some time now. That my first really bitter harassment episode occurred after my post-graduation, well after my marriage and a kid.

Now there have been incidents before, in a bus or a train, which I could tackle easily by pushing off that hand or by shooting an angry glare. But this experience freaked me out, though there was no touching or abusive language involved.

It seemed simple at first

It was at the university where I went to collect my final mark sheet. My husband accompanied me but waited downstairs. I was directed to the cabin of some head clerk who was supposed to hand me the mark sheet. Once I mentioned my name, the old man remarked, “South Indian? I like the way you speak.”

I didn’t respond and demanded my document, but he replied it wasn’t ready. As I stood there confused, he spoke again, “It will be printed by afternoon, in the meantime, why don’t you throw me a party?”

Excuse me, I thought to myself. But then I had heard about buying these people tea and snacks, plus my husband was downstairs already. I have to say I was indeed glad he had driven me, I had initially thought of coming alone like I always did. At least, now I didn’t need to deal with this awkward situation all by myself.

So I reluctantly agreed and texted my husband. I have to say, the man was visibly unhappy when he realised I had company. He somehow fell silent as he munched on the pakoras and tea we bought for him.

He began calling me even after I blocked him

I explained what happened to my husband in my language and this time he accompanied me upstairs. The clerk very sullenly handed me my mark sheet which had pretty much been ready all the time. As we started leaving, he asked me to sign on a register, with my phone number and that was where I probably went wrong.

This creepy old man began calling me up, brazenly demanding a party, once even hinting that I come alone. Two calls and I blocked the number. Not the one to give up, he began calling from different numbers. The calls started getting ruder, ‘how dare you cut my call?’ ‘you know who I am,’ ‘get back the mark sheet,’ and the like.

And honestly, belonging to an overprotected background and this being my first such experience, I panicked. Husband suggested approaching some senior official at the university and lodging a complaint. But I was worried and didn’t wish to stretch it too much. I thought the man would eventually give up. And that was my second mistake.

Was it harassment even if he didn’t touch me?

I browsed the internet and came to understand that sexual harassment was defined as inappropriate touching or comments directed at a woman’s sexuality or body. This man hadn’t done either, he was calling me up and asking for a party, God alone knew what it implied.

But then, he was stalking me, and that, I guess, was a frightening version of harassment.

Whatever it was, I was intimidated and was stressing a lot about the calls. So we did the inevitable. One day, both- husband and I, stormed into the clerk’s room and my husband insisted on taking him to that party. He argued back, that nobody talked to him like that, but he thankfully stopped after the incident. That was it, that simple.

It made me uncomfortable and it just felt wrong!

I know many of you would feel, it was just a phone call, you didn’t have to meet him every day. And that he didn’t make any physical advances, then what was I afraid of? Trust me, this incident kind of taught me something, that blackmail isn’t physical but definitely wrong, in a big way.

And lessons apart, there are a few things I regret. Though my husband repeatedly insisted on reporting the incident, I didn’t. And today I feel, I should have tackled the guy by myself, I  took my husband along- my third mistake perhaps.

I really hope, all of us muster enough courage to tackle and report any untoward incident that makes us uncomfortable.

Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Andhadhun

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Comments

2 Comments


  1. Dear Preethi , I couldnt help wondering why you would keep saying ‘my mistake my mistake’ We have all been there and it is ok to take any decision at the moment. It was all the man’s fault. Sexual harassment comes in any form not necessarily physical or verbal. There is more to this. And you have mentioned it rightly once as ‘stalking’. Exactly, it is stalking and it is not something that can be ignored. You did the right thing by taking him though it took time. you did the right thing by not yielding. you did the right thing by speaking up now. Again it was all the stalker’s fault. Not you.

    • Preethi Warrier -

      Hi. Thanks for your valuable comment. Its only that, I shouldn’t have shared my number with him, after my degree, why sid he actually need that.
      And now when I think of it, I shoukd have handled it myself and sooner.
      But yeah, I got very stressed at that time, I did what came to my mind.

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