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    Posted August 21, 2013 by
    Varanasi, India
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Speaking up about sexual violence

    More from JArvela

    I have been sexually assaulted, and I still love India.

    I am a fellow CNN iReporter, a green eyed, blonde hair female. I am someone who has worked and travelled in India; alone and in a group.

    I feel the need to respond to the recent iReport topic regarding sexual assault in India.

    The latest account by Michaela Cross resonates deeply with me. I have been the centre of and witness to several accounts of sexual assault in India. The only discernible difference is my response.

    To be concise I will list the assaults in point form.

    A man around fifty, walking the opposite direction to me. Upon passing, extends his arm backwards mid walk and grabs my bum. I turned back but the trick is they don’t look back. It’s happened more than once.

    A similar situation, a man walking up from behind and brushing his hand across my chest. This also happened to another girl I worked with in Bangalore.

    The most serious case was a Rickshaw driver stopping mid trip during the night, to demand a female passenger sit beside him, rather than in the back seat. He wouldn’t continue the trip unless she obliged. The same threat of desertion allowed him to touch her chest and kiss her neck.

    There are more experiences, if you are interested; you can read them on my blog (address below).


    The stares and picture taking is incessant. However, I believe coping with it is a matter of attitude. Throughout my blog I have a considerable amount of pictures with Indians facing my camera, posed and expecting the photo. This is in exchange for a similar photo of me. I have photos of women breast feeding; men bathing at the side of the road, children half-naked playing in the dirt, and families in prayer. Taking photos of me in return doesn’t seem unreasonable. With a smile, a customary head waggle and ‘namaste’, a friendly conversation with simply curious people usually occurs.

    In regards to the staring, it is a cultural misunderstanding to presume definite threat. Is is similar to Eastern and Southern Europe, and dissimilar to Australia and England. Staring is not considered rude or intrusive, so an obvious; seemingly defiant reaction isn’t effective.

    I have been followed, touched, stared at, photographed and commented upon while in India. I also experienced this kind of harassment, and worse, during my year studying in Portugal.

    I love Indians, I have been here several months and expect to return by the end of the year. Indians know what love is, they have a kind of connection and understanding that is required surviving with such a population, often in severe poverty.

    India, similar to many other countries and regions have an undeniable need to address the uniform inequality experienced by women.

    My primary concern with the report is that it is critical not to generalise all uncomfortable behaviour as sexual, some are simply cultural differences. You don’t go to India and expect an advanced awareness of personal boundaries.

    I feel like India hasn’t yet figured out how to balance their rich culture and unparalleled tradition with the onslaught of modern technology, thinking and appetites.
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