- Posted August 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
India: Walking with Battle Buddies
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
I boarded the plane going from Bangkok to Mumbai and the sexual harassment began. Men’s wandering hands though the back of an airplane seat, airport security guards demanded I be their new cellphone background image. And I will not forget a man grabbing me while I was waiting for my takeout after I turned down his request for sex. I fought back every time, slapping, screaming, punching and pretending to be mentally disturbed when appropriate.
In India, I would remind myself, I am living though this hell for all of the future girls to travel or live in India. I’m fighting for them and no one else. Through exposure, travel and exchange I silently hope change can happen. But, deep down I know that is not enough.
I had 13-year-old kids grope me on a mountain with my group, a man come into my hotel room. I also had pictures taken of me sleeping in an AC3 train compartment. I woke up to the clicking sounds of his phone and promptly threw his phone out the window. At my own risk of course, but he did not retaliate. He shrugged his shoulders in defeat and returned to his bunk below mine.
I never cried in India that is until I heard these words come from the men and women in my group. “You deserve it.” “It’s all in your head.” Or lastly, and my favorite “Oh, now you’re going to get laid.” Phrases that were much sharper and did more damage than the actually physical assault I received. Proving that sexual harassment is not bounded by country, culture or even gender.
Very few men in my group and random Indian men became my battle buddies. They stood by me, encouraged me, and supported me through every frightening and draining experience. As men apologize for what has happened to the women on the trip I say this. Sexual harassment is a problem that affects both women and men in every country. As a woman, I am not asking for a protector, I am asking for battle buddies, someone to stand by my side.
To the men of the world open your eyes watch as it happens to your mother, aunt, sister, niece and daughter and stand with them! I’ve stopped crying, but we’re still fighting this battle of victim blaming and man hating.
It is time to face this harsh reality, together men and women to change, if not for ourselves, then for the future generations. Even to this day almost 9 months later I still have nightmares. When I wake up terrified and sweating, my boyfriend is always tells me “It’s okay, I’m by your side, we’re in this together.”
Now I ask you the reader. Are you by my side?