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Sexual harassment: Delayed report doesn’t mean it didn’t happen

Last year in July, the Indian women’s hockey team filed a complaint of sexual harassment against their coach MK Kaushik. The harassment, said the members, had been going on since March 2010, but it took a while for them to speak out against it. Instead of understanding these women’s struggle to point out a wrong done by their all powerful coach, several people started doubting their credibility saying why did they keep quiet all these while.

In a similar event, a research Scholar from Mysore University in southern India yesterday started an indefinite stir, asking for action against her guide, Prof Shivabasavaiah who allegedly harassed her sexually.

The research scholar first complained to the University which simply turned a deaf ear. After waiting for 7 long months (it happened in March’11), she has now taken it to the local district administration. How longer will it take for the authorities to listen to her? Will there be similar questions on what took her so long? I guess there will be.

I recall one of my own experiences. When I was in 2nd year of my college, one evening I was sipping tea with a few female friends and humming a song. Suddenly a senior male student came up, made a vulgar proposition to one of us and walked away. Since the student didn’t apologize, we complained to the university, which took over 2 weeks to call a hearing. That day, some student union leaders came up and asked us to forget it all because it was ‘already too late’ and the issue had become ‘stale’.

Stale. Delayed. Not so fresh. How does that dilute the seriousness of a wrong?

And, when the wrong is happening in a place where women go to study and learn, shouldn’t the authorities rather focus on making the campus a safer place, like it’s expected to be?

Comments

Nusrat Ara's picture

That is so sad but true. I

That is so sad but true. I hope things change soon.

Love

Nusrat

Stella Paul's picture

I hope the same

Dear Nusrat

The research scholar has said that inaction by the university is affecting the moral of other female students. I think its quite possible. If the authorities take a strong step, it will not only make feel all the women safer, but will also end all the negative publicity that the university is getting.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

jmadhur's picture

Affects credibility

I think when a department or an institution keeps quiet on sexual harassment, it affects their credibility. So they should be prompt in action. Thanks for bringing this up.

Stella Paul's picture

I agree

I totally agree with you. I feel that external pressure - such as media discussions can help a lot to make this happen .So, we should talk about them more often.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

MaDube's picture

People say the same too about

People say the same too about women who report rape a long time after the actual incident. What people do not understand is that the pressures victims face about the credibility of their report, the trauma of reliving the rape during the process of collecting evidence and then throughout the trial is sometimes too much for them to deal with at the same time. So they only get to report when they feel emotionally strong enough to deal with the trauma.

Greengirl's picture

You've said it all

I absolutely agree with you that majority of victims only speak up when they feel emotionally strong to do so. More so too, time and time again, victims have witnessed the shoddy handling of similar cases. More often than not, the victims even end up looking like they are the victimizer, while the real victimizer becomes celebrated as the victim. A tale turned around?

Stella Paul's picture

Yes, absolutely!

You might have seen and known many such cases and many such women. The very fact that the women are coming out and telling the world about it in itself is a brave act because this means they are ready to undergo the traumatic experience - at least in their mind- all over again. They need justice, not ridicule. Love you for adding this new angle!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Greengirl's picture

Justice not ridicule

Surely Stella, justice is what is needed. Empowering women is a speedy way of helping women speak up. We are getting there by the day.
I very much appreciate your response and opinion about my earlier comment.
Thank you my sister and friend.

Olanike

Stella Paul's picture

Yes, absolutely!

Thanks for adding on this angle. Can't agree more with you. And, I know you have personally witnessed such cases and known such women too. What I feel it that a woman is being brave just by deciding to come out with her experience because it means undergoing the whole traumatic thing - even if mentally - all over again. In this case she needs understanding and justice, not ridicule.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

usha kc's picture

This is panic but happens

This is panic but happens every where to we girls /women. Society blame not to the guilt byt to the victim thats we women.
thank you dear Sis for sharing this issue and reminds ue about it.

Big hug

Stella Paul's picture

Change will come

Dear Sister

At least we can say proudly that we are more vocal now than our previous generation against what we women face. And when your little girl grows up, she will be even more braver and stronger than you and I are. Thats slow, but steady change and I am sure this will continue.

Thanks for reading! Hugs!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Greengirl's picture

Real and Big Issue

Not a few women experience this embarrassing situation and often times live with the pain by remaining silent. It is not that they accept silence as the best option; it's just that the way society handles such matters ends up not favouring the victim. May be when more opportunities and avenues are created for women to be open, such hydra-headed societal ills posed by men will be nipped in the bud. God help us, women and girls!

Stella Paul's picture

Family has a role too

My dear friend

You highlighted yet another point. You know, in my post I talked about my own experience. What I didnt say is that there were 4 of us and when we were lodging a complaint, the 4th girl decided to stay away from it. She said that if her family came to know about such happenings, they would feel 'ashamed' that their daughter had been harassed!!! I was very angry at first, but now don't blame her so much. Its the parents who teach the girls the wrong value. Honor is not in being a willing victim, but not in taking it lying down. Thanks so much for pointing this out!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Greengirl's picture

Very True Stella

I agree with you on the fact that Family also has a role to play; especially because it is the first school of learning for everyone. A child that is well supported at home would more often than not exhibit a high level of confidence. I believe too that so much of the tendencies displayed by an adult is usually imbibed right from the formative years. Children must be supported and helped to build an unshakeable confidence so that all through their lives, they can stand up for what they believe is right.

SSD's picture

Stella is stellar !

Stella, great that you are vocalising !
Let me share a stanza from a poet, Habib Jalib:

In my hand I hold a pen,
in my heart the light of consciousness.
How can your forces of oppression
ever win?

We must keep writing, advocating for justice until our tongues run dry from blood. Indeed, we must also empower younger girls to cultivate confidence and not fear when certain atrocities come their way.
Keep up !
Regards,
Shaheen Sultan Dhanji

Cheers,
Shaheen

Stella Paul's picture

Thanks Shaheen

Thanks so much! I totally agree with you. This is a great forum to bring up all the thorny issues and start a global dialogue!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

ruthibelle's picture

Time lost. It doesn't dilute

Time lost.

It doesn't dilute the seriousness of the wrong done. It in no way takes away from the fact that these women were wronged and deserve to have this acknowledged and rectified.

Love,
Ruthibelle
ruthibelle.blogspot.com

Stella Paul's picture

True!

You got the essence of it so clearly! I hope words like these find a million echoes, so some ears, suffering from selective hearing problems open up. Love!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Samuel Jr's picture

Women Power

First, thank you for this post. I enjoy hockey and did not know India had a women's hockey team. I am pleased women are given the same opportunity to play sports in India as men. That has only been true in the USA for my daughters' generation.

About sexual harassment, I sadly have counseled many women (and a few men) who were victims of sexual harassment and abuse, as well as offenders. What generally is not acknowledged is that most harassment and abuse in the US is done by family members, colleagues and acquaintenences who are well-known by the female and with whom there is an unequal power differential. Additionally, reporting by the harrassed female is often not undertaken because she is isolated and in fear of reprisals.

I view one of the gifts of women is their willingness to be in community and solidarity with each other. Therefore, if females find themselves in an isolated lower power position with a male, they should take preventive precautions in advance by partnering with other women to monitor and receive feedback regarding any inappropriate behavior, and given support to report it. Yes, I know men should not do it and institutions should not allow it. But many men are ignorant and institutions are notorious for their resistance to change, and I agree they should be confronted. Meanwhile, I am just suggesting women use their community to preventatively protect themselves from such prolonged abuse and isolation when it does occur.

Be Well, Samuel

Stella Paul's picture

Good one

Dear Samuel

That's quite a good and practical suggestion. The problem, however, is that some women are rather quiet type, take time to open up and make friends even with other women. If you take hockey team in India, most players come from extremely remote areas and poor families. For them hockey means much more than a sport; its their only way to get out of home, to get a job and so on. So, they again fear of speaking out and ending up losing their place in the team which would be like losing everything else.

Anyway, it sure to great to meet someone like you who not only can strengthen such debates, but also can provide great new ideas too. I hope you tribe grows! The world will be a far safer and nicer place for all :)

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Samuel Jr's picture

Thanks for your feedback.

Hi Stella Paul, I appreciate your additional info and thoughts about the women from India who play hockey. Sadly their poverty and lack of opportunity leaves them even more vulnerable to exploitation.I live in a relatively affluent area and there recently was an article about sexual abuse by the male coach of the local women's gymnastic team by women who were on the team 10 years ago now just speaking-out. I also personally know of teen males who have been abused volunteering at a local fire dept who did not report it until adulthood.

The trauma from such experiences can alter a person's life extensively and yet it often goes unreported and unpunished. As a psychotherapist I view it as a public health issue, much in the way of not being aware of exposure to a deadly virus; the lack of acknowledgement, education and institutional response to sexual harrassment, violation and abuse just allows it to spread and infect even more people. I believe it should be a part of all health, sexual and legal education disseminated to families and communities so individuals feels supported by local norms rather than isolated by them. I also feel parents should be very protective of entrusting their childen to any older adult regardless of how well-meaning and opportunistic s/he might seem. The scarring from such a wound can can last a lifetime.

Thanks again for your feedback and making me feel valued as part of the World Pulse community. Continued blessings on your reporting, work and life. Samuel Prentice, Jr

Be Well, Samuel

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