Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Posted on March 3, 2010

Shreya Krishnan:

The title coined by Sidney Sheldon many years ago has never been more apt than in today’s time. How safe is a girl/woman in today’s world? Each time she sets out to win the world, live her dreams, a fear lunges at her. In today’s world, a girl would shy away from being least adventurous for fearing losing herself.

The degree of harassment a woman goes through today depends on various factors. Harassment varies from being physical to mental and the intensity of torture and suffering. From a simple vulgar touch in a bus to being molested on the roads, the Indian metros are seeing it all. These acts make a woman lose her confidence; loss of identity and in some cases develops a deep rooted fear of men. The physical wounds though can be healed, the mental trauma and fear stays on.

How many times have we heard that women are not objects or desire? Yet, this message does not seem to be heard by the audience who needs to know. Why time and again, women face a share of harassment in one form or the other? Am I crying for sympathy or yelling in desperation? Neither. I am plain shocked and ashamed to live in a society where a girl cannot claim to be safe. What defines safety then? I would probably define it something like a state of mind in which there is no fear and the confidence that nothing can harm you. Can we have governance that can handle this expectation? Or is it too much of an asking?

In recent times, cities like, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune etc. have seen a sudden increase in the number of rape victims. Each time there is a case of a rape and murder of a woman, there is a sudden uproar and with an equal gusto, the fire dies. There is no follow-up on the government on what happens to the safety norms.

When Pratibha, a BPO employee from HP was raped and murdered brutally in Bangalore, a chill went down our spine. The fear has remained in our minds since then. Who do you trust now? Your own company vehicle, company’s own driver, yet you are a victim. Companies have taken measures ever since to prevent it. But the question still remains, how far are these measures safe? Is it going to prevent another Pratibha? How do we know? From lustful glances to subtle moves, we have it all here. But who cares? Does your profession account for your life? No matter what, companies claim to have “measures” in place, do they really help? There is a state of paranoia where we live in suspicion, thinking who might be the next rapist.

We need a more proactive and aggressive governance. The human psyche works in a weird way. How do you instill a sense of responsibility and morality? Is it something we are taught or do we learn by observation? How do you teach morality to a wrong-doer, bring a sense of guilt and accountability? Do we have a law system as powerful to instill fear of doing something wrong? To prove in court that a woman was molested, she would be raped again in public in the court proceedings. Why does our legal system fail us each time we fall back on it?

What we call as the “public” in our cities, do they really belong to us? How many situations have we seen where there were many witnesses to a scene but none to protest or help? Why do we encourage societies which don’t care? When you see someone in need, please do not look away. You do not get into trouble for helping someone. If today it is a stranger, tomorrow you yourself could be a victim crying for help. We all need each other to survive and progress in a society. Care for your people.

So what does a woman do when faced in such situations? The best bet is your intuition. Nothing can beat that. Know your surroundings well. No matter how much we argue, we live in the 21st century et al, you don’t prove a thing by wandering alone in an unknown area at odd hours. Know your strengths and have a presence of mind. When attacked, think fast and don’t panic. Nothing is more important than saving yourself and your life. Don’t give up. If possible, get yourself a course on self-defence. Always keep a face of confidence. Remember that you are as vulnerable as you think you are. So feel brave and you automatically become brave. Never hesitate to ask for help. Your best bet in a case where you know you will be overpowered is running. Run for your life.

All in all, I would like to believe that this world is a safe place if you are alert and aware. I would also like to urge all of you, to help someone in need if you are in the vicinity of such a heinous crime. You would be helping someone from the trauma of a lifetime.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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