It’s been five years to the story that I’m going to share with you today. But this event has completely shifted the paradigm of my life. It haunts me wherever I go. I wonder if there are going to be many people who would like to talk about this because I know, Indian society, in general, doesn’t.
I am a twenty-two-year-old masters student and I’m going to be very honest. My school life was messed up, partly because I was messed up because of other reasons like society being messed up. Being an average teenager, I liked it when guys took interest in me, maybe this was in some way a conformity for me. I used to seek acceptance. Being young I made many mistakes, like many (with the greatest emphasis). There was a school senior I had a huge crush on. And he knew about it because my friends back in school thought it was important to inform him. Well, even if they hadn’t informed him, he would have known.
I was a teenager trying to figure out what love was all about and at that time it was all giggles and laughs. Social media platforms were new at that time, so we would rarely exchange ‘awkwardness’ online. He never said hi to me in school, I was aware there was somebody else he might be interested in. But deep down I managed to believe he liked me and was really interested in me. The frequency of our conversations increased. At that time, I was in 10th grade. After some months passed, he said, to prove I ‘trusted’ him, I should send him a naked picture of me. I declined and he said he can’t talk to me any further because there is nothing without trust. After debating I finally sent him a picture without covering my face. I didn’t know what was supposed to happen next, I didn’t see anything coming. I and that guy never became friends, we never greeted each other in person, he was just a social media acquaintance and we drifted apart eventually.
When I was in the 11th grade, he started blackmailing me. He wanted keys to a secluded room in my school that one of my friends at that time had access to. When I asked that person for the keys, he refused and said, “he’s blackmailing toh voh circulate hogi hi kabhi na kabhi”. He blackmailed me that he was going to circulate the picture sooner or later. I thought this person was the worst, but he was only speaking the truth. I approached my school counsellor about this, I gave her a letter. Everything that happened, later on, was in such a hush-hush manner that I didn’t get a lot of information. But in the end, he didn’t circulate that picture.
One year later, after he had collected his transfer certificate and character certificate from our school, the worst happened for me. I remember it all; it was a day before a friend’s birthday, I was very happy, we went dancing. Next day I decided not to go to school and I got a call from my classmate asking if I was fine. Being a bubbly person, I answered, of course! She asked me to ‘take care’, which was strange. She gave me a hint of some ‘picture’ in the conversation but said she was not really aware. It only turned out that she had a lot more information than I did anyway I told her I’ll see her the next day.
When I went to school the next day, I was roaming around with my best friend at that time. Around lunch break, a bunch of my classmates came up to me and said, “we just saw your topless picture on XYZ’s phone”. I had no clue, but I had a clue. All I could do was, lock myself in the washroom and cry. I still remember how my friend had locked herself with me and she too started crying looking at my state. A teacher intervened, she was informed about what had happened, she kept me with her the entire day till I reached home safely. I was advised to take a few days off; which I did.
I remember going back to school after a long break. I remember all the stares and all the whispers… Girls were talking about how I had spread my own picture to gain popularity! I’m not sure if that is how life works… but okay. Everybody wanted to stare at me but nobody wanted to talk. Super juniors who used to call me “didi” were messaging me about the picture. It was being spread like a wildfire. All the people I met told me how it was my fault. Also, I was conditioned to say, it was a morphed picture in case anyone asked. Because it happened in a city like Delhi, the picture soon travelled from my school to my locality in no time.
I remember going out for swimming and on my way back, I could hear people talking about me really loudly, staring at me and calling me, “voh picture wali ladki”, abusing me in rustic Hindi, which I’ll skip for now. As a result, I stopped going out. Being a part of Indian society where women are suppressed- mentally, sexually, professionally, physically etc. nobody wants to talk about such issues. Mine is not the first or the last case, if we go back a little, in 2004 there was an MMS scandal involving a student from Delhi Public School. It was in the news, everyone still remembers it, but there is still no way to control the situation.
To prevent incidents like this from happening again mobile phones were banned in schools. But is this a fruitful solution? I also got to know about more girls who had their ex-boyfriends and guys they had a ‘crush’ on, releasing intimate or private pictures which they might have shared at some point with them. If this has become a phenomenon, why is it not being addressed? My family was not conservative, they took care of me, of course with subtle taunts, but it could have been worse.
I wonder about other young girls who have faced a similar situation or are getting blackmailed by somebody at this moment do they have a support system? I couldn’t find any statistics or data to confirm this. It took me five years to talk about this, it is a traumatic incident that acts as an anchor to my mental health. The trauma and the shaming that follows an incident like this is so huge that victims do not speak up.
‘Victim-shaming’ is the card that is generally played by the masses in situations like these. I am characterless, other women who have suffered and had their privacy infringed and abused with, are characterless. Honestly, I’m okay with the labels if it makes anyone feel good about themselves. But it’s not just about me, our society better find a solution to this!
The guy eventually shifted to Mumbai for higher studies and I couldn’t do anything about what he did to me. It’s been a long time and now he’s leading a happy life. But it kills me to this day to see how my life has become a mess. I often wonder if justice is a real thing.
I’m building a support group for hopeless souls like me who went through or are going through a similar experience. Please fill the form attached above!
We’re not alone, we’re there for each other.