This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Jahnavi Jayanth. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Good And The Bad: What I Learnt When I Reported Sexual Assault On Campus

More from Jahnavi Jayanth

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Suicidal Thoughts

Disclaimer: This isn’t an article criticizing the University I study at, Minerva Schools at KGI. This is an article criticizing and condemning sexual assault and rape culture on campus. I’m writing this article with the support and permission of my University, however, expressing opinions that are entirely my own.

I usually pen everything down the evening it happens, over several cups of coffee, onto too many crisp pages. I usually tell people what I’m thinking the moment I think it, unabashedly and confidently. I seem to know most of the time, that what I say, matters.

This time, however, something happened that put me in a frenzy. It threw me into sleepless nights, days where I couldn’t stand without my legs giving way from panic attacks and weeks of staying (mentally) paralyzed in bed. It made me give up on opportunities to live in Europe and Latin America, travel like I used to in my dreams, it made me come running home. It made me suicidal.

It made me feel, even realize, over and over again that what I had to say – may have mattered – but it wasn’t going to fall on listening ears. It wasn’t allowed to.

Exactly a year ago, I was sexually assaulted on campus. By someone I knew. This is my story.

It Never Began Well, At Home

Mama, Papa and I have always been able to talk about anything at the dinner table. Well, almost anything.
I told Mama the first time I was sexually assaulted, I was a four-year-old caught alone in an elevator with a predator for several minutes. Mama and Papa told me they would take care of it then, comforted me. Next time it happened, when I was seven, I told Mama again. She told me “these things happen,” so every time it happened after that, it didn’t make sense to me, to tell her anymore.

These things kept happening. And they only got more painful to forget every time.

A poster for a sexual harassment module. (Photo: National Library of Medicine/Facebook)

When I first found my advocating voice, my voice of dissent, I tried broaching the topic of sexual assault with them again. With friends, with extended family. Impersonally, of course. Statistics and all that jazz. Those conversations rarely ever went smoothly either. Amidst uncomfortable pauses, blank stares or averted gazes it always ended abruptly with, “Well, it’s not us. Let’s not think about it now.”

The hypocrites that we are, don’t we know it is us indeed? Are you really telling me, we don’t know that every woman in our family has been catcalled at least once, uninvited hands have gone up their skirts and blouses at least once?

The pain that we seem to think disappears conveniently if we don’t talk about it or pretend like it doesn’t exist, that we think doesn’t happen to us; happens to us. And it doesn’t disappear; it boils, froths and becomes a common, normalized sight.

Something to live with, until we die and the next generation of women have to live with it all over again. It happens, you know. Being ashamed and pained is normal. It happens.

I’ve never gotten a formal sexual education, I mean, how many of us have, really? Sex and sexuality, fundamentally human tendencies and if done right, frankly, beautiful aspects of being human – are myths to us.

They’re dirty and murky subject matters, never to be broached – no curious questions to be asked, no learning to be done. Ignorance isn’t simply bliss, it is also apparently moral.

If Mama and Papa hadn’t heard me out even the first time, I wouldn’t have the courage to speak out now. If they’d heard me out every time after, answered the million questions brewing in me, I wouldn’t have been too afraid to say no. I wouldn’t have turned suicidal, I wouldn’t have had to speak out now.

If This Isn’t Enough, It Gets Worse; At College

Confused and broken as we are, a semi-real world at college awaits us. Hundreds (if not thousands) of young people, men and women, that don’t understand healthy sexuality or consent. Men and women that are afraid to ask, compulsively eager to try or peer-pressured into opening their sexuality for the world to take a bite off of. Lines of consent are crossed, unknowingly sometimes. Maliciously sometimes when we don’t know how to say no or are afraid of being further hurt because of saying no. Or ashamed because “Why ever did we put ourselves in compromising situations, to begin with? Is this our own faults?”

Lines of consent are crossed again, because when he crosses them and you don’t raze him to the ground, when you don’t even question him, he thinks he can get away the next time. And the ones after that.

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month at the Ellsworth Air Force Base in the US. (Photo: Ellsworth Air Force Base/Official Website)

I was violated. Early last year, and it took me six months of struggling to come to terms with the fact that it had happened.

And that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t my fault. I needed validation, I needed support so I sought out other women in my community and asked them, “Was I alone in what had happened?”

In all kinds of ways; messages, comments, hushed words exchanged in the corridors and teary conversations, too many people came forward.

I don’t know the numbers, I don’t want to know but for a few weeks, each day, at least one new person came forward with their story of being assaulted by a different someone they knew on campus.

No one reported any of these, officially.

It began with one conversation, a shaky one, with an official of my University that I was meant to lodge an official complaint with. The conversation was a scary list of consequences that I would face, were I to do this. The more afraid I got, astonishingly (and thankfully) the more strong my resolve to report this got. With all due respect, I was being read my consequences to report sexual assault. Where did these consequences go when he assaulted me?

Even as I didn’t understand whether I right or at fault, even as I didn’t know how to not hate myself or hate my body. Even as I couldn’t talk to myself about it, think it without breaking down, I had to relive my nightmare over and over again, I had to spend five whole minutes explaining to someone about one part of me that he had touched without consent, how he had touched me, for how long, and why I didn’t say no clearly enough? Over. And. Over. Again.

And yet the one thing I had, my voice, was being taken away from me. The case lasted for months, during which, by law, both parties had the right to complete privacy. Breaking this would result in the same severity of punishment as committing sexual assault itself. So, I was reminded time and again, that I could no longer speak to anyone about the details of the case. That I couldn’t name my assailant, to anybody that may know him, in this light (in a batch size of 300, anyone at all).

Until the case concluded, I couldn’t say a word. Several months later, after I was suffering in silence and both simultaneously wanting to scream out and die while screaming it out, the case concluded (hey Bhagwan), and a certain degree of punishment was granted. Quickly in the next week or two, these punishments were reduced and sliced to nearly nothing. I wasn’t allowed to know why, and questioning it further or talking about it outside closed doors with officials, could make the case reopen to take a nastier turn. Against me.

These weren’t executed as loopholes to the law, these weren’t conveniently executable within the law and neither were they illegal. They were precisely and narrowly the only way investigation and penalty proceedings could be conducted; by shielding the victim from further abuse by the law or assailant.

I will try this one more time. This was the maximum any well-intentioned, fully supportive university could do because their hands are tied: young victims representing themselves in a system inherently stacked up against them, without the liberty to seek any external emotional support, but medical.

I Am Being Vague, Aren’t I?

I can’t write about what happened to me, where he touched me, how I cowered in fear and never wore those clothes again. I can’t tell you his name, I can’t tell you what happened to him or how I fought him feeling like I was losing every step of the way, while never being able to tell anyone a word. I have to use the carefully legally crafted phrase; sexual assault and no other word. I have to run my writing through scrutinizing eyes for damaging or revealing language, be impossibly vague and feed you crumbs of my entire story.

I am now home, too exhausted from the last year and unwilling to continue traveling with my college anymore.

As a victim, a proven victim that stood her ground, I’ve had to be more cautious about what I say and do, than he had to be, about assaulting me and getting away with it.

As a victim, I had to face my fears and fight a fiercer battle than he had to when he pinned my defenses down and got away with it.

As a victim, I have seen my confidence and self-esteem plummet to levels despicably lower than his were, to be able to assault me and get away with it.

However, as survivors, as proven survivors that stood our ground, we know that our voices, unheard or not, matter and we’re going to make sure they’re heard.

As survivors, we have rallied voices across our University to speak about sex and consent, assault and abuse. We have advocated and moved towards institutionalizing a more victim-accommodating investigative proceeding and consent education across the University.

As survivors, we are going to tell ourselves and everyone else, if we refuse to speak up against sexual assault or harassment, we are very much also the problem.

Featured image provided by author.
You must be to comment.
  1. Ajay Krishna

    Is there a way you can anonymously name the assailant ? Or is there a threat of consequences if his name or any more details are revealed even anonymously ? If it’s purely legal I don’t see how they can trace it back to anyone. That guy’s name and what he did should come out – if the legal system can’t help then I really hope there are other ways.

    In life it’s most often the victim that suffers longer even though if you think about it the natural consequence one would expect is that suffering is a result of one’s own mistake rather than someone else’s- I am sure you know that but I hope you remind yourself often that when there is no real mistake on one’s part ( and often times even when there is) moving on and being happy again is sometimes a matter of just knowing that there is absolutely no reason for anyone and especially you for not going back to normal and eventually being even happier than before – albeit with the unfortunate knowledge that the world does spew venom your way – not all the time – but sometimes and – and in this case a lot of it.

    I guess what I am trying to say is while I hope you get more closure from this incident by hopefully being able to do some more things about this – I also hope you know (of course you would) that one incident or even a few should never get to control your life or your happiness.

More from Jahnavi Jayanth

Similar Posts

By Prithvi Vatsalya

By Medha Chakraborty

By Paribha Vashist

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below