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

“I’m 21 And Yet To Have A Friend Who Hasn’t Had To Deal With Sexual Violence”

TW: This article talks about sexual assault, self-harm, and suicide.

There is a scene in the second season of the wildly popular Netflix show, Sex Education. A group of teenage girls, after having been wrongfully suspected of spreading rumours about one of their teachers is made to sit together in detention. All of these girls are from vastly different backgrounds, different cliques, socioeconomic classes, and most of them do not understand each other.

In this detention, they are told to write about that one thing that unites them as women.

A screengrab from Sex Education.

When they start trying to do this activity, they all struggle. They find it almost impossible to find any common ground. But as the day progresses, they realise the one common thread running through their lives. All of them had to face sexual harassment at some point or the other, in the 16 years of their life. Towards the end of the episode, all of these girls who did not particularly care about each other, help the one who had recently been assaulted in a bus. They take her to a bus stop and get on the bus with her, which was something she had been struggling with since her assault happened. They help her reclaim this public space that she needs access to on a daily basis. 

So, one limitation, that I wish women did not have to face, is sexual assault. 

According to data compiled by Reuters, more than 32,500 cases of rape were registered with the police in 2017, which means, about 90 cases registered every day. And these are the cases that are actually being reported. According to data sourced from Actionaid in 2015, around 79% of women have faced sexual assault in public in India. According to UN Women, about 120 million girls have experienced forced sex or other forced sexual acts. And around 35% of women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence.

According to UN Women, about 120 million girls have experienced forced sex or other forced sexual acts. Representational image.

But what is the point of talking about all of this data that is available online for everyone in the world to see? It’s much more important to talk about the effect this has on the lives of half of the world population.

I am 21, and I am yet to have a friend who has not had to deal with sexual violence in some form. You can imagine how many friends you make in 21 years of your life, over the years and think about just how many women this must be.

I have seen women develop complex mental illnesses as a response to this trauma. PTSD, C-PTSD, depression, extreme anxiety, eating disorders, self-harming tendencies, and suicide Attempts. According to studies, survivors of childhood sexual abuse, unwanted sexual contact, rape, experience a higher risk for mental illnesses such as PTSD, dissociative disorders, disorders of sexual functioning, sleep disorder, substance abuse disorders, and more. 

So, apart from just affecting our autonomy and safety, such incidents leave consequences for women that can last an entire lifetime, and if the women decide to have children, then these mental illnesses can impact the children as well. Sexual assault can, therefore, affect generations, indirectly.

I have had to go through sexual harassment more times than I’d like to count in my life. And not once have I been able to report it. Because, as if the trauma of being sexually assaulted isn’t enough, victims often get re-traumatised when faced with uncooperative, dismissive, and hostile police, doctors and lawyers.

I have seen women develop complex mental illnesses as a response to this trauma. Representational image.

The problem with this extremely widespread and normalised occurrence of sexual assault is that women are expected to shift and mould their lives around these occurrences.

We are expected to carry pepper spray and knives and tasers. We are expected to be black belts in martial arts or to learn self-defence. We are expected to not spend too much time loading our groceries in our cars and to not stay out too late in the night, or to send our cab information to several people or to text the name and picture of our date to our friends along with a picture of what we are wearing in case our date turns out to be a rapist or murderer. 

Women, collectively suffer from the actions of a portion of men acting in antisocial, misogynist ways towards us.

I cannot imagine how many things I would have been able to do, that I have been dying to do, if this fear of sexual assault was not constantly weighing me down like an albatross hanging on my neck.

If you look at one of those twitter threads where women are asked what they would do if men simply disappeared from the earth for 24 hours, you’ll find that a lot of women would go out swimming, or wear skirts, or go jogging or walk around at night. And it breaks my heart that these simplest things women crave to do but cannot, because of men.

Featured image for representation only.
You must be to comment.

More from Lavanya

Similar Posts

By Aditi Sharma

By Senjuti Chakrabarti

By Shashi.

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