#FeministMondays | Believe Survivors, Believe Women

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Roughly around a couple of months ago, I woke up to a comment on one of my pictures on Instagram. The comment said 'Dagar' and I honestly had to google the word to understand what it meant. The comment was left by a random stranger, who did not look a day more than eighteen from his display picture. I immediately blocked him of course, but sat down to think what prompted this random kid to leave such a comment on a picture of mine. Before you can ask, this was a selfie of mine and I was wearing a sleeveless top and only half my shoulders were visible along with my face. The reason I'm saying this is because when I mentioned this incident to a few people in my circle, the first thing they asked me was what was I wearing in the picture. Some even asked me what was the need for me to post a picture of mine and invite trouble. Both men and women were a part of this conversation and for some reason they all thought that it was my fault.

When you try to stand up against a single worded comment, you have so many fingers pointed at you, just imagine the case of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. I don't know the exact details of what happened in the now famous case of Tanushree Dutta and Nana Patekar, but I believe what she has to say. What happened to her on social media because of her speaking up was spiteful. While a few men and women came out publicly to support her, most others were quick to call her names and undermine her. Some one said that she's depressed that her younger sister got married, so she wants some limelight for herself. Another said that she's doing this to get into that Godforsaken show called Bigg Boss. Then, there were character assassinations that was anything but pleasant to read. It shocked me to be honest. Here is a woman, standing alone and talking about something terrible that had happened to her 10 years ago and yet all fingers and questions are pointed to her. Why?

Let me tell you something about sexual abuse. It scars one deeply. While some people instantly know what is happening to them, some first blame themselves and then take time to realize that what has happened to them. This is definitely not something that is easy to accept. Moving on is something else altogether. When one goes through abuse, it eats the mind and soul from within. Sadly, with the world blaming the woman for everything that happens to them, it is now wired in the women themselves to check if they were at fault. Only when that thought is negated, do they think about what exactly has happened to them. It is very upsetting and scary. It is not easy to come out in public and talk about it. It takes a lot from the survivor, most importantly acceptance. Once they accept what has happened to them, realize that it is wrong, only then they can do something about it. None of this happens overnight. While some might take days, some might take months or years to come out and talk about it. In Tanushree's case, she spoke about it as soon as it happened. What happened back then? Who believed her? So, will someone believe her now? One can only hope.

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The #MeToo movement has finally caught up in India and I can't believe that it is rising so rapidly. Cases are not being reported day after day, but multiple cases are being reported within a single day, that is quite astonishing but not surprising. First Nana Patekar, then Chetan Bhagat, Utsav Chakraborty, Kailash Kher, Vikas Bahl and now Rajat Kapor, but, I'm sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm not sure if this will encourage more people to come out and talk about the abuse they have been subjected to, but they should. Probably more than half the film industry will come into the limelight in this case, but it is about time it did. Maybe we need a reboot, after all.

Now coming to commoners like you and me. We need to speak up against sexual abuse too. We need to believe women who come out and talk about it and support them. It is not easy to come out with something like this and trust me no one wants attention or revenge by claiming to have been sexually abused. It probably is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone. While the physical scars might heal sooner or later, the emotional ones can remain for life. So, if a woman is taking time to talk about her ordeal, give her the time. Having said that, abuse is not gender specific. Men need to come out and talk about their #MeToo stories too. While most people, especially women, laugh about men complaining about sexual abuse, we cannot ignore that it exists and it needs to be taken seriously too. Abuse is abuse. There are quite a percentage of men out there who have been sexually abused at least once in their life by women or other men. Since feminism is all about equality, this too deserves to be spoken about in the same parlance.

When someone talks to you about their #MeToo story, listen to them and believe them. I know everyone is innocent until proven guilty, that doesn't mean that the victim/survivor should be shamed or doubted. Give them a chance to tell their story. Hear them out. Believe them and do not raise your fingers at them. Stand up for one another. Nothing motivates a survivor like support and trust. Yesterday it was them, today it could be someone close to you and tomorrow, it could be you. Will you not believe yourself then? Are women not considered important enough for someone to listen to what they have to say? Don't women have a say in anything? Not even when it comes to their bodies?

Believe the survivors. Believe in women.

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This post is a part of the powerful series #FeministMondays on Naba's blog and you can be a part of it too. On the second Monday of every month, write an impactful post with the hashtag #FeministMondays and link it back to Naba's blog.

19 comments:

  1. Our society somehow always finds ways to blame a woman, while the man walks freely with head held high. What's the need for a woman to go out in the night? Why should girls wear sleeveless and short dresses? The girl must have enticed the guy somehow. We never question the man. The moment men are blamed for deeds rather than finding reasons for their crime we will have justice.

    Coming to your picture. How does it matter what you are wearing? It's your prerogative to wear what you want and post what you want. I fail to understand why people always try to find reason for a perverse behavior and comments.

    PS - I still don't know the meaning.

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    1. Please google the meaning.

      The day we start looking at men and women as equals, things might change. Until then women will continue to be viewed as sex objects.

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  2. The #metoo has caused stir for good. The worst part of not coming out is the feeling of guilt and self-blame as if its all victims fault. And yes, even men should come out, they aren't spared from sexual abuse.

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    1. I'm glad many many women are coming out with the truth. We need a movement like this to cause a major stir.

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  3. You said it Soumya! Believe in women. Why is that so hard? I have observed, women tend to be the harshest critics of their own species. We need to stand together and form a united front against all the oppression and regressive thinking. When you described your personal experience on Insta, I could fully understand how you felt about people pointing fingers at you instead of supporting you. The Tanushree case has been blown out of proportion and somewhere along the way, the gist of a woman's plight in a male-dominated society is lost. Sad!

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    1. Believe. That is all we need to do. Why do we point so many questions at the survivor I don't get.

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  4. I am glad these cases are coming up. Until now, most seldom understood and probably even brushed it under the carpet under the assumption that all was hunky dory. and now with more cases coming out, its also time we women supported each other in the endeavour to fight abuse of all kinds.

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    1. I wonder if it will create a huge impact until a pretty big and famous name comes out. Sadly, all the big names are maintaining a silence over this. Shame.

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  5. It is high time women came out and spoke about the ordeal they face, be it in their personal lives or professional. What the society finds difficult to accept about it all, I fail to understand. The people who ridicule women who speak up against the abuse are those who will only understand what these women face when they themselves experience it. And, it is bound to happen sooner than later.

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    1. Oh yes, high time! Women need to encourage other women to come out and not ask them to quiet down. The time for victim shaming is passed, it's time for the survivors to scream out loud.

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  6. I am happy that women are speaking up because what we suffer in a daily basis is humiliating and disgusting. Shocking the stories that are coming out. I am wondering how many more celebs will be named. All those uncles and elders should be outed too. And I really wish that people wouldn't start with disbelief. Of course, every claim must be investigated but don't just brush this away.

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    1. Yes, until it is investigated thoroughly, no one should judge. More and more celebs will come out I hope.

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  7. Its quite shocking to see the names come out- one by one in the #MeToo movement especially in India. And kudos to Tanushree who was the first one to come out and talk about it. One question that I normally hear from people is "how do we believe her? Why did it take her so long? How do we know it was not consensual? And where are the men?" Thats one thing I wonder- why are the men not coming out. I am sure men have been abused too. But for the other questions I tell them the same thing that you wrote. Its not easy. Especially if a woman has been abused by someone powerful, is she in a position to quit her job, put her career and perhaps the only means of livelihood at stake? Its easy for us to talk. Glad that you addressed a lot of these issues in your post. Its good to see India finally speaking up and waiting to see the skeletons tumble out of the closet

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    1. Hat's off to her for speaking out. I'm glad she made the start. People can only speak and that's why they do only that without even thinking.

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  8. Thank You for writing this, Soumya.

    I believe her too. I believe every woman because I know how hard it can be to speak up. It is not unknown that women are subjected to abuse left, right and center. So, it hurts when women fail to support other women. I don't know if the guilty will be punished but I like the fact that men are scared now. Yes, those vile men who think they can act in anyway they want to. So, in some ways, even that is a win.

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    1. I so badly wanted to talk about this, Naba. I'm glad I finally could.

      Yes, it sure is a small win, but I want the big names to come up and speak out. Until then I doubt how seriously it will be taken.

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  9. Im coming out mentally exhausted after another debate on this in a whatsapp group. It is just so hard to convince people to support this. For some it is a PR stunt, others say its an insurance policy, some idiot has forwarded a huge whatsapp message on how this is all a stunt by Tanushree to get a green card in US or Canada.

    These are senior doctors saying this. Then the mocking jokes. Then the 'things will never change'. The 'if you want to enter movie industry, you must accept u have to sleep around'

    How do you not get mentally broken listening to all this?

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  10. I believe every woman who is sharing a story. It is so hard to speak up and both men and women need to support those who speak up. When I wrote my #MeToo story - it took me time. I did not promote it but wrote it for myself and to let it out in the open. I am with the movement and I am glad Indian women are not sitting on this. Thank you for writing this.

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  11. I tried looking it up, and couldn't figure out the meaning of the word. But going by the context, I can take a guess.

    I almost wrote that it's unfortunate, the current state of our society. But it's not unfortunate, it's downright aggravating.Especially the people's attitude towards it (both men and women included).

    Which is why I am glad the #MeToo movement has taken off in India. And I am gratified that people like Akshay Kumar are taking a stand on it. But I feel like we need more big names backing this up for it to be taken seriously.

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