India has a unique trait when it comes to crimes. It differentiates regarding the nature of it and coolly dismisses some of them, which do not seem ‘harmful’ enough. As a result, we have seen uncountable times, that even after formal complaints by the victims, eve-teasers and catcallers have been let go with just a casual warning. Sometimes even worse, the victim herself is asked to ‘compromise a bit’, as serious action against the abuser for such a ‘harmless incident’ might result in a vengeful reaction later on. Because they are let off easily, serial molesters seem to think they have certain immunity which they can repeatedly abuse, and what they are doing is in no way wrong – otherwise, they would have been punished. However, the apparent rule of ‘Harassers are let off easy’ does have exceptions. Take the case of Nupur Saraswat, a 26-year-old Bengaluru based writer, who had to go through a similar experience, but thankfully the end result was that the man flashing her was put behind bars.

After being flasher kept doing it repeatedly, the writer took to Instagram to ask for help. She posted a message on her Instagram page:

Asking for help/ Recourse/ Bangalore/ Koramangala:

I’ve lived in this house for over one month now. And I’ve never seen this man before. His distance/ view of my terrace is in the forth slide. He waited there for hours looking at me which made me uneasy but not to an extent that I needed to ask him to fuck off. Then at a point when he knew I was looking, he pulled his pants down and held his penis at me. Smiling that FUCKING smile.

He is two, TWO buildings away from me. I live alone in the terrace house. I have informed my landlords. The next step is to figure out a way to get legal help. Is flashing an offence in India? Is there a helpline I can call? And how do I make sure that something happens and I am not left in a position where this person a) knows I have reported him b) is scot-free.

The last picture is of me. Before this. Before I realized that I was about to feel v,v threatened in a house I have come to love. Before I would be shaking in anger and embarrassment (????) and second guessing if it is my solitude that provoked him or my outfit. I could SCREAM right now but I want to channel my anger in a tactical way. So if YOU can help me, please DM me.

Picture of the man smiling at her for hours from his terrace: source

Along with the message she also attached pictures of the man standing without a shirt on the terrace and smiling at her creepily. Soon after Nupur posted the cry for help on social media she started getting responses on how to handle the matter, as well help of every sort – from advice to legal suggestions to a shoutout for calling out the pervert.

But surprisingly a lot of people questioned in the comments if ‘flashing’ even constituted as an offense, and whether it could be considered as something that is punishable. Their line of argument ran that what is it to a woman if a man cannot keep his penis inside his pants – hinting at normalization of displays of perversion. A lot of comments advised that things like this happen on a regular basis and her best course of action is to forget about it and move on.

But Nupur did not. A strong-willed woman who believes that this ‘letting it go’ is what gives those men courage to do it more often, as they think that women are mostly afraid; and some of them even take their silence as a form of consent and keeps on doing more traumatic nuisance than this, Nupur knew that this needed to be stopped. At first, she wasn’t sure about what would be the accurate discourse – disquiet protests that lead to social condemnation, or legal action. She reached out to every possible helpline number in Karnataka & India, but she found that most of these numbers weren’t really helpful. “They were either out of service or not reachable. I wonder how can they still exist on Google and what would someone do if she really needs help! This is so terrifying,” she told Infano.

Nevertheless, she did not quit. Set on to teach that man a lesson, and she wanted that to be quick as she wasn’t sure if he lived in that area or was just a visitor. Moreover, that one incident didn’t let her sleep the whole night, and the trauma and possibility of something similar happening again was scaring her more.

After consulting with her friends, she dialed 100 which redirected her to the Koramangala Police Station and further to the Viveknagar Police Station as for the former one it was out of the jurisdiction area.  The very next day of this incident, the 4th block of Koramangala witnessed eight cops and four police vans in the area. The officers took no time in guarding out the man, and they took him to the police station to do the needful.

When asked about this, Nupur said that there was no female officer with the team, but the male officers did ask her if she wanted to take another cab/ auto. She was introduced to the lady officer on reaching the station, and she was asked whether she wanted to do press charges against the man or not. She highly recommends other women to call a lady officer while calling the police no matter what as otherwise, the experience is daunting.

Posting updates regarding the incident, she wrote on her Instagram:

“I will say this, as a 5’2 woman surrounded by 4 cop cars and 8 male officers and the entirety of the neighborhood looking at me for “what’s going on”— I don’t wish it on anyone. But i am glad I went thru it because only after it all I found out the predator had been flashing and harassing a 15 year old in the neighborhood too. I felt so must safer and reassured by the professional badassery of Inspector Jahida of Viveknagar station, who arrested the wee man and promised me corrective recourse and took my complaint with kindness. When this stranger tried to turn the narrative by saying I am his ex, she believed in me instead. Thanks @blrcitypolice for getting this done before breakfast ✊🏽”

Soon after this, her Instagram DM was filled with queries/advice for similar cases, several women shared their personal experience with her, and a lot of people applauded her for this bold step.

Even in today’s time of social media, women speaking up about every incident of victimization has not been rampant. Being silent has been institutionalized in our society. It took a hashtag movement on social media in the form of #MeToo for women to be finally able to come out and share their personal experiences of trauma, however, even then her credibility was questioned more often than not. It seems to be increasingly portrayed that being a victim is somehow shameful, and hence she should be silent about it. Strong women like Nupur who break out of these social shackles empower a lot of other women to speak up as well. More power to them.

 

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