Scream women that’s the least you can do.
A few months ago I was in the parking lot of our local grocery store and after placing the groceries in the trunk, as I was putting the seat belt on my daughter Serena I felt a hand on my behind and immediately realized that I was groped. For a second I froze and then I turned around and saw a man walking away as if nothing had happened. I immediately started screaming and I do not think he expected that because than he started running like a mad man. I wanted to chase him but now I had a panicked three-year old sitting in the car. So I calmed her and drove home. I told my husband about what happened and he told me to be careful next time and that was the end of it.
A few weeks later as I was scrolling through the local news channels I heard that the Police was looking for ‘serial groper’ in the Metro D.C. area. I did not understand why though, I thought to myself is that a crime? Should I have reported it? So I started researching and was shocked to find out that it is a sexual crime and one can be jailed for it.
I am sure by now a lot of you are surprised that why would I think that groping is not a crime. The reason is that for 16 years of my life I was told that the responsibility of not being groped in public falls on me & my family. I grew up in Pakistan where young girls getting groped are usual occurrences in narrow streets and busy markets. It took me a long time to realize why my mother always told us to walk directly in front of her and sometimes if we went with her friends or my aunts one would walk in front of us and the other one would be right behind us. I now understand that it was not to just keep their daughters in front of their eyes but to keep these men with their ugly hands and minds away from us.
Most women do not like to talk about it as if it never happens. I remember the first time it happened to me (I was 9-10 years old) I wanted to die. I had no idea what I had done to deserve that. I kept thinking that were my clothes too revealing? Was the long shawl wrapped around my body not enough to protect me. I was scared, so scared that I didn’t even tell my mom. Then a couple of months later one of my friends brought a knife to school, when I asked her why she has a knife in her backpack she told me that she uses public transportation to come to school and sits at the front of the van where the van driver touches her leg every time he shifts gears. She started crying and said next time he does that I will stab him. I don’t think she ever did but I made a change in my life that day, I promised myself that next time it happens to me I will not be quiet and that is exactly what I did. I remember turning around and screaming/cussing at people who touched me. I got dirty stares from people around me and even my mother was extremely embarrassed by my behavior but that did not stop me. I felt that if I was going to be violated the least I can do is scream about it.
This is a problem faced by many women in many developed and specially under developed nations. This problem is a joke to countries that struggle to bring justice to women like Mukhtara Mai; the 22-year-old victim of a fatal gang-rape from Mumbai. And more recently the 22-year-old photojournalist from New Delhi who was the victim of a violent gang rape. The U.S. is a lot better when it comes to the punishment of such crimes compared to other nations. But it has its own issues such as the latest case from Montana where a judge handed down a 30 – day sentence to a former high school teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student.
A long time ago I realized and accepted the fact that as a woman I will need to fight my own battles, some times I won and other times I tried and failed. So as women try and if nothing else can be done than at least SCREAM and let the world know.
(Women’s issues are something very close to my heart and from time to time I will be expressing my thoughts and experiences through this blog).