Behind the silence

Amrita Prasad
Saturday, 28 October 2017

The hashtag #MeToo has become a huge a movement on social media today encouraging men, women and people from the LGBTQ community to get vocal about sexual abuse and share their horror stories.

The campaign which started with a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano, after allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein became a global news — has revealed the magnitude of the issue across the globe. Closer home, the alleged sexual harassment allegation against the owner of Pune’s High Spirits Bar, further revealed some dark secrets about sexual abuse done at workplace.

The hashtag #MeToo has become a huge a movement on social media today encouraging men, women and people from the LGBTQ community to get vocal about sexual abuse and share their horror stories.

The campaign which started with a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano, after allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein became a global news — has revealed the magnitude of the issue across the globe. Closer home, the alleged sexual harassment allegation against the owner of Pune’s High Spirits Bar, further revealed some dark secrets about sexual abuse done at workplace.

While the social media is abuzz with men and women coming out in support of the women who spoke about the unjust behaviour, the opinion still remains divided because many consider it a gimmick to seek attention, sympathy or as a medium to avenge men. Why? Because the women didn’t file a police complaint or take legal action.  

Well, the reasons why women suffer in silence and choose to let go of the accused are quite complicated and multi-layered. Although many women from Hollywood, including former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, have now come out and spoken about sexual harassment and accused Harvey publicly, most of them never reported the issue and continued to work with him in the past. Does that mean they are to be equally blamed or are their dreams so big that they were pressurised to succumb to the atrocities?

The answer lies partially in the way our society looks at women, treats them and also the perceived fear of consequences of reporting such incidents. 

Just because a woman doesn’t report sexual harassment doesn’t mean that she was enjoying it or that she’s lying. Many girls have been (and continue to be) sexually abused and inappropriately touched at different stages of their lives by different men, some of whom were their close relatives.

But they could never tell their families about it because they ‘knew’ that they wouldn’t be trusted. They were afraid that once they spoke about the incident, they wouldn’t be allowed to go out and play, would have to leave their studies midway and stay imprisoned at home.

If this is about home, at the workplace, a junior or someone very young and naive, who has just started his/her career and is therefore afraid to lose the opportunity, becomes the victim and silently suffers, until they find another job. 

It’s true that the quest to go ahead in career and dreams makes people compromise on their dignity. Women try to reason the incidents happening to them saying that probably this was the first time and it won’t happen again. Most of them come from different cities, some are young girls, some single mothers or separated from husbands and striving to create an identity of their own.

They fear that if they file a complaint, they might lose the job and might not get a good reference.

So whether it is Hollywood, Bollywood, fashion industry, a media house or any corporate office, it is the powerful person with a good reputation and tons of money who oppresses the vulnerable, who are afraid to take a stand. 

There’s one more aspect to this. If you are someone working in a male-dominated profession and wear Western clothes, chances are that you will be blamed for making them uncomfortable with your choice of outfits and ‘asking for it’, if something unpleasant were to happen to you.

The situation isn’t better if the girl is a victim of sexual harassment where 20 other women are working too, because the accused may not behave in the same way with everybody. In that case, you fail to get any support from your female colleagues too. 

Why most women do not raise an alarm or report such incidents is also because the police and the law enforcers often ask them to narrate the story and ask awkward questions over and over again, making them relive the horrific experience. 

The society will never let these women live a normal life again — they are slut-shamed, bullied, judged and even accused of using their sexuality to rise in career. It’s always a losing proposition all the way.

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