I was thirteen at the time. I had being expressing my slight displeasure with math, which had become a bit of a stress point for my mother. She’d decided to hire a tutor, in the hope that I’d have a change of heart. I didn’t. If anything, I started to hate it more. My tutor, a balding, 30-something man with an uncomfortable, shifty manner, who never met my mother’s eye, was a despicable human being, who used to tell me that he’d give me a kiss each time I got my sum right.
I never did. Then, one day, he tried to feel me up, on the pretext of feeling the pattern on my shirt. It was the last day I ever saw him, because I refused to be tutored by him anymore. I didn’t tell my mother, and she never asked, but that was the end of my tutoring, and in a way, an end to my math. I often wondered if I would’ve enjoyed the subject, had it not been for the unpleasantness it got associated with in my mind.
Years later, sitting on the window ledge of a friend’s flat in Hong Kong, looking out into the vast sea at night, listening to Hemant Kumar and drinking endless cups of tea, the memory raised its ugly head, out of the blue, without any warning or any prodding. It was like someone had punched me in the stomach. That was the first time I told someone about the incidents, which I had shut away from my mind, simply because I did not want to acknowledge their occurrences. I did not want to be lauded for speaking up. All I wanted was to forget the feeling, which I didn’t, for a long time to come – that feeling of being a thirteen-year-old and unsure of what to do about this man trying to grope me in my own house. The sentiments are now, needless to add, exactly the reverse – I wish I had talked to my mother, who, ironically had always warned me of the dangers that lurked around me, but never, perhaps, suspected them to be inside the house, in the room next to her.
As I spoke that night about this, I expected my women friends around me to express shock. They didn’t. Each had a story to tell, each one of them had been through some form of sexual harassment or violence.
It happens to women, more than even we, as women realise it (men don’t realize the magnitude at all – and this is not about men versus women – it’s a simple fact I have checked and verified over the years.) As women, we learn to walk with our elbows out in crowded areas, because hands have grazed past our chests since we were ten – that’s the truth.
I have often asked my female friends about who and how they experienced sexual harassment – and the stories are depressing – one friend was groped by her father’s friend (a doctor) as he sat behind her and the friend pretended to examine her, feeling her breasts. She was eighteen at the time, but never found the courage to tell her father, who continued his association with his friend, quote unaware of his mental sickness.
It happens all around us, all the time. And as a mother of girls, the only thing I want to tell them today is that if they experience this in any form, they should speak to me – no matter which corner it comes from. And I can tell you this – there ain’t no loving uncle – keep your daughters away from any male friend who expresses his avuncular love for her. He’s especially the one to watch out for.
Crabbymommy writes about the not-so-cute side of parenting. She likes to say it as it is, which usually does not make her popular. She’s a writer, blogger and a works as a content head in a company . You can find more of her writings at mommyrage.com