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Pain : The untold account of a sexual harassment victim

I got 3 texts from a guy whose number I did not have saved. They were explicit images that disturbed me a lot. I showed it to my roommate and some wingmates who were in my room because I was in my hostel at that time (during April of this year). I did not have any reaction, I was just really shocked and speechless.

One of them called and confronted him. He said someone else was using his Whatsapp, which did not seem plausible, but he insisted that was true. We looked into who this person was and I found out I had a common Whatsapp group of a cultural club with him. We figured out that he was from our institute and from my year. He then immediately deleted all those texts. When I asked him who he was, he got defensive. He reiterated that he knew what had happened was wrong, but he never does things like this and whoever did this from his WhatsApp has been taken care of. We then asked who was the one who really did it but he didn’t disclose that.

I then tried to forget about the whole thing and decided to move on. When I told one of my guy friends, he said that I should not let it go and that he will ask around what this person was like. He called the guy who ended up telling him four other stories, ‘I was high’, ‘I was drunk’, ‘I was actually trying to text my girlfriend who has a similar name’. In the end, he confessed that it was him and that he had made a mistake.

I was extremely disturbed and triggered by the fact that he sent such messages, lied to me about it, and thought he got away with it until he finally told the truth to a guy. He did not even admit it to me and never directly apologized. The nerve and the entitlement really bothered me, but I still decided to get over it. But at night that day, I ended up writing to IGES, narrating the event briefly. The head, Prof Geeta Thatra called me over. She was very nice to me and told me what can be done about the incident. She told me about ICC, and I was not even aware that such a body existed previously. I went to IGES because I thought they would take my case forward, but I didn’t know that they don’t do complaint redressal and I would have to take it up myself. She warned me it would be a lengthy and drawn-out process with no guarantee of any catharsis at the end, which made me second guess my initial decision to file a complaint.

Thus, even though this is by all definitions sexual harassment, I consoled myself by saying that this is a rite of passage. Every woman goes through this, it does not make me special, so I should not do anything about it.

I told my friends about this, and they felt at least something should be done. Thus, I posted an Insta story so he would feel at least some humiliation over what he had done. We wrote one with the special care of not naming him, because that would be his first defense, that she just wanted to defame me. That was my catharsis, and I was very happy with it. I did not word it very politely and ladylike like a damsel in distress and got a lot of angry texts regarding that, but people just need to get used to angry women sometimes, after all, everyone loves angry young men right?

The next morning, two other girls reached out to me saying the same thing had happened to them as well, and after telling them his name, we realized it was the same person. After this, we decided to file a complaint together at the ICC. We decided to file one single complaint, which was probably the wrong move. If we had filed three separate complaints, the action taken against him may have been stronger.

I did not tell my family about it, because then it would come down to ‘did you talk to him first’ or ‘did you give him mixed signals’ or ‘did you dress provocatively’. Also, I was scared that my mother would put me under more restrictions with respect to my clothes, interaction with men, etc.

I did not go out of my hostel for a week, because I knew he was also on campus. I know he wouldn’t physically intimidate me, but you never know.

The proceedings happened online a week later because of the second wave. There were a couple of meetings, where they took my statement along with everyone else’s. There were 3 meetings from my side and it took a couple of months. They prepared a report and sent it to me. The overall verdict was that he was found guilty, given 20 hours of community service, and also told to attend some IGES sessions. There was no disciplinary action.

I did not follow up to ask for harsher punishment, because I myself did not know what should be done. I just felt that while the verdict did focus on rehabilitation, there was no penalty for me.

The above was an experience shared by an anonymous IITD student.

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