When I was around six years old, a little girl who would fail to secure her hair with a loosely tied hair band, I got harassed for the first time - or this is my earliest memory of I getting harassed.
At this small age, with my age fellows in a family gathering I was running round and round on the roof top of a relative's house. One of my distant relatives, a guy around 15-20 years older to me also came up on the rooftop and started spending time with us. I being the one never getting along well in a stranger's company tried to keep aloof even though other kids were playing with him. I saw him walking towards me so I tried to hide from him. I was a little kid but I could sense that something was wrong. There was a little empty room - more like a store room - there and I went inside. This guy came and tried to hug me - TRIED only when I saw him getting nearer, I screamed at the top of my lungs. "GO AWAY! WHY ARE YOU COMING AFTER ME? JUST GO AWAY FROM HERE!" I screamed, my eyes bulging out. I told him I'd tell my father and he just casually tried to fend me off. He got frightened by a little girl shouting at him and tried to casually move away. And then he disappeared into thin air. I could not sleep that night. This is one of the worst memories of my childhood and it keeps popping up everytime I get harassed even today at my workplace, on the streets/roads, just everywhere.
A few months ago, I started commuting in a shared cab from work. It was a nice suggestion from my father in law when he realized that I'm paying so much for everyday commute. You share this cab with strangers going to the same destination and pay a lot less than what you pay when you go alone in a cab. I'd have to pay Rs. 40 only when I'd pay Rs. 250-300 while going alone in a cab. I had to save so a shared cab was a good option. Being a female, I'd always get the front passenger's seat while the men would sit on the back seat. One day, I was going home in a shared cab when I felt weird movements in my seats. At first I thought I'm moving because the road is bumpy but then I realized that my seat is being pushed by someone who's sitting behind me. I could feel his knees dug into the back of my seat. I don't know what kind of satisfaction he was getting by pushing my seat but since I got a bit frightened and my apartment was getting nearer, I only waited for the car to stop. But before I knew it, his hand from the side of the seat crawled and tried to touch my thighs. I snapped. I did NOT let him touch me. I turned back and shouted at him. I asked him to either leave the car or I'll leave right there and then. The driver also asked him to move away. My stop was almost there so I got dropped off. I had so much anger in me but I stayed quiet and cried again that night. Only the person who gets harassed knows how it feels.
I got harassed in my university, when male students tried to follow me in my sitting spots. They tried to pop up in my emails. They would forcefully try to get me to talk to them when I'd clearly say NO to them on their faces. They would actually follow me around the university until I'd tell a professor or lecturer to give them a warning.
Even now at my workplace, during work, I get harassed and I know in future I will get harassed again. I get to meet people from every walk of life. They try to ask personal questions. They want to know where I live, how many brothers do I have? Are they working? Are they younger or older to me? People try to get my number. They stare with the ugliest stares. Some try to harass with their eyes. Some with their actions. Those whom I don't know professionally - the street harassers - will try to touch/get in my way/say bad words in my ears/ do anything to get themselves satisfied without trying to get caught.
I get harassed everyday. And if by now you are judging me for getting harassed then allow me to say that you are only giving more confidence to the harassers. I don't like people staring at my body parts. It is a very uneasy feeling. I don't know what to do when people would start using sexual innuendos in a conversation. I just want to run away from that person and place. It's hard to bear a person who I know is trying to sexually harass me with their conversation/actions. Please trust me when I say that it leaves me sleepless for nights. Harassment is a cancer. It is a sickening feeling. It is a self esteem detonator and only the one who gets harassed knows the pain, the mental trauma she has to go through. I urge you to preach respect for women. Please allow women to be more strong by giving them strength and support instead of supporting the harassers.
May the power be with us.