Confused Scared Dirty Angry

image from here

image from here

What can a guy possibly know about sexual abuse? After all, he can only have a second hand experience of what the female population of this country goes through on a daily basis. That is why I have to tell you my story.

I was a very shy kid in school. I never bullied anyone or picked up a fight. All I did was study diligently and top my class every single year. When not studying, I was neck deep into Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Arthur Conan Doyle. My sports teacher were perplexed to come across a boy who did not like throwing and hitting balls. I had great difficulty in striking a conversation with strangers and was terrified at the prospect of leaving the warm embrace of known faces in my school and join a college. To my utter discomfort, that is exactly what life had in store for me.

I got admission in a good college in Delhi University. The college was a one hour bus ride from my home. In those Metro-less days, The DTC buses as a mode of transport were as good as Manmohan Singh as our Prime Minister. So, the only way to get to the college was to board the notorious killer machines called Blueline buses. Sometimes, the buses were so crowded that you won’t find space to expand your chest to breathe. All I could see was a mass of hands holding the metal rods and pressing the windowpanes for support. The crowd was like a giant, single animal with multiple hands protruding from all sides.

The year was 1997. It was a time when we still talked about a lot of topics in hushed voices. Topics like rape, sexual abuse, child molestation, sexual orientation were not openly discussed. And yes, Rape and Sexual abuse happened only to women. Add to it my complete disconnection to the real world because of my nature and you would realise that I was shockingly naive.

So one fine day, I left the college in a hurry to get away from the awful place full of strangers and boarded a Blueline bus chock-a-block with more strangers. I squeezed in somehow and stood completely surrounded by unidentified torsos. A few moments later I felt a hand on my crotch. At first I ignored it, considering the number of people in the bus but then I felt that the hand was not there by mistake. It was slowly rubbing my crotch. I looked down and traced the hand back to the human attached to it. The person who was doing this was an elderly uncle in his late 50s. He looked straight into my eyes and kept rubbing. 

The first emotion that hit me was complete confusion. Why would a person who is of the age of my grandfather rub my crotch? I knew he was somehow getting aroused by this but I failed to understand how. I went red in the face and moved away from him. To my surprise, he came after me. He again stood near me and tried to rub my crotch. By this time, I was completely agitated and it showed on my face. I had no idea what to do in such a situation. I was this scared, timid boy who did not have the courage to push him back. When I look back, I understand that courage and anger are the last of your thoughts, especially when it is happening for the first time. Confused and scared – that is what I felt at the moment. Why was this even happening? I again moved away from him and this time he sensed trouble and did not follow.

When I reached home, I felt anger erupting inside me. I still could not make sense of an old man touching me like this. I felt dirty and disgusted. I did not discuss this with anyone but my parents did notice that I was a bit sad. I encountered the man two more times in the bus back home. He recognized me and tried to come near me but I was not going to let him get away with it, so I always moved near to the driver where I was not completely surrounded by people. He gave up after that.

It took me a long time to get over the incident. 

I told my wife about this incident a few days back. She asked me that how would such an incident play on my psyche if it happened again and again. I told her that I would be devastated till the point that I will require medical help to come out of it. She told me about numerous incidents that happened to her while traveling in buses. She told me how she was groped many times and how she sometimes received help. The women not only survive such abusers but they have to then survive the fingers pointing at them. I cannot imagine someone coming to me and telling me that what that uncle did was my fault. I would spit in the person’s face. 

So you see, I know a bit about sexual abuse. It is a tiny blip in comparison to what happens to women in India but I understand what they go through. I understand how it plays with your mind, how it makes you jittery in the presence of strangers, how it makes you wonder about a life in a parallel universe where you are respected, where people will not touch you without your permission, where they will not treat you as objects. 

I still feel angry that he got away with it. I feel angry that so many people get away with it in our country, in this world. Yes, the world around me has changed in the last 16 years. We are more vocal, more angry. But the abuses haven’t subsided. 

I am a different person from how I was in 1997. I have lived alone, managed my affairs and have shed most of my phobias. And if it is any consolation, if that incident happens now, I would grab that uncle by his balls and toss him out of the moving bus. It would save many more youngsters the trauma they would have gone through by his hands.

85 comments on “Confused Scared Dirty Angry

  1. sigh !
    This post brought back so many memories which I wish would die in the corner of my mind but alas they never die !
    I remember hitting a person on his shoulder with force in a bus station. It was an involuntary act but his act was voluntary with devil glint in eyes
    Many such incidents happen and the first reaction is anger and hatred

    • Yes, you build up anger and hatred over a period of time. I was completely confused when it happened. This old man too was not scared at all. It was as if he has been doing this all his life.

  2. When something like this happens the first reaction is disgust. I remember feeling shit scared, confused, angry and on the verge of tears on my first “grope” encounter. I was just a kid then. It takes time to get over it. And then as you grow up and travel by crowded buses, it happens more and more. Fear gives way to anger and by the time you are 20, you are an expert at slapping and screaming at creepy men like these. I am glad you understand and empathize. Really sorry about what happened to you. Makes me feel sick. 😦
    Once when I was travelling by bus, a man screamed at a skinny guy about 17 years old for groping him. The boy was so humiliated he got down the bus and ran away. That’s when I came to know that these things happen to men as well.

    • I think I was more confused because of maybe my lack of knowledge. Also, such incidents catch you off guard. It takes a while to understand what is happening.
      But how do people endure such incidents again and again? I would have either killed the person or gone mad.

  3. So sad that you suffered through this incident. And yes, one doesn’t forget but we learn to distract ourselves and push it deep into some recess of our mind. But it crops up regularly. When it does, the whole day becomes dark and everything seems tarnished. And people appear fake. Still remember the fright, disgust and anger.

    • I think it is more difficult for women. It makes you completely uncomfortable in a crowded space. True, you cannot forget such incidents. There is too much similar happening around you – newspapers, news channels are full of such incidents.

  4. It takes courage and confidence for a man to come out with this. Kudos and Respect. This post reminds me of several incidents when i was touched inappropriately in a DTC bus around PUSA, Delhi. Almost every girl who takes public transport goes through this confusion and fear. And then we have respected lawyers like Jethmalani who say that the victim had some disease which attracted her towards men.Sigh!

    • Thanks Alka.
      Constant occurrences of such incidents was the reason why a separate compartment was given to women in Metro. It is shameful that we have to segregate women like this to protect them.
      Jethmalani is an idiot. His correct place is in a mental asylum.

      • Amit, do you feel we are mass producing louts and perverts. Or is it because such cases are being reported? Whatever be the case, such posts will help in playing a positive role. I hope so.

        • Alka,
          Since there is practically zero law and order in India, it gives wings to such perverts. It boils down to the fact that the person is confident of getting away with it.
          And yes we are mass producing them as well. When they see the women folk in their own families treated as objects, it is no wonder that they end up treating everyone as one. We need to change the dynamics of an average Indian household.

  5. Awful. This country is infested with nasty and immoral people who also seem to be fearless of their depravity.
    Hopefully some young and innocent people reading your post will now feel wiser to deal with this situation rather than accept it quietly if it happened to them.

    • I think it is our national timepass to grope other people. There were women who were groped while protesting near India Gate while protesting for the Nirbhaya case. Can you believe that?
      I hope this helps someone.

  6. yes, it is disgusting. I used to travel to my high school by bicycle. One evening while returning I was almost reaching my home (which was situated in a remote area in Mysore, we lived in mysore for 8 years), a man stopped me and he was on his feet. I got down and then he asked me ‘where is this ABC hospital situated’. I had said ‘never heard of it’ and then he stood as if he wanted to ask something else and then suddenly he puts his hands and shows me is penis (his pants were already unzipped) and asks if I know what that was’. I was for a moment confused and did not realize and a moment after got really scared, took off in a great speed hoping against hope he was not running behind me. I was in my 10th standard that was in 1996. It was horrible!
    I feel we cannot change everybody on this planet, but parents should make an effort to teach their children how to deal with such situations. In India speaking about this is a taboo (atleast it was before). That can happen only if parents knows how to deal with it in the first place.

    • I really do not understand what kind of a kick people get by being so disgusting? Is it because they are sexually oppressed or they believe that they can get away with it?
      Yes, parents should definitely teach their children about tackling such situations. Sometimes we are too embarrassed to react.

  7. Your experience in the bus brought my dirty memories back…after an incident in the bus i stopped going inside the buses,i always used to stand near the entrance and once a driver was telling me get into the bus or get down,i got down and took another bus.
    Honestly i used to think it’s only girls who are victim of sexual abuse until my husband told me once that he gave a unknown person a ride on his bike and that guy was rubbing his crotch to husband. Husband stopped his bike and gave this guy a hard kick and left him on the road…I realised i was wrong.
    I don’t understand what they will get by abusing a boy or a girl…a few minutes of satisfaction and endless nightmares to victims….sick people….

    • I also do not understand this whole concept of groping and passing lewd comments. How is that supposed to arouse a person? I think you have to be a shithead to derive pleasure from this.

  8. There is not a woman/girl in our country who has not faced it. Like you pointed out, it leaves one confused and angry and so helpless too. But then we learn how to fight back. I remember almost injuring a man who was falling all over me in a bus when I nastily jammed my elbow in him. And then there are times, when they grope quickly and run away. That is so frustrating because you can’t even give back. To my son, I spoke about good touch bad touch from a very young age. That this abuse is gender specific is bullshit. But women do face it much more. It makes me sick in the stomach, the extent of this depravity.

    • Exactly Rachna. That is the sad part that everyone has his/her own story to tell. Abuse is neither gender nor age specific. Nearly half of the children in this country are sexually abused. That is a staggering number. It says a lot about the kind of society we live in.

  9. Mostly we all know about such incidents happening to women and we take caution or tell our daughters / wives / sisters to stay safe. Unfortunately, this problem is not isolated to females and the majority of sexual transgressions on males goes unreported. We don’t give the same importance when it comes to cautioning our sons.On top of this, being a man and admitting to being a victim is anathema in our society. I think sexual assault on any individual is a trauma to face and many times, an equally horrendous trauma for the person accompanying a victim, who is rendered helpless. Thanks for bringing your story out in the open and admire your courage for doing it !

  10. I think at one point or another all of us have gone through this. In Chennai, we used to carry compasses in buses to protect ourselves. I’ve seen people support the harasser and hurl abuses at the harassed. We’ve cried and fought and rallied and fought some more. Men used to drive by and hit other women motorcyclists or college girls walking on the pavement in Coimbatore (I went to college there). A friend of mine was propositioned to in broad daylight in Trichy, countless incidents have gone by Amit… Each time, the reaction is different. It could be the crowd around you, or lack of, the situation, the area…I dunno. But those times that the harasser gets away, I can’t help but imagine how much bolder he/she will get…

    • I really do not understand how women live in this country. How can you constantly travel with such fear? There are lakhs of women who travel by public transport and go through this nonsense every day.
      Archie, the fact that such people are not punished is a reason why we are in this mess.

      • At the end of the day Amit, it is not only during travel but during special classes, birthday parties, weddings, a lazy Sunday afternoon at home, job interviews, family and social gatherings. Lack of consequences has freed the conscience of sociopaths and curbed free speech of good men. Your family and mine will fight for it, along with a few clear headed others… like Spartans- we face a daunting task. Hopefully this time, help will come.

  11. You’ve highlighted one very important point: the perpetrator being encouraged or implicitly invited by the victim is total nonsense.
    Secondly, you’ve described the perpetrator was “an elderly uncle in his late 50s”. I suppose he looked ‘respectable’. Probably, if you had shouted at him or hit him, we would have pleaded innocence, and the people around you would have believed him. This makes victims hesitate to react. This is worse in case the perpetrator is a “highly respected person”. In an interview, the father of Asaram’s victim has stated that he had so much faith in Asaram that he would not have believed his own daughter if he had not been present in the adjoining cottage when the alleged crime took place.

    • Oh yes, he was respectable enough. Maybe, if I would have slapped him, people would have beaten me up for misbehaving with an elderly. We respect age rather than actions. What a pity!

  12. I can relate to that and although it is immaterial how, you have driven home your point. Only today I was reading Madonna’s confessions about what happened to her when she was struggling in New York in abject conditions, and how she had quietly swallowed it and kept it within herself till now. I am sure there would be billions of such unreported cases everywhere.

  13. The kind of effect these incidents have on our psyche is unimaginable. Each one of us have had a nightmarish experience that we are scared even to recollect. The people who commit these crimes will rot in hell. That is my only wish.

  14. It takes courage to speak about these things even today. I stopped using the bus to college for the very same reason. I told my dad I’d rather walk. Fortunately, he got me a two-wheeler and I was saved the trouble, but what about the millions of people who cannot afford these things? A LOT has to change, and it will take a long time, but we’ll get there. Each time we have a rational, constructive dialogue about taboo topics, it helps us break them and become a little more liberated and compassionate.

    Thank you for writing about it. Sharing this on FB via IHM.

    • Thanks for sharing Pallavi. It is strange how all of us give a sigh of relief when we get a chance of not using the public transport. I remember I was really glad when I stopped using buses years ago.

  15. That involuntary reaction of somehow being dirtied and, thus, ashamed is what these b******* depend upon. Good that you brought it out in the open so others will know that to fight back is an appropriate action and to bring it out in public only shames the perpetrator and not yourself.

  16. Amit I so know the feeling of anger, helplessness, confusion, fear, utter disgust for I have gone through umpteen such similar experiences while growing up in Delhi. And what’s even worse is that the fear, anger, that helplessness still linger on each time I go back home. As you aptly pointed out, even after all these years, no matter how much more vocal we have become, the abuses haven’t subsided…which is so so sad.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I know it must not have been easy to run your thoughts back to those disgusting incidents again and jot them down here. Kudos to you! I hope your coming out like this gives more and more people the courage to speak out against abuses and bring those sickos to the fore!

    • Thanks Deeps. As a nation we have a long way to go before we even start talking about these topics openly. We have taken baby steps but there is a long way to go.
      Thank you for reading. I hope this helps someone in some way.

    • Thanks Onehonestwriter.
      Yes, I can imagine. This was just one incident that happened to me. I cannot imagine sailing through similar multiple incidents.

  17. I have had my share of those incidents in various blue line and DTC buses. Thankfully, I learnt how to deal with them coz that was the only way out. It is so disgusting that I don’t even want to think about it.

    On a slightly different note, yesterday, I walked back home from a friend’s place at 11:30 in the night. It felt like freedom – this was something I can’t dare imagine doing in my own country, for the fear of my own people. Sigh.

  18. Thanks for writing this. I know the feeling. I’m sorry you had to experience it. 😦

    Someone on IHM’s blog once told me ‘how could indian women be going through so much sexual abuse? why didn’t you just make noise? why be silent?’ and this is exactly why. I remember going through similar incidents as a school girl, and my reaction was exactly the same. Doubting what was happening, then figuring it out, then being too embarrassed, angry, ashamed, confused to know what to do other than moving away. No one else makes noise and you kind of feel like you’d be the one attacked if you did.

    The sad thing is that you also learn that in order to avoid feeling disoriented when this happens, you need to always be ‘expecting’ it. Always be suspecting people and watching your back. You’re not really ‘free’. We are more vocal and more angry now, as you said, so that’s a start.

    • I think in the end most of us make noise but then by that time we have a series of such experiences and something has broken inside us. And then as you said, there is always this fear of the fingers pointing at you.
      I am glad that we have started talking of such issues. The only problem is that it is not reaching the people who indulge in abuse.

  19. Sexual predators target the young because most of them are too naive and shocked to hit back.

    Thanks to the dirty Indian men association, we all have our share of horror stories and inner demons to kill.

    • And it is a really sad state of affairs. I wish there was a way out. Even if there will be one in the future, I am afraid our generation will not see it.

  20. Even sharing such an incident publically makes you so brave, I wrote about my similar experiences in the past and not only it liberates a part of your mind but maybe somewhere just another soul gets the voice to speak up and resist.:-)

  21. There won’t be anyone who haven’t gone through this at least once in their life. What is even worse is, very close family relatives do it and we see them the rest of our lives…as if nothing has happened. And sometimes, the victim lets it happen because there is no other go. When I look back at those disgusting moments, I hate myself for even letting it happen. For not fighting it back and making a fuss of it.I push it into that deep layers of the mind, hidden somewhere try not to think of them. Now, I have taught both my kids ages 10 and 4. I won’t let it repeat with them. You ask my 4 yr old daughter and she recites it loudly..good touch, bad touch..she knows she must scream and run to her mom….amuses me, yet makes me proud.

    • //very close family relatives do it and we see them the rest of our lives
      That is something we should never allow.
      Yes, it is very important to teach children about good touch and bad touch nowadays. With so many psychos roaming around, it is a terrifying situation out there.

  22. This happened to my brother in CAlcutta..when he was only 14 years. He was the oldest accompanying three of us sisters back from my nani’s house to my mama’s house. Since he and my elder cousin sis were 14 and 13 respectively, our parents let us do the short distance by ourselves on bus. Bro was shocked beyond words. And then he was worried that we (sisters) may experience such a thing. HE made us get off the bus immediately even though we were half way. When he told us what happened (yaa he did) my elder cousin sis who was only 13 told him, its fine bhai, its pretty common here. I get it all the time I travel by bus alone :(:(:(

    • This was exactly the reaction I got from Geet. I got unnerved by just one incident while this is a common occurrence for so many people. It is really really sad.

  23. In a blog I read recently, a woman was telling that only mothers can teach son to not rape/molest because only women can understand the feeling, so mothers should not work ( if husband earns enough ) and should devote her time to raise kids with values. I had typed a long comment there but couldn’t post it due to internet failure and later didn’t find time. I wanted to say that why she believes that men are not raped or molested. Any individual gets hurt when his/her body is violated and that feeling is not gender specific. Would a guy love it when some random person (male/female) pinches his bottom? Why is it always women’s responsibility to avoid getting raped and teach sons to not rape ? Why only sons need to be taught to not molest and why not daughters ( there are women too who sexually abuse others )? Why sons need to taught only ‘not to rape’ and why not ‘to be aware’, as we teach our daughters ( men too are sexually abused ) ?
    I have been groped in buses many times and my husband told me about how he was groped in a bus when he was 28 by a boy who hardly looked 17!

    • // I wanted to say that why she believes that men are not raped or molested.
      Exactly. A lot of people don’t believe that male children and men in general can be molested or raped. according to people, men always enjoy if something like this happens.
      I remember the episode in Satyamev Jayate where they talked about child sexual abuse. There were so many people who had no idea that male children as as much sexually abused as females.
      As far as molestation goes, things will change for the better when Indian parents start teaching their sons to respect every human. Sadly, most of the parents need that lesson.

  24. Disgust!!That is what weakens me.I feel dirty,at times I have hated myself.But,these days I make sure that I react.That inhibition and cowardice is gone.Showing middle finger and calling names have somehow become a part of my life,though I hate doing so.
    Ji,I appreciate you for writing this.Respect!!

  25. I am happy yoou shared this Amit. I have heard of a couple of such incidents and i know that abuse knows no gender.
    There have been days I have prayed for a bright, sunny and scorching day but no rains. It is easier to slap them when they try to be physical but to be stripped with naked eye is torture. Ofcourse, like you, I have changed too. But to think hundreds/thousands are going through this as I type is a terrible feeling. We must voice out and handle it then and there. To think of the experiences you go through to become tough….

  26. Brilliant Post!! If only the society can get this fact in their heads, girls will at least be spared from the humiliation after bearing the brunt of the perverts and can openly spit on their faces!

    I have shared my experiences with my friends, colleagues, peers and each time, was amazed to know that there is no one without such a story!

    Everyone has faced it, let it squeeze them from within, shunned themselves from the society and tried to push it into the deep, dark corners of their brains!! Sigh! If only there was someone who would listen and act and not blame the victim!

    • Thanks Shweta. I think the more we talk about such incidents, the more the victims will realize that there is nothing to be ashamed of. It is the people who commit such acts who should be ashamed.
      These perverts take advantage of our ignorance.

  27. Oh dear. Of course been there, been through that. I’m angry that anyone has to go through the ordeal. Especially women for whom victim blaming is easier and more popular. I don’t know if there is any other solution than to give young people sexual education and tell them about hazards of abuse/harassment/molestation and how it can happen to both sexes. I wish there was some stern law enforced which taught the perverts a lesson. Like public shaming and no jobs anywhere for them. May be have a centralized database of such creeps and black mark them so the hiring agencies can look them up.

    • A lot of people have already started it. Our parents were not aware of it and so we were never taught about good-touch-bad-touch but a lot of parents do that nowadays which is a good start.
      The more noise we make, the better it will be for the coming generations.

  28. I guess gender is only a matter for us and not the sexual perverts. There must be so many more people who can recount their tales. I am glad that you came out with it.

  29. Sexual abuse does leave a child, whatever its gender, traumatised. Speaking out is by no means enough but at least it helps kids figure out what’s happening faster. They also need strategies – different ones for different situations. In a way it is sad that we need to tell them about those creepy grown ups. But it is imperative that we teach them how to stay safe on our streets.

  30. “When I look back, I understand that courage and anger are the last of your thoughts, especially when it is happening for the first time.”

    Very well said Amit! Such incidents impact one a lot. At this point in time, even I have so many of them to go and hit as hard as possible.

    I’m sure there’ll be no female in this country who has not gone through anything of this sort at least once in her life. There’ll also be probably men who have been through similar situations. I only feel bad for those who couldn’t come out of it easily and unhurt. This makes one loose respect for even those who are innocent. I had written something on this subject sometime back. Here it is for your reference:

    • Thanks Rekha.
      I agree, it gets much worse with some people leaving them mentally scarred for life. Only humans have the ability to inflict such pain on each other.
      Shouting back is a good alternative and yes, we have to teach children about this from a young age.

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  33. Very, very sorry to hear about what had happened to you 😦 Now, years later, it is very brave of you to share it and spread awareness, especially since this comes from a male perspective. I was so surprised and so shocked because I had strangely never before come across any male recounting such an incident happening to him in the public arena (although I was well aware of sexual abuse victims of both genders within the confines of a home). Can’t wait for the time when things improve and hope that we will be rid of such horrible occurrences that have become the norm.

    • A lot of men face this but we usually do not talk about this. It will end up with people making fun of us.
      I too hope that things change for the better although I do not see that happening for a long time.

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