Mumbai women open up about molestation encounters
An American woman living in the city was flashed by a man in the SoBo tip of Colaba a few days ago. The news created a firestorm on social media. The man, Gopal Valmiki was caught and released on bail, yesterday.
A city college had a campaign to create awareness of crimes against women a few years ago. File pic
Women though do face groping, sexual innuendos, masturbating in public from perverts and flashers too while commuting, walking and even in their housing society complexes. Here, women speak out about these incidents and how they mark them for life, at times.
Prerna Jadhav, 18
The Wadala resident who studies in a suburban college says, “I was heading home from college a year ago, when I was asked for an address by an elderly man near my college in Vile Parle.
I decided to help him, since he was my grandfather’s age. We went to the building that he was searching for. He said that he could not climb the stairs and needed help.” The incident happened at 3 pm. She says, “There was no one on the steps, I was helping him climb up by supporting him.
The house the man wanted to go to was on the fourth floor. When we reached the floor, all the houses were locked and the man started fondling me. He was masturbating too. I was too stunned. I tried to get away from him, but he had a firm grip on my hand.”
The ordeal went on for about 10 minutes; Jadhav says she was screaming but there was no one coming to help her. “I managed to break free by pushing the man and ran to get help. By the time I returned, with a friend who I called, the man had disappeared. I wanted to file a police complaint but did not know who to complain against.”
Since that incident, the Arts student says she has stopped helping people. “I went to do something good and now I think I was almost raped by the man who was old enough to be my grandfather. My parents were horrified when they heard about it and now they keep calling me from time to time to ask if I am fine.”
Mehrunissa Khan, 40
The health care professional commutes from Saki Naka (Andheri E) to Azad Nagar (Andheri W) by the Metro. She says, “I am often in a hurry and so, take any compartment in the metro. This incident happened a few days ago when I was taking a metro at around 9 am.
I took the general compartment, which I often do. It was very crowded, I felt a hand on my backside at Chakala. I thought someone touched me by mistake since the metro was crowded and avoided it. But the hand continued to feel me up.” The metro was too crowded for Khan to make out who was touching her.
She says, “I was shocked that someone was molesting me. I caught the hand and pinched it hard. But the man managed to break free from my grip as he was stronger than me. I raised an alarm but none of the men were ready to own up.” Khan has been so shaken up by the incident that she now avoids entering the general metro compartments.
“The men were giving me looks as though I was accusing them. I wanted to complain to the authorities, but due to lack of evidence I did not. I started thinking that perhaps I imagined it. But every time I think about it, that eerie feel of the hand on my body creeps me out. It is better that I reach late rather than allow a man to take advantage of me. This incident has scarred me.”
Ruchi Kumar, 29
The Andheri resident says, “In 2010, I was on a night shift at my part time job, I was going towards my Vikhroli office, walking on the road when a man groped me. I reacted quickly and punched him and yelled that I would complain to the police.
He held me by the arm and threatened to kill me. He was drunk, I could make that out from the way he smelled and he was slurring as he spoke.” The threat to kill her did not deter the media professional who chased the man and was helped by some garage workers who caught him and beat him up.
Kumar adds, “I filed an FIR and learnt that the man was a manager of a company and he was in his late 30s by then. His wife came to the police station and first started blaming me for ‘enticing’ him. She then pleaded with me to not complain since he had made a mistake in his drunken state.” Kumar did not back off and filed the case which came up only last year in court.
She says, “Prior to the hearing, the man’s wife called me once again and asked to settle the case out of court which I refused. At the hearing, the defense lawyer tried to make me seem like a mad woman and accused me. Fortunately, the man was thrown out of his job when the company learnt of his offence. I want him to be punished by law and will even go to the High Court if needed.”
Shannen Castelino, 26
The Thane resident had an unnerving experience when a man sang vulgar songs as she travelled by train, a few months ago. She says, “The man was hanging out on the footboard of the local train in the luggage compartment.
He kept staring at me. He then started passing comments and whistling at me. I pretended to sleep and tried to ignore him, but he persisted. I was very angry but was too shocked to do anything. He continued to sing songs and try to draw my attention. I kept ignoring him.”
The man finally got off at Dadar and then came close to the window where Castelino was sitting. “He told me that he would not allow me to sit, where I was sitting, I do not know exactly what that meant but I was very scared. I usually don’t take the same train and haven’t seen that man again.
As I think back I think I should have complained, done something. But I was on my way to work and also too taken aback by what was happening to take timely action.”