Mangalore resident Rashmi Shetty says was shocked when she was followed by a guy on a scooter in broad day light on June 25.
"I guess you never stop being enormously taken aback by these actions, no matter how many times you've had to deal with them," Rashmi tells HuffPost India in a conversation over Facebook messenger.
She perhaps reflects the thoughts that go through the mind of every woman when they are faced with an incident of sexual violence.
There were cops standing nearby, but that didn't stop the culprit from following Rashmi, who was walking, first on the scooter -- honking, riding scarily close to her -- and then parking it and trying to walk up to her to scare her.
"Since he persisted for a long time, I gathered my own cognitive faculties and started to think of objective solutions. I dodged him many times when he stopped and honked at me and tried to threaten me by riding very close to me, and then when he parked the scooter and walked close to me, I sprinted right towards his scooter and clicked a picture, to be able to identify him if he persisted," Rashmi.
"The initial decision to go public with this was based on the thought that if I just report him, it will end as a small private affair and he'll be free to hurt other women."
Rashmi is 22 years old and is pursuing her Masters in Religion.
Scaring a woman into submission often seems to be the motive of many such perpetrators of crimes against women. And Rashmi, like many women her age is fighting back.
After the incident Rashmi took to Facebook to publicly shame the man who harassed her in broad daylight in Mangalore, where she has lived for more than 15 years.
"These streets are as much mine as they are of undeserving assholes like you. You or a hundred like you will not scare me into staying home and not being free. This is a message from all the strong girls to you and your likes: if you try curtailing our freedom, we will fight back," Rashmi said in the post which has since gone viral.
What made her take to Facebook? She says that she and her friends have been victim to several incidents like this in Mangalore. She says, "This was neither an independent single event nor the scariest one I've experienced. I was visibly shaken by a similar experience I had during my early teenage. It would have left a permanent impact on my personality if my family didn't help me fight back, so I could not let this happen to another girl by letting him go without any consequences."
In three days the post has seen over 1000 shares, 2,900 likes and hundreds of comments praising Rashmi for her bravery, for holding her ground and trying to ensure that other women don't face the kind of harassment that she faced.
Rashmi says that she has always been the one to fight back in such situations, and like usual her parents and friend have always had her back. "What is extremely surprising is the amount of support I've got from people who weren't friends or acquaintances," she says.
Rashmi however says that she has not filed an official complaint. She says, "The initial decision to go public with this was based on the thought that if I just report him, it will end as a small private affair and he'll be free to hurt other women or even me again. Now that it is public, it does not only shame the perpetrator but also makes his future moves accountable to the public."
She says that since her Facebook post many people who have seen her post have brought this to the attention of authorities. She says some others even tagged friends who were cops, but she is as of now unaware of any developments in the situation since she was scheduled to leave Mangalore the next day.
"No matter where you are, at whatever time, and whatever you wear, is not going to save you. So, save yourselves."
Rashmi says, "Well, the point was to shame him and others like him. Like I told you, this wasn't an independent incident. It's an everyday story with many people perpetrating such crimes against women, some might be punished, some may not be. But that hasn't stopped the next guy from doing it. That only means that there is something wrong in the handling of this situation, right? Initially though, I did not think that this would even make for a serious case of I lodged a complaint, but I didn't want him to walk without any consequence. It was after I posted it that people told me that it would still be a legit complaint. If it is being handled by the police, that's even better."
When asked what she expects the authorities to do to make streets safer for women, she says that things in Mangalore are turned communal and results in perpetrators not getting punishment because of it. "Everything that happens in Mangalore turns into a grand communal story, and the important is completely lost. The truth is that the city is becoming increasingly unsafe for everybody, women in particular. But no, let's just make it the fault of a particular community or religion. Then the case gets complicated enough for the authorities to forget about the real victims."
She says like she has, women have to keep themselves safe, "No matter where you are, at whatever time, and whatever you wear, is not going to save you. So, save yourselves."
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