Dealing with Sexual Assault in a PG in South Delhi

On September 8, a final-year student of English (Hons) of Lady Shri Ram College For Women returned to her PG in Amar Colony around 4pm and wanted to cook something for herself as she wasn't feeling well. While in the kitchen, she felt someone's presence, At first she thought it must the man who cleans the dustbins so she ignored it and kept her eyes on the stove.
Suddenly, someone kept his beer can on the slab and when she turned to see who it was, she saw an apparently drunk man standing behind her who had unbuttoned his pants and exposed himself.

The incident came to light when the girl wrote about it on Tuesday in a post that was put up on the Facebook page of Pinjra Tod - a group fighting sexism in students' residences. Recounting her experience, the LSR girl tells, "He was standing right behind me and he was so high that he couldn't even stand properly. He had unbuttoned his pants and exposed himself. It was disgusting; I did not know what to do so I picked up a chair, pushed him away and ran to the adjacent room and locked myself in. He kept knocking on the door for some time and then entered another room, where he took some magazines, tied them with a rubber band and used it to pleasure himself. Since I was in the other room, I got to know about this through the CCTV footage."

The girl added that she was scared and wanted to call the police, but her PG's owners did not let her do so. "My PG-mate, who lives in the room where the guy went after the episode in the kitchen, returned around 11pm at night and saw the state of her room. Then, she called the police. Two policemen came and were listening to our story, but then the PG owner called up head constable, Shyam Sunder, with whom he is on good terms - he did not listen to our problem and laughed while watching the footage. I don't know what was so funny about it.

PG owner and the policemen gave us lectures on how we shouldn't go out after 11. And about how girlfriends and boyfriends sit in the park and it becomes difficult for the police to take action against everyone. As if, there's no difference between making out with one's boyfriend with consent and getting raped! Apparently, the police is obliged to catch the couples and not the accused, which has no logic.

She tells that this was the first time she experienced something like this in her PG. "Whenever a girl is harassed on the street, people say, 'Chhote kapde pehene honge'. My reply to that is, I was wearing a kurti. Then, we are told, 'Raat ko bahar mat jao'. This incident happened at 4pm and I wasn't even outside, this was my own PG. You can't always blame it on timing and clothes," she added.

The scene was captured on CCTV cameras, yet the policemen and my PG owner didn't let us file a complaint. Their argument was- " Ladki jaat ho, kya court kacheri jaogi. Kuch nahi hoga case karne se. Ek din bhi nahi rakhte hein is cheez ke liye custody mein." PG owner was more concerned about the reputation of his PG than our safety.

The police wasn't supportive at all. They said even if I file a complaint and the man is caught, they cannot keep him inside the jail. They'll leave him after one day. When police constables react in this way, how do we expect justice in this society?

Also, according to police it would not be wise for me to take an action, as the man's friends would take "revenge" from me and I can become a victim of acid attack or something.

I have always been taught by my parents, teachers and friends, to fight for myself and speak up. Not taking an action would be something that I cannot accept. That would be equal to indirectly promoting such acts. Women Development Cell, LSR coordinators and members along with my PGmates are willing to support me to take an action. I cannot let these men get away with this so easily. Even the behaviour of police constable, Shyam Sunder, Amar Colony police station, is not acceptable. When someone wants to take an action, it is the duty of the police to support them, instead of laughing it off and manipulating their decision."

Tanya Goel