Two men tried to destroy my life. And they did succeed, at least for some time, in making my life hell. One of them was my first husband.
Harassment at workplace is a constant for many women. Experts warn against ignoring such behaviour and advise approaching the HR to file a complaint. HT photo/Arijit Sen
My first husband was a man who considered his wife his property, someone whom he could treat as he wished. I was constantly beaten, harassed and tortured. Tired of the excessive mistreatment, I got a divorce.
But the pain would not go away. I secured a job with a prominent travel agency and threw myself into work to escape the pain and keep my thoughts from straying to the past. After working in the company for a few months, one day, my boss asked me to stay back to finish off an important piece of work.
That night, it was just me, him and a few more colleagues who remained in office. My boss offered to drop me home. I accepted the lift as it had got quite dark and I didn’t feel good about taking public transport.
I got into his car and we got talking about our personal lives. I got comfortable with him and told him that I was a divorcee, which I think was a big mistake.
My boss told me that his divorce was pending before the court. He then invited me to his house for a cup of tea. I wasn’t quite enthused by that idea and tried to decline the offer. But he insisted and I relented.
After reaching his house, he offered me a cold drink. I remember sipping it and feeling fuzzy and losing my consciousness partially — he had laced the drink with sedatives.
In that state of partial consciousness, my boss raped me. And I realised what had happened only the next morning. I was angry and hurled abuses at him.
What I got in return were slaps and punches for being so mouthy. He threatened me and said he had video-taped the entire act and would make it public if I revealed the incident to anyone.
Harassment at workplace is a constant for many women. Experts warn against ignoring such behaviour and advise approaching the HR to file a complaint. HT photo
I went home and shut myself from the world. I would cry incessantly. I did not go to work for a week. My boss rang me up several times, asking me to re-join work -- sometimes apologising, sometimes promising me marriage as soon as his divorce came through.
Finally, I gathered my wits, and the courage to complain to the police. He was arrested and my medical examination confirmed rape. I got to know that he had been married thrice and had two children.
I was devastated. But my family rallied around me for support, especially my father who wanted me to marry again. He introduced me to a man who would change my life forever -- in the best way possible.
That man became my husband. He was a widower with a son, and when I met him, I told him everything about the past. I did not want to deceive him in any way. And being the wonderful man that he was, he asked me to forget everything and be happy with him.
We got married soon. My husband has made my life blissful and his son isn’t his anymore. He is our son. Two years after we got married, I was blessed with a daughter. My two children and my husband have completed me.
They have also taught me an important lesson — all men aren’t alike. Of course, beasts in the form of men exist, such as my boss and my first husband. But I shouldn’t be cowed down by them. I divorced one and got the other arrested.
Gender violence takes many forms and can happen anywhere and any time. Every day, countless women are groped in public places, sexually harassed in the workplace, raped by people known to them, battered at home and, increasingly, stalked and harassed online.
Of the many calls that came to Fortis Healthcare’s helpline, a handful of callers agreed to share their stories with HT readers. This is what they had to say.
Caller: I work in an MNC. I’ve been facing some problems with my new boss. He makes rude jokes with my male colleagues in my presence. It’s become an everyday affair since the past month. I don't know what to do. I feel very uncomfortable and out of place there, and I’ve started resenting going to work.
Counsellor: Jokes of an inappropriate nature construe harassment. Your work environment must make you feel uncomfortable and it’s only natural for it to affect both your work and your mood. Do not ignore such behaviour or let it pass. Every company has an HR policy regarding any kind of harassment. It would be a good idea for you to approach your HR and file a complaint.
Caller: I have been dating someone for the past two years now. The guy is extremely jealous and possessive and I cannot seem to tolerate his behaviour. I want to get out of this relationship. However, every time I try to talk to him about it; he threatens to harm me and my family. I don’t know what to do.
Counsellor: I can imagine your feelings of helplessness. Staying in this relationship might not be a good idea has it can lead to serious complications in the future. You need to figure out whether this boy is actually capable of causing harm to you and your family. Make an effort to have a calm conversation with him and try to reason with him. If it’s not possible, try to speak to your family members. I know this will be hard for you however; you must make them aware of this situation without further delay. But do not compromise on yourself and seeking counselling can also be of great help.
Caller: I’ve been getting continuous calls from an unknown number for the past two weeks. The man at the other end would say vulgar things. I tried shouting and threatened to report him to the police, but he hasn’t stopped. This highly distressed me and I somewhat began fearing stepping outside. I need to know how I can handle this in future.
Counsellor: I can completely understand your fear of stepping out of your house. Receiving such calls can be quite disturbing. In future, don’t take the call. Do not shout or engage in any conversation. Try blocking such numbers and ask for support from your family members. In case the problem still persists, contact the Crime against Women Cell to ensure your safety.
Caller: On my way to college, there’s a middle-aged man who passes lewd comments. The comments themselves don’t bother me much, but the fact that this man is probably even older than my dad is really disgusting. It’s affected the way I relate to men in general.
Counsellor: I can absolutely understand how this would make you feel. If I were to place myself in the situation I too would feel the same. It simply is a reflection of the way things have shaped up in our society. It is important that you share what has been happening with someone in your family and try and seek help. Such things if left unchecked can escalate into something much worse. At the same time it is also important that you try and keep in mind that all people are not the same. It is understandable that it is affecting how you view men but it is important that you do not form strong stereotypes in your mind as that would start impacting all your relationships, both in the present and the future.
Caller: I travel by bus every day and am subjected to physical assault very often. I feel helpless at that time and don’t know what to say or do. It disturbs me. What can I do to avoid such situations?
Counsellor: It’s natural to feel numb or helpless at that moment. Many girls find it hard to stand up for themselves as they fear being embarrassed and want to avoid further complications. As much as possible, stay in the front part of the bus surrounded by other women. If the problem worsens and you feel the situation going out of hand, you must lodge a complaint or speak to a woman constable. Speaking to a Women’s Rights NGO is also a good option to ensure your safety.
Caller: I'm a domestic help in a family of five members. The driver who works in the same house misbehaves with me and passes rude comments. I don’t feel safe working anymore but I can't quit my job as I need to support my family.
Counsellor: It takes a lot of strength to speak out about this. I can imagine that you may be feeling helpless and confused. If you ignore the situation, things might get worse. It’s important for you to talk to your employers about it. Approach any member of the family whom you’re comfortable with and tell them what’s been happening and do not feel pressure to compromise.
Caller: I’ve been married for a year now and all seemed fine in the first few months. After some time, however, my mother-in-law’s attitude towards me started changing. She started taunting and saying rude things to me for no reason. Soon enough, she demanded money from my father. Already, some money was given as dowry however, but she keeps harassing me for more. She has been threatening me and my husband doesn’t seem to care.
Counsellor: It takes a lot of courage to talk about such an issue. I can understand what you must be going through at home. You must try to speak to your husband about this or speak to somebody who can offer some support. Asking for dowry is illegal and it must be reported before the situation worsens for you at home. Speak to your parents and family and get their support in case any action needs to be taken.
(The writer’s name has been withheld to protect her identity)