Six #MeToo stories you will not read about on the Internet

I know more women who did not take to their computers when the #MeToo conversation broke out, than those I read online.

 |  5-minute read |   26-10-2018
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For some of us, the sheer number of #MeToo stories that have been shared on the Internet in the recent weeks has been shocking. The movement has brought to light how common sexual harassment is. For far too long, sexual harassment has remained an open secret. This digital revolution is breaking the silence in an unprecedented manner. 

Yet, it is not enough. 

This digital revolution is breaking the silence in an unprecedented manner. The #MeToo digital revolution is breaking the silence around sexual harassment in an unprecedented manner. (Photo: AP)

The stories have been overwhelming and deeply saddening, but to think that this is a fair representation of the kind of harassment women, and men, go through, would be ignorant. A week after the outpouring of stories, what I’m left with is not the ones I read online, but the ones I didn’t.

The ones I have known for months, or years, and have witnessed unfold, firsthand. The ones that happened to friends of friends, and were passed on as cautionary tales. The ones where the hurt and anger are still too raw for the survivors to speak up. The ones where the survivors don’t have the privilege to name and shame their harassers without a justified fear of consequences. 

The women and the kind of stories that have found representation in #MeToo, though significant by themselves, are an abysmally small number. Personally, I know more women who did not take to their computers when the conversation broke out than those whose accounts I read online.

Allow me to tell you of six such women.

You must understand, though, that what you’re about to read is not merely six #MeToo stories. Rather, these are six narratives of sexual abuse that happen to many women out there, but have not found a place in #MeToo.

The one who continues to blame herself

She is the woman who doesn’t have an answer for questions such as “Why did you have to go to his house alone?,” “Why are you wearing that?,” “Why do you need to go out to pubs?,” “Why do you need a boyfriend?”

She is the woman who believes that she somehow brought the abuse upon herself by being too outgoing, too outspoken, too ambitious, too adventurous. She has been told time and again — and has come to internalise — that she deserved what happened to her. She is not sharing her #MeToo story because she doesn’t believe she can. 

The one who is still forced to stay in touch with her abuser

Her abuser may have been an uncle, a neighbour, grandfather, or her own father. Or, her husband. She is still forced to stay in touch with him, to maintain decorum.

There are women who have been attacked, and then forced into silence, by their family members. There are women who have been attacked, and then forced into silence, by family members. (Photo: India Today)

She has been silenced by other members of her family — who felt it was more important to maintain the status quo than to look out for her. How is she supposed to look out for her, when all she is being offered is a hashtag?

The one who doesn’t believe she will gain any real support from putting her story out there

She might have spoken up in the past, or not. But the digital cheerleader squad does not give her enough confidence. She is scared. She is scared of the he-said-she-said war that inevitably ensues in such situations. She is scared of the questions she will be asked, and the fingers that will be pointed her way. She is scared of being in the limelight, reliving her trauma, and not gaining anything out of it.

She is scared that people will not believe her — because many don’t, and that is a reality all the women who have chosen to speak up must contend with. She doesn’t want to contend with it, and that’s her choice.

The one who can’t afford to lose her job

She may no longer be working with her harasser, but knowing how our culture works, and how many women have had their careers derailed for speaking up against the men who have mistreated them, she chooses to stay silent. She doesn’t have family money to fall back on. She doesn’t have contacts in her industry that can save her, and assure her that she will continue to be able to support herself. All she has is a #MeToo story, and no hope of resolution.

The one who didn’t survive the abuse

Rape and murder go together far too often in our country. What of those women who, like Nirbhaya, couldn’t survive to tell their horrific tales? The 8-year-old in Kathua. The 25-year-old who was raped and murdered in her own house in New Delhi. The 100-year-old who was raped and killed by her drunk neighbour in Meerut. And many who never even made the headlines.

Then there are those, like the 8-year-old girl in Kathua, who did not survive to tell their stories. Then there are those, like the 8-year-old girl in Kathua, who did not survive to tell their stories. (Photo: Twitter)

What of those #MeToo stories? 

The one who is unaware of #metoo

This is a movement that benefits only those of us who have access to the internet. There are places in our country where electricity is still scarce, and young girls are not sent to school. There are girls and women who are molested, raped, even killed, in these places.

We may read about them in the news, but not in #MeToo. #MeToo has brought conversation around sexual harassment to the mainstream, but we must remember that what is mainstream for us — people like you and me, reading this — is merely scratching the surface of the global crisis at hand.

Also read: #MeToo movement: Men seem to think alcohol is both excuse and apology. Well, it’s neither

Writer

Prachi Gangwani Prachi Gangwani @gangwaniprachi

When not writing about love and/or gender, you can find me either petting my cat and dog (yes, I have one of each), or sweating it out, or guzzling wine.

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