Most women can relate to some form of unwanted sexual harassment, and, sadly, many of us have had these verbal annoyances turn to physical violence. That's what happened to 20-year-old Pradnya Mandhare, a student at Sathaye College near Mumbai, India. Pradnya was waiting for her bus when a drunken man began to touch her inappropriately. When she fought him off, he grabbed her - and that's went Pradnya fought back. She was able to overpower the intoxicated man, and grabbed him by his hair and dragged him to the police station, where he was arrested. This should be an all-around awesome story, but it's not: while Pradnya may have fought off her attacker, there were plenty of witnesses who did nothing.
India has a complicated relationship with women's rights, and the idea that women are still property of their fathers and can bring shame on their family for things they have little control over is still prevalent. In 2012, a woman was brutally raped and beaten to death on a bus, causing a storm over women's safety in the country. Her attackers, however, blamed the victim for her actions, stating that the victim was not acting "proper" because she attended a movie with a male friend. In other words, she "deserved" the assault - and it wasn't just her attackers who felt that way. As Pradnya said after her own attack:
"Parents of girls also think that going to a police station would tarnish their daughter's reputation... But, women should raise their voice and teach such people a lesson. Women are not objects for anyone to touch at will."Pradnya is right - women should stand up for themselves. But attacked women shouldn't be the only ones who are. India is not the only country with a streak of victim-blaming - how often do we hear people say that a girl was "asking for it" after she reported a sexual assault? Just look at the rape case from Steubenville, Ohio - even with concrete proof of sexual assault, the victim was still blamed for her own rape by her classmates simply because she was intoxicated. We can't assume that every woman will be able to fight off her own attacker - helping to prevent and stop sexual assault is a social responsibility that falls on all of us.
I'm happy that Pradnya was able to bring her own attacker to justice, but at the end of the day, individual women shouldn't think of themselves as their only advocate. We need other people to stand up and say that we will stand with these women, whether by reporting an attack in the moment as Pradnya's witnesses failed to do, or believing them when they report the crimes committed against them. We need to stand up for women so that the world is a safer place for all of us.