I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Anger, disbelief and denial

As I have stated in a Metblog post, one of the shocking parts of the Wilson College controversy is the way in which the college authorities have rubbished the complaint. Even the police has said that there's some prima facie evidence, but the college has been unrepentant.

However, I should probably not be so shocked. Sexual harassment is a reality in many Indian colleges. Professors who indulge in it are often brazen enough to think that they can get away with it. College authorities will often choose not to react - "It can't happen in my college", "Probably something harmless got misinterpreted" are common reactions.

This is obviously not different from an Indian family. Just read the following lines from a synopsis of a research study:

  • 54% of the survivors had told someone about the abuse compared to 36% who did not.
  • Most of those who disclosed did so voluntarily. In a few cases, the abuse was discovered by an older person. 30% told a friend, 26% told their mothers, 12% told a sister, 9% told both parents. Only 2% had been to a therapist or counselor.
  • The main reasons given for not telling anyone about the abuse were: wanting to forget it happened (23%), fear of what people would think of them (14%), self-blame for the abuse (11%), and not having anyone to trust (11%). Only 3% did not tell because the abuser had threatened them. Only 1% did not tell because they were bribed by the abuser.
  • The overwhelming responses to disclosure of abuse by the victims were: anger at the perpetrator, disbelief in the victim, and denial. The actions that followed most often did not involve confrontation of perpetrator.
Now, see the reaction of the Vice Principal of Wilson College, "The students involved are not even from our college. They are fabricating stories about a man who has worked here for 27 years. Every lady professor here can vouch for his integrity... The administration stands firmly by Athawle and the allegations are totally false." Anger at the perpetrator, disbelief at the victim and denial in three quick sentences.

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