Note: All articles I write on my blog are usually focussed on ways we can improve the quality of our lives, but this article is an exception and does not fall into that category.
Four years ago, I used to drop my grandmother at church every morning.
One day after I dropped her, a man standing outside the church, probably in his sixties, requested if I could drop him at a bus stop nearby. I obliged.
Though this man was a stranger to me, he seemed like a decent fellow, so I thought I’d do him a favour. Over the next several days, I would continue dropping him.
Then one day, as I was driving, he slowly started touching my forehead and stroking my hair while expressing gratitude for taking the effort to drop him.
Some older people can get a bit touchy while expressing gratitude here in India, so I didn’t think much of it.
But then he started moving his hands up my thighs, which immediately made me uncomfortable. I shrugged and moved my leg away, hoping he would get the message.
Thankfully, the place where I used to drop him was a short ride away, so we reached within a few minutes before anything more could happen. But he wasn’t done yet.
Once we reached I stopped the car. But instead of getting out, he suddenly started asking me some sexually explicit questions.
I was shocked. It was as if my brain froze, and I didn’t know how to process what was going on.
This man was about thrice my age, probably had a family of his own, and, from whatever conversation I had with him over the past few days, he gave me the impression that he was religious. So I totally did not see this coming.
I told him to get out of the car. But my voice was by no means authoritative since I was shaken and a bit scared. Luckily for me, he didn’t need to be told twice, and he finally got out, and I drove away.
I came back home scarred and ashamed and couldn’t seem to shrug off these feelings even though I hadn’t done anything wrong.
I could then clearly understand why most people who face sexual harassment or usually something much worse like serious sexual abuse keep silent and don’t want to come forward with it.
I felt too ashamed to bring it up with my parents, so I didn’t tell them about it. But later that day, I finally mustered up the courage to tell my two older brothers about the incident.
My eldest brother responded by asking me why I gave that man a ride in the first place. As you can imagine, hearing that in the state of mind that I was in wasn’t helpful.
But then he somehow made me feel less alone by sharing a similar experience he had while riding in a local bus.
My other brother followed up by saying that even he had experienced sexual harassment when he was only in the second grade.
A man on the road asked him if he could hold his bicycle, and when my brother obliged, the man suddenly took out his penis and went on to masturbate right in front of him.
So why do I share all of this with you now?
Cases of sexual harassment and abuse against men are seldom discussed and get little media attention but it’s a lot more common than most people realise.
I’d later shared this incident with some of my male friends, and I was surprised to find that even many of them had similar experiences as well.
If I knew this was a common occurrence, I don’t think I would have felt as ashamed and shocked by the incident.
If something similar has happened to you as a guy, you are certainly not alone, and this is much more common than you think.
Now I know this can’t change anything that has happened in the past, but I hope it will bring you some comfort and make you feel less alone as it did for me.
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