All of her colleagues had left for home by now. She was the only one working in the office. After slogging all evening Maya finally had a minute to relax. She checked the time and her eyes immediately widened. It was almost midnight. Maya slammed her laptop shut and stuffed it inside her bag. Bustling down the stairs, she booked a cab, which to her dismay was to take around twenty minutes to arrive. When she got out of the office complex Maya could see no trace of human life; except for a group of young men at the end of the street. Comforting herself, she thought that as long as she minded her own business they would keep to themselves.
Cautiously, she made her way to the end of the street where the taxi was expected to arrive. As Maya trudged down the road she could hear the faint footsteps of someone following her. She promptly turned around, and to her surprise nobody was there. Warily, she continued walking, pausing a few meters away from the group of young men. Fifteen more minutes to go, she thought. Concealing herself from the grimacing stares, Maya looked in the other direction. She didn’t respond to the whistles or loud comments. Ten more minutes before the cab arrives she thought, just ignore it. Maya could hear the sound of footsteps approaching her. The man’s shadow becoming more prominent with each step he took. Five more minutes, just stand your ground, she murmured to herself.
“Do you always work this late? Something bad could happen to you. Why don’t you come with us” said the man whom she had never seen before. Maya didn’t utter a word. The man came closer and closer. His friends were following him from a distance. Then all of a sudden they were surrounded by bright lights. The taxi had arrived. Maya bolted into the cab and muttered her address. She only calmed down on reaching her house.
This story sounds like it’s an excerpt from a thriller. However, in reality there are thousands of women who face situations similar to this one in their daily lives. It is expected that women learn to adopt an approach in which they must envisage and analyse all the possible ways in which their actions could lead to someone sexually assaulting them. This approach further leads to the idea that women are somehow “responsible” for the behavior of their assailants. From infant girls to senior citizens; from the woman wearing a mini skirt to the lady draped in a burqa; from wives violated by their husbands to daughters assaulted by fathers and uncles: anyone can be the victim of a sexual assault.
The root cause of sexual assault is the perpetuator of the attack. This includes the assailants and to a large extent the people responsible for shaping his mentality. It includes all the people who put into his mind the idea that there are situations in which sexually assaulting a woman can be deemed appropriate; and that he can’t be held accountable for his actions, because in the end it is the woman’s demeanor that forces him to violate her body.
One thing is clear: sexual assaults aren’t propagated by women. In order to improve the environment for women this fact needs to be acknowledged by all people. A safe environment is one in which a women can walk outside without the fear of being molested and violated. It isn’t much too ask for. As a matter of fact it shouldn’t have to be asked for.