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This is why women don’t report sexual abuse

October 11, 2018 06:46 AM

COURTESY MIRROR MUMBAI OCT 11

This is why women don’t report sexual abuse
Victim ‘slut-shamed’, abuser let off easy
In FB post, former student accuses St Xavier’s College of dealing with her sexual abuse complaint in the ‘most malicious way’
| Mumbai Mirror Bureau
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In the ongoing #MeToo movement, a former student of St Xavier’s College has accused its women’s development cell (WDC) of handling her sexual harassment complaint against a fellow student “in a malicious way,” pointing at the reason why victims often do not approach internal committees.

In a Facebook post, Kripa Fernandes, who graduated from Xavier’s two years ago, wrote that she approached the cell in 2015 after suffering “physical, verbal and sexual abuse” at the hands of a fellow student, whom she was dating at the time. “He was possessive and abusive... He beat me on four occasions in public and would occasionally sexually harass me. After months of undergoing such torture, I finally told my friends and family and his family too. When his family turned against me, for my protection, I turned to the WDC,” she said.


The WDC and the college’s response was allegedly a lesson on how not to go about handing sexual abuse/harassment cases. Fernandes said while the cell took up her case, it handled the complaint “in the most malicious way”. “Ever heard of the abuser’s statement been taken before the victim’s? Ever heard of the abuser’s witnesses being called upon but not the victim’s?” she wrote.

She said the committee also asked her irrelevant intrusive questions. “[I was asked] whether I was undergoing counselling and if I was on medication… if I had previous relationships.”

Fernandes said the panel members attempted to gaslight her. “They accused me of perpetrating violence against him when I raised my hand on him to defend myself. [A member] tried convincing me that my ex “really, really liked” me. [Another] tried proving that I had some sort of mental disorder and slut-shamed me. [A third member] tried getting me to not bother my ex but work around his schedule so that I don’t crash into him again.”

The WDC even allegedly asked her to leave home at 5 am, instead of the usual 6 am, to avoid the abuser, who was Fernandes’ neighbour.

When Fernandes could finally get in a word about her abuse, a member allegedly tried to be dismissive of it, saying: “But weren’t you two in a relationship?”

The Xavier’s alumna also accused then principal Dr Frazer Mascarenhas of indulging in victim-blaming. “He accused me of not coming forward and sticking around in an abusive relationship. [According to him] It was completely my fault,” she said.

Fernandes told Mirror that her abuser only faced a week’s suspension.

In defence of the WDC, Dr Mascarenhas said the complaint was “taken seriously and investigated thoroughly by a competent, properly formed sexual harassment committee”. “Some of the complaints were found to be true and serious action was taken against the student, including suspending him from college and imposing other restrictions,” he said in an email. He stressed on the need to find “other ways of solving such problems than a social media trial”. He asserted that had Fernandes reported the alleged further abuse she faced after the WDC’s action, the “offending” student would have been dismissed from college.

 

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