Crime against women can start in very insidious ways. A few years ago, a male colleague of mine called me to find out if he can get an introduction to another male someone I knew. I said yes, and I wish he had stopped at the request. Instead, he offered to ‘help’ me do this with his suggestions, which included, “Be sure you use your charms on him.”
Now, this was when he needed the favor from me. Imagine the cheekiness if it had been the other way around! No prizes for guessing that he didn’t get the introduction from me.
When the #MeToo hashtag was breaking the internet a few weeks back, one of them was mine too. Not for just this instance, but for many more. I reckon the reason it became so huge was the fact that many women( and men too) who came out the #MeToos are people who have known it for a long time – some of them since their childhood, some even before they realised they are supposed to be living their childhood. Not just their own stories, but stories of friends, colleagues, even some of our own children. We don’t speak up for a number of reasons- sometimes because we think it is too trivial for anyone to believe us, sometimes because we fear that talking about it will disrupt too many variables of our precariously balanced lives.
If silence has done anything, it has made the nature of the crime against women way more audacious. Covert glances and inappropriate touching in crowded places have always been the norm, but today we hear of rape in the open in full public view, mindless violence( as seen in the Nirbhaya case) and indiscriminate assaults on children and old people alike.
We do not see a counter-terrorism expert speaking on personal safety of women everyday.
We see surges of concern when the incidents are shocking enough, we see anger and resignation from people around us. But, we do not see a counter-terrorism expert talk about the safety of our women and children every day. Chakradhari Rowe, a Protection and Counter-Terrorism expert trained in Israel, threw himself into studying crime against women in our country, including sexual assaults in the workplace and the policies governing them. He later used his knowledge and training to design the Personal Security Education & Tactical Life Skills program for women.
Chakradhari( known as CD) firmly believes that the equation between parents and children( whether boys or girls) plays a huge role in containing this rising issue. Read on to know more from our interview.
Let’s understand pre-crime indicators through an example.
On a Friday noon, I see you come back from work. Unusual for me as I’ve always seen you coming late (PCI-1). But your body language while you walk into your home is all calm. In the next 45 mins, you come out of your home more than 5 times making some calls and trying to look for someone. And then your beautician comes home with a bigger than usual kit that is unusual to me (PCI-2). She leaves after 3 hours, unusual again as she has never stayed for this long before. By now, I know you are preparing for something big and important. As I know your name (from a letter I picked up from your letterbox), I look you up on social media for any updates you’ve made about your big plans. BINGO! You haven’t mentioned a thing but you were tagged by a DJ/Event manager for a rock show tonight 40 km out of city (PCI-3). I try and find if someone is tagging along with you. I find no info on that. At 19:30 I get a cab request and the destination entered matches your rock show venue. I accept immediately and take a U-turn and park right in front. You get a message that your cab has arrived and because you weren’t ready yet, you call me and ask me to wait. I happily do. In the meanwhile, the cab system cancels the trip as it had not started in 20 mins. But I’m still there.
You get out with a small bag in hand and directly sit in the cab and say – Plz go fast. And needless to say, I that detour and kidnap you.
Now, the PCIs marked above were incidents that gave your plans away to me. They help me plan my crime. Similarly, you too had, at your disposal the same PCIs that could have warned you against me. The fact that you never looked around your home when you came back, you never noticed my taxi parked right opposite your home across the road in spite of coming out 5 times, you didn’t ask yourself the question how I landed up within seconds of booking a cab, you didn’t remember that you had to give me a pin to start the ride, you didn’t even wonder why I choose to wait for over 20 mins for you and not cancel the ride, you didn’t even notice that I have been around your home all the time last few days – these are all instances of ignoring pre-crime indicators.
Now, instead of saying ‘you didn’t bother’ – which could wrongly put me in a position of ‘Victim Blaming/Shaming’, I would say, you were IGNORANT about such critical pieces of information that were always at your disposal. You were ignorant coz you never learnt the subject of ‘Personal Security’ before. You only saw or read Sherlock Holmes but never thought like him in your daily life.
Being a woman, you are gifted. You have the gift of intuition and it works better than men who are trained. If Jyoti Singh was alive today and was asked if she FELT safe getting into that eventful bus, you’d know what I’m talking about. Apart from intuition, you would need a good understanding of the basics of criminal psychology (not the bookish knowledge) and a basic training in Personal Security.
In the last few months, I have been reading the POSH policies of many MNC’s. I’m doing so to document the greatest paradox that exists in POSH into a dedicated chapter in my upcoming book on Personal Security Education.
The POSH policy says – You need to report an abuse within 90 days from the date of abuse. Do you know what can happen in 90 days? All evidence can be wiped out without a trace. How many companies even keep a 90 day old CCTV footage?
It then says – The committee shall have 90days for investigation and then another 60 days to take action. Well, what’s the hurry? If a victim can suffer humiliation for 5 months then I’m sure it must be a habit by now.
And the action could range from an ‘Apology’ to a ‘Termination’. Well, I don’t think it can get more ridiculous.
And the best part is the paradox. The ‘Prevention’ of Sexual Harassment Policy has absolutely NOTHING to ‘Prevent’ the harassment. It only talks about what to do once you are a victim.
Make Personal Security Training compulsory for all women. What else can I say? It’s the only way to turn them into hard targets. By sending a guard with them, we just tell them they need someone to protect them at all times and that they can’t do it themselves. There is definitely a need for a security professional to be present on the POSH committee of MNC’s who can design security training in accordance with company and geographical culture. Most NGOs can deal with victims better. What we need are preventive measures.
Personal Security Training is like Yoga. It helps you integrate and build your mind, body and spirit into a strong force deterring all malicious intent from you. In other words, it’s about honing your mind to pick up your cues from your environment.
Self-defence, on the other hand, is learning how to fight physically to ward off any danger. Both are important, but people tend to understand the physical part better. Being aware of your surroundings is just as important and the first step to personal safety.
With victims as young as 2 to 3 yrs old, what parents can do best is build a very transparent relationship with them. Firstly, don’t allow a 3rd person to change diapers or wash their sensitive parts. And if that happens, in your absence, the kid must tell you immediately. I’m doing this with my son who just turned 1. And I suggest the same to other parents.
For parents of teenagers, you got to stop pushing your anxiety onto your kids. I remember Jyoti Singh’s friend who survived to tell their tale saying – Jyoti’s parents were constantly calling her and we had to reach home fast. The intent of the parent was good. They were concerned. But they also passed on their worry to her that possibly made her override her gut feeling about the unsafe bus.
In a nutshell, both parents and kids must learn and practice – Emotional Intelligence and Accurate Thinking. These 2 skills can save a lot of trouble for both.
Society is just a bigger joint family. And these criminals come from this very family too. Earlier, the picture that came to us when we spoke of criminals was that of an uneducated, street side elements. Today, we have rapists and molesters coming from well-educated families. So there is definitely something going wrong with the way we are bringing up our kids. So, we need more people to involve and educate today’s parents and kids alike on Tactical Life Skills. This is the only way we can hit the crime at its roots and build our children strong.
My work is designed to do just 2 things –
This is all is required to bring this form of crime to its grave.
With my book on Personal Security Education coming out early 2018, I plan to spread the essence of what this subject can really do. The book is being written as a subject matter that could also be used in institutions as part of their curriculum.
The mere understanding of this subject and its elements is enough to tackle at least 60% of the problem. Once that is accomplished, the physical training follows to seal the security gap.
Check out the details of Chakradhari’s personal workshop HERE.
Devishobha is the founder of Kidskintha- a global parenting and education collective, and the host of the global virtual conferences hosted on the platform. You can also find her voice on the Huffington Post, Mother.ly, Entrepreneur, Lifehack, TinyBuddha, Thought Catalog and many other publications.