I used to believe that when a person was sexually assaulted, their first instinct was to fight back, run, or scream for help. However, this is not usually the case – it seems that the majority of women and girls freeze and don’t know how to respond to their attacker. The Everyday Sexism Project (http://www.everydaysexism.com/) is website of stories that people send in each and every day about sexism in their lives. These stories are sometimes outrageous, or sometimes they seem almost unnoticeable. One common theme in these stories is that the narrator often expresses regret for never fighting back or speaking out. Here are two of the many examples:
“I was on the Northern Line in London going home after work. The carriage was pretty busy so I was standing up, luckily I had my big winter coat on so I feel it afforded me a bit more protection from what was about to happen. I started to feel something press up against my bottom, right where my tailbone is, so it felt pretty intimate and uncomfortable. I subtly move away from whatever is touching me…but the ‘thing’ slowly moves back to touch me in the same place. I try and move away again a couple more times and each time I am touched again. I even make a big lunge away from whoever is touching me when the train brakes but they press up against me. I felt so weak and vulnerable, so incredulous and disbelieving that this was happening and that I said nothing. I did nothing. I wish I had.”
“A 30 year old man that used to live a floor below me touched me when I was just 9 years old. He wouldn’t stop, so I decided not to go play in the backyard anymore. And I never did until we moved to a different house. Never told anybody.”
Many women feel like it would be safer and less embarrassing to remain silent. It is frightening and sometimes humiliating to protest. Recently, some girls in India have made a group to fight back and publicly embarrass attackers. They call themselves the “Red Brigade.”
The Red Brigade was founded two years ago by a female teacher who learned that almost all of her students had faced rape and sexual assault. She said that after these girls get raped, they are often blamed for it and banned from leaving their house to prevent future incidents. The brigade is now made up of mostly teenage girls (all of who have been sexually assaulted) in one of India’s poorest and most conservative provinces. These girls are determined to stand up for themselves, even though the societal norm is to remain silent.
The brigade patrols the streets in their own neighborhoods wearing red, representing danger, and black, representing protest. “In groups of four or five, the girls approach males deemed to be harassing a girl and order them to stop. If the perpetrator refuses to heed their warning, they punish him by mocking him publicly — a significant slight in such a male-dominated society… ‘The whole idea is to humiliate them,’ she said. ‘We are well within our rights — this is self-defense. The police are not supportive so we have to defend ourselves’” (Armstrong 17-18). The girls take self defense classes and sometimes have to resort to violence. The brigade has made significant progress. The mother of one of the girls even stated that, “…many boys who used to harass girls no longer do so because they are scared” (Armstrong 29).
These girls in the Red Brigade show incredible courage, and they give hope to other girls in similar situations. They are letting them know that every single person has a voice, and it is not acceptable to remain silent. The bravery of the Red Brigade astonishes me, and I hope that every person will take inspiration from these girls and have the same courage to speak out.
Armstrong, Paul. “Meet India’s Red Brigade: The Teens Fighting Back against Rape.” Cnn.com. N.p., 14 Aug. 2013. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. <http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/13/world/asia/india-red-brigade>.
“The Everyday Sexism Project.” The Everyday Sexism Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. <http://www.everydaysexism.com/>.