The SRM University girls hostel warden, accused of victim shaming in the much-hyped harassment case, is facing suspension. The action against him comes a day after a 28-year-old cleaning staff allegedly masturbated in front of a female student in the hostel lift. The woman went on to complain about the man’s inappropriate behaviour to the warden, who in turn blamed her “inappropriate clothes” for the incident. This news spread like wildfire on the university campus and soon caught up on social media. Facing pressure to take action, local police arrested the alleged perpetrator, while the University Registrar suspended the girls hostel warden in question yesterday, as per a report by India Today.

It seems that in our country, there is no end in sight for people’s victim blaming tendencies. Here is a man who allegedly masturbated in front of a young woman, in a lift, that too in broad daylight. He continued with his audacious behaviour until the girl screamed for help. Yet, instead of critiquing his behaviour, the girls hostel warden’s first reaction was to critique the survivor’s choice of clothes.

The first reaction of people to any complaint of harassment by a woman is to muse, what did she do wrong? Why did this happen to her and no one else? Clearly, she brought it upon herself by sending the wrong signals. Their instinct is to be protective of men. Which means they find one way or the other to blame women for male transgressions. Hence blame finds its way to how women talk, walk, dress or even laugh.

It is important that the girls hostel warden faces disciplinary actions here, so that authorities and appointed caretakers understand where their duties lie in such cases. It is their job to protect women, not to police them.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • The girls hostel warden at SRM University hostel, victim shamed a survivor of harassment by calling her clothes inappropriate. He is facing suspension now.
  • Victim shaming actually enables perpetrators.
  • This incidence should serve as a check to all people in any position of authority, that personal biases should not come in your line of duty.

The blame of misconduct belongs to the perpetrator and no one else. Unless we strictly apply this rule, some men will continue flouting the line of acceptable conduct. However, when it comes to those meant to protect us, the victim shaming actually enables perpetrators. When people who are responsible for law enforcement, such as, girls hostel wardens, security guards and police officers take to victim shaming it sends out a very wrong message. Their job profile doesn’t include moral policing, so they need to leave their personal biases at home.

Telling a girl that it is her fault that a man masturbated in front of her may cause her to internalise the blame. Her confidence may suffer, and it will discourage her and others like her to come forward with complaints in future. Which is why this incident calls for more action then just the suspension of the involved warden. This incident should serve as a check to all people in any position of authority, that personal biases should not come in your line of duty.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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