My Story: Never Back Down – Iris D’Souza

Each of us has, at some point in time in our lives, received life advice from our personal life coaches – parents, siblings, teachers, mentors, kids, the vegetable vendor or the stranger sitting on the adjacent seat on the flight. Something that moved you, changed you or made a difference to your perspective forever. India Pages brings to you these slices of life, shared by people from all walks of life … Writers, Photographers, Artists, Television Producers, Hands-on mommies, Entrepreneurs, and Engineers …. Meet Iris D’Souza

There is no one who will fight your corner better than you!  

This may not be the best feel-good story you’ve ever read, but it may just be one of the most important! That goes not only for every woman but also every man who has a mother, wife, daughter, female family member or friend they treasure.

I remember walking home alone one evening after playing at my friends’ house. As the skies darkened, the streets started to bare a deserted look. As I walked home, two grown men on the opposite side of the street started eve teasing me and using suggestive body language. I was only 7yrs old at the time and didn’t fully understand what was happening… but I knew it left me feeling cheap, repulsed and violated.

In that moment as shame washed over me, I stopped myself and thought… “Why should I LET them treat me this way? What gives them the right? HOW DARE THEY?!!” I picked stones up from the side of the road and hurled it as fiercely as I could at them.

I remember running back home shaken up. I immediately sat down with my dad and elder brother and told them what had happened. They listened…. My dad then gave me the best advice I have ever received…

He said “I can’t tell you how proud I am of you! This was the first time, but let me assure you that this behaviour is all too common on the streets of Bombay. Sadly it isn’t only strangers who will try to assault you… It could be someone known to you… a teacher, a friend, a father, a brother, an uncle or even a religious person. I don’t care who they are! NEVER think it is OK and NEVER think it is your fault!

 Know this… you can either ignore it and live with the abuse OR hold your ground and fight! If you do choose to fight, you have my blessings; but know that they can hurt, maim or even kill you. You are no match for a grown man’s strength, but you have an edge… I doubt they have your courage!”

From that day forward, I never looked back. I always inflicted a greater level of public shame and humiliation on anyone brave enough to try to sexually assault me. I believed that if I stood up to even one bully, they would think twice before they tried it again with another girl. Hopefully, I’d cured at least one pervert.

Living overseas, I see the stark difference in men’s behaviour towards women. NO one touches you, NO one letches or catcalls as you walk down the street. A woman can feel safe at any time of the day or night. This is my hope and prayer for India. By turning a blind eye for long enough, we’ve let this problem become ‘acceptable’ and pervasive. But I have hope… I believe our society has more good people than bad. It’s time to make our voices heard!

On a recent visit to India, I stepped out to shop one day. I stood at the sales counter flanked by my husband on one side and my elder brother on the other. Whilst we spoke to the salesperson, I felt someone brush up behind me. I decided to ignore it as I realized the store was crowded and it could possibly have been an accident. In truth, my time spent overseas had dulled my laser reflexes. I don’t think my younger self would have allowed this lapse. Anyway, it was only seconds later that I felt another hand brush past! I turned to my brother and husband and asked if they’d been brushed past as well. If they had, I would simply put it down to the crowd. Apparently, the man had missed both of them but got me. This was clearly no accident….

Perhaps he thought he’d show off to his friends; show them how manly he was by touching a woman. Newsflash… there are better ways to show your manliness… try standing up to jerks assaulting women instead! It takes 100 times more guts to do that!

I spun around and grabbed the perp by his collar as he tried getting away. I abused and shamed him as loudly as I could. It’s something I felt everyone NEEDED to hear! It’s not OK for them to hide behind a pristine persona whilst secretly behaving like depraved animals. When I was done publicly shaming him, I decided I should return the favour and touch him back…. I reclaimed my dignity with that punch!

For good measure (and because I didn’t want him to feel left out), I then turned my attention to the other scumbag who had brushed past me first. By this point, he was further down the crowded store. I raised my voice even further and loudly humiliated him. I can tell you this…. even the distance between us couldn’t hide his fear. Good!

#metoo is now a global campaign. It’s the women of the world standing up and saying…. ENOUGH! And here’s the most brilliant part about standing up… Whilst I can say #metoo because they may have tried to assault me, I am NOT a victim. I’ve fought each time and won! Here’s what I found… Assaulters are just bullies who prey on fear and vulnerability. The braver you are, the less likely they are to continue an assault. They are COWARDS!

My message to you is this…. When you or someone you love or even a stranger is being eve teased or sexually assaulted, don’t stand by and watch; instead, raise your voice if not your hands and support one another! Let them know their behaviour is not acceptable! Publicly humiliate them. It not only dissuades them but also serves as a strong deterrent for others.

If enough people do this, we will see our society evolve to realize that this is NOT the normal or acceptable behaviour. By changing what’s socially acceptable, maybe; just maybe we will save a woman or girl we love from being assaulted in future. #ENOUGH IS ENOUGH #LET OUR GIRLS SHINE

This article is in loving memory of Captain Ivan Athaide. You taught me how to walk with my head tall and to believe in myself. Your faith in me gave me faith in myself; and for that, I’m deeply grateful. Thank you for being one dad in a million.

Caution: The views expressed above are my own and may not be suitable for you / your situation. As my dad said, bravery comes at a price. There is always a risk of harm; so only work within the boundaries and risks you are comfortable with. Good luck!

About Iris D’Souza

Iris D’Souza lives with her husband and 2 kids in Melbourne Australia. She is a data storyteller at heart. An accomplished analyst and insights consultant, she founded Germane Insights to help businesses validate their thinking and make decisions based on actual evidence.Providing Business Intelligence and Market Research services, her clients are able to draw insights from both their existing data and market research to understand their market and uncover business opportunities. Being able to visualise data and understand the story behind the numbers helps businesses track performance and understand their market better. It gives her great pleasure to see businesses take on less risk armed with the ability to predict the future. Her consultancy Germane Insights also helps build intuitive and user-friendly software and apps. Find out more or get in touch on her website germaneinsights.com.au In her spare time, she enjoys playing sport with her kids, playing the violin and learning new things.

 

 

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Suhana Bhatia
Suhana Bhatia
Features Editor