First-hand experience: “We were sexually harassed by a Reebok employee in Kolkata but authorities did nothing”

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I saw a Reebok employee looking at me and rubbing his penis over his pants -- he sexually harassed me in a popular shopping mall in Kolkata.

This article is a result of rage, disgust and disappointment in our society. We live in a community where being sexually harassed is hardly considered an unpardonable offense. People wait for rape and brutalisation before any action is taken.

My friend and I were at City Centre, a shopping mall in Salt Lake, Kolkata, on April 11, at around 9 PM. We were sitting in an elevated area in front of Inox, facing a popular Reebok showroom. I saw a Reebok employee looking at me and rubbing his penis over his pants. He continued for several seconds, sexually harassed me, making me feel sick and numb — so much so that I was too shaken to record the incident.

The Reebok store at City Centre, Salt Lake, Kolkata

Before that is counted as my fault, or my sleeveless top or my slightly loud voice, let me clarify that only a victim or a survivor of sexual harassment knows the terrible, numbing feeling. 

We stormed into the shop and confronted the man. He obviously kept saying that he didn’t do anything. The manager came and cringed at the word ‘penis’, as if it is okay that his employee did whatever he did but how can a girl use the word? When I threatened to call the cops, the manager and the perpetrator began apologizing. They sounded and looked least apologetic, and anyway, an apology nothing.

First-hand experience:
The Reebok store manager

We asked them to show CCTV footage. They refused, again and again. The perpetrator sexually harassed me but had the guts to flee the showroom when my friend attempted to click his picture. 

Outside, we came face to face with him again and plot twist! His apologies turned into a loud “go to hell”. Anyway, we managed to take a quick picture of him, which I  have attached in the article.

First-hand experience:
The perpetrator

Helpless, we went to the control room, but the manager or the main person there had gone home. We took his phone number and called him. He said: “you come tomorrow morning, nothing can be done at this hour”. 

The control room had several people overseeing CCTV footage of the entire shopping mall. When we asked them to check inside Reebok, they blatantly refused.

We spoke to the cops outside the mall, but they said that looking into this matter was not their responsibility. We repeatedly requested them to call over some personnel from the Bidhannagar Police responsible for that area, but at 10 PM, they told us that the only option the two of us had was to go to the police station and file a complaint.

The following is my Facebook post on the incident:

With the ongoing pandemic, the place had become quite empty. We were scared to head to the police station because we thought the man would follow us and harm us. We came back home. We have decided to go back today and escalate the matter. However, it is possible that the CCTV footage will be tampered with and we will be left with no evidence.

The lack of cooperation, indifference, and the unhelpful nature of the authorities around us are enough to break people fighting for justice. 

To anyone who has faced anything similar, we need to stop ignoring such incidents. We need to ensure that some action is taken or these sick individuals are going to prey on us, again and again.

The world is cruel and women are in danger, and there is very little that people want to do, besides being bystanders. 

We are not going to give up until we get the justice we deserve.

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