Where dancing becomes a crime!

We were having one of those Saturday nights, where we had a big group of people (from the Quora meetup) who decided to get out for a drink with last minute plans. As expected, we didn’t really get a table in most bars and since we were a big group, we were desperate for a bar that seated us.

Walking down Church Street in Bengaluru, a friend spotted Alibi, the restobar and it seemed like they had a few tables that would accommodate a large group. My friends and I had a decent time for about the first two hours talking, eating, drinking and laughing.

While we were about to leave, and I was standing next to my table discussing with my friends about our cab options, I felt this guy’s hand brush against my behind as he walked out. Startled, I wheeled around, and saw him walk off nonchalantly like nothing happened. I wasn’t entirely sure whether his brush was accidental (because it was a narrow space between two tables that I was standing in) or intentional. Since he had already left, I didn’t mull over it too much and ignored it (stupid, I know).

And while I was continuing to talk to my friends, this man returned only to grope my butt. I felt it this time, and it was no accidental brush. I caught him immediately and asked him what he thought he was doing. In response, he simply smirked. Infuriated, I got into an argument with him, only to be interrupted by his best friend who seemed even angrier because I falsely accused his friend of molesting me.

Seriously, WHY would I want to make this stuff up? Does anyone out there think women enjoy making a scene and involving multiple people in telling them how we were felt up?

The friend kept getting extremely defensive with every dialogue he spewed and began to yell, to which of course, I also felt an appropriate amount of yelling on my part was required. No one is going to tell me to shut up when someone violates my space.

Meanwhile, the molester is watching the argument between his friend and me spin out of control and stands as mute witness to the spectacle.

The head waiter, Sam (or so he claims his name was), steps in and hears both sides of the argument. He then proceeds to politely ask the molester to pay his bill and leave. When I protest at this extremely kind treatment meted out to the molester, Sam the head waiter starts bellowing at me, asks me to get out, and even threatens me by saying that he will make things worse for me. I asked him what he meant by that, and I said I was ready to go to the police. That’s when he pretty much told me to get out. In the meanwhile the molester has conveniently slipped away and I was too engrossed in my conversation with the staff to notice. This happens while Sam is yelling the hell out of me – he literally gets 3 inches close to my face and his body language suggested that he might physically strike me at any moment. The Manager of Alibi then steps in, and then he starts yelling at me (it seems to be Alibi staff policy now) and says that I should have expected this because I was “dancing”. He also explicitly stated that it wasn’t the molester’s fault. Pretty much all the Alibi staff members got together and started yelling at me and my friends raising a clamour, while the molester was treated as a gentleman till the time he left.

So let’s get this straight, someone assaults me. I fight back. Management interferes, starts to blame me for what happens to me, tells me that it’s not the guy’s fault. Not just this, the management then misbehaves with me, while constantly bellowing at me because I was“creating a scene” and was “taking it too personally”, and asked me to leave immediately. I was kicked out of Alibi by the waiters and management because I was molested by a man who happened to slip away while they were vociferously indulging in victim shaming. He got away scot-free and is likely to repeat it again because even when a woman did question him, he realized that everyone was going to blame the victim instead and it will be far easier for him to escape it. I, the victim, got treated like a criminal while the management treated the molester as a gentleman. Does that even make sense?

The behaviour doled out to me and my friends by the management was reprehensible. Victim blaming is such a real and common thing, and it happens so often that we have become indifferent towards it. The management was obviously trying desperately to protect their reputation and wanted to get me out of there. But the fact that they had the manager vehemently believing that my dancing was a cause of the molester’s vile behaviour and with one of the waiters screaming in my face because I demanded justice was deplorable.

I walked away, in absolute disgust. We have discussions, we rally at protests, we teach men to respect women, we ask women to never suffer in silence and make some noise, and when we do, this is what happens. It was simply far easier to take the side of the molester and blame it on the victim for her clothes, for being at a bar, for being out late at night, or in this case, dancing (seriously, at best case I was just ‘moving’ a bit. And I haven’t seen anyone ever at a bar standing or sitting in attention position throughout their stay there while the music is playing).

If “dancing” is against the rules, so is sexual assault! Why are we continuing to defend such heinous acts? Why do we try to shut the women who do speak up? Why do we transfer the blame to the victim?

I feel violated. Disgusted. Cheated. And I shouldn’t be. But I am. Millions of women go through far worse situations everyday and when we stand up for ourselves, this is what we get treated with.

So dear women of Bangalore, you must already be doing this for good reason, but just in case you do plan to visit Alibi, I suggest otherwise. If anything does happen to you here, be rest assured that the Alibi management will yell at you, get in your face and tell you that it’s your fault (they might threaten to make things worse for you as well). And oh, the perpetrator will be let off no questions asked as long as they pay their bill. *applause*

Editor’s note: This article was first published in the author’s blog, mercurialpurple.blogspot.in and is republished here with permission.

 

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