Did you know that a teacher could be as vulnerable as a child (and sometimes even more) to sexual abuse? I didn’t. Purely because I was never wary, having grown up in an environment of love, care, learning, and nurturing, and I least expected a colleague to misbehave with me.
However, after the untoward incident, I made a mistake. I didn’t stand up strong enough to be able to get justice – justice not only for me but also for the hundreds of other children (and teachers) who are ‘at risk’ of getting into the same situation that I was in.
But again, standing up for a “right” is a very iffy call. How many would really do that? Some of us work for a livelihood; some of us have our children in the school where we work, some of us just don’t want to deal with such things, some of us like to pretend that nothing happened, and some of us are really scared of how we will be perceived after that. I was too. I was scared to death to speak of this to my colleagues and sure enough I was told that I’ve ‘instigated’ an act of sexual harassment upon myself.
Leave alone the school management, what really surprised me was that there were teachers in the same school who have their own children in it and they didn’t object to such an act either. That left me very confused for a long time about whether I was blowing things out of proportion and taking things too far. Then I realized that this attitude of people around me is what made me so unsure and scared of what I really wanted to do. The big question still remains – what is it that kept an institution as powerful as a school from taking action? Does it mean that we’ve grown so indifferent to these things or does it just mean that it’s okay to hush it up, or are they also fearful like I was, or worried about how others around them might respond, or are they under any kind of pressure, or are they just waiting for their turn?
This incident made me sit up and think of the world we are giving our children. If I, as a teacher and caregiver am doubtful of my own safety, how will I ever be able to keep my children safe? The kind of taboo, stigma, and shame attached to bringing such an issue to light was enough to make me want to hide my face like an ostrich.
When this is the scene in an educational setup – where anything can happen to a teacher, how safe are our children and how genuine are we about our care for them?
The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, quit her job as a teacher after having faced an instance of harrassment from a colleague.
Understanding structural issues
A gender perspective
Imagining a legal relationship between the school and the child