How was data collected?
This database is an attempt to count and to keep a track of sexual harassment cases reported in Indian newsrooms. Cases have been classified within broad categories to enable the reader to make sense of an extremely complex conversation.
This database focuses on cases reported from the media industry. This includes print, TV, digital, radio newsrooms, freelance journalists who don’t work with specific organizations as well as cases of harassment experienced by people in journalism schools.
Cases of harassment in other industries, for example, cinema, entertainment and advertising, though equally compelling, are outside the scope of this database. However, if someone working in the news industry has accused someone from a different industry, those cases have been included in the dataset.
We would like to acknowledge the work done by people handling the Twitter account India Protests (@protestingindia). They have been curating a public list of cases reported on social media. This list formed the basis of our documenting efforts. We have added more cases to their list based on manual tracking of reports.
Criteria for including or excluding a case
#Spotlight captures first person accounts of sexual harassment reported by complainants in media newsrooms. Posts on social media made directly by complainants form a bulk of the cases recorded in the database.
Cases where the complainant wishes to remain anonymous but has come out either via a publication or through another person's account (a verified Twitter account, or through a journalist's social media account) have been included.
However, anonymous cases from anonymous accounts (including accounts where it is difficult to clearly establish the identity of an individual) have been excluded. We are aware this runs the risk of excluding an account where the survivor may have deliberately chosen the anonymity route for specific personal or professional reasons. However, we felt this precaution was necessary to bring in some check - even if basic - before publicly calling out individuals as alleged perpetrators of sexual harassment.
Important Note: #MeToo is a movement driven by personal narratives where complainants are using social media platforms to call out alleged perpetrators of sexual misconduct and harassment publicly. We have tried to back cases with reportage where possible. However, not all cases have made it to news publications as yet, and have been shared only on social media. These cases are included in our dataset but till they are not backed by news reportage, they would be categorised separately as "Reported on Social Media".
Navigating the database
The primary aim of the database is to document cases of sexual harassment at the workplace. However, we realize that it is sometimes difficult to separate the personal and professional spaces very clearly. Many complainants have recounted experiences of abuse by someone working in the news media but in a personal context; these cases have been included. The dataset categorizes them in the broad categories of professional and personal.
Individuals who have been called out by different people for their behavior appear multiple times in the dataset.
To be able to provide some structure to the database, we have tried to identify broad categories of harassment. This is in no way an attempt to create a hierarchy of abusive behaviour, but an attempt to understand what is more pervasive and identify other patterns.
Patterns emerging from the database
This database relies primarily on social media posts; it has not been possible to get details for all cases. We have therefore identified broad trends and patterns emerging from the cases documented here.
We have counted 72 cases as of October 26, 2018. Out of these, there are 5 cases from journalism colleges, and the rest are from newsrooms (either the complainant or the accused worked in the same newsroom).
79% of cases have happened in a direct workplace context. About 7% of the cases happened in a social setting where either the accused or the complainant were from a media organisation. In about five cases, it is difficult to ascertain the professional-personal divide clearly. The rest are from journalism schools where the context of incidents has not been classified as personal or professional.
Nature of Harassment
While specific incidents of extreme sexual violence and abuse do shake our collective conscience every now and then, the lives of women are affected by harassment that is more routine – the pervasive, the banal, the normalized – gestures that are often difficult to point out to, to even clearly identify at times, and those that are seen as too “trivial” by others and hence not seen as valid enough reasons to lodge complaints against. An analysis of the experiences shared by women only substantiates this.
Roughly one third of the survivors who’ve shared their cases have reported experiencing some form of unwelcome sexual advances which include sharing sexual jokes, talking in innuendoes, making sexually coloured remarks, hinting at sexual activities, trying to get too close to an individual physically to the point of discomfort.
About one fifth of the survivors report having been groped – being touched, held without their consent, of men placing their hands on their thighs, back, breasts, and being hugged in a manner that caused discomfort. There are also nine cases where women recall being kissed without their consent.
Complainants have also shared experiences of sexual assault – where men have groped them too strongly, indulged in sexual activity in a violent manner leaving them hurt and injured, pinned them against the wall in an attempt to kiss them forcefully.
There are cases of being pursued persistently, of obscene behaviour, of men ogling at women causing shame or discomfort, of demanding nude pictures from women.
Women seem to be more vulnerable to harassment at earlier stages of their career and many cases also have a clear power dimension to them, with the complainant often an intern, and early career reporter, and the accused being senior editors, bureau chiefs, or middle level reporters. However, abusers across ages and career spans have been called out for abusive behaviour in the ongoing conversation.
Response and backlash
Many survivors also go on to narrate how they responded to the harassment and if there was a fallout of the same. While some were able to put an end to the abuse by repeatedly rejecting / blocking the culprits, others faced severe harassment at the workplace to the point where they decided to quit the job and move places. Many experienced a deep sense of shame and guilt and indulged in self blaming, and they often took long periods of time to deal with the trauma.
What are the limitations of the data?
The data here relies on social media posts for allegations of sexual misconduct. This is primarily because the complainants have taken to Twitter to call out abusers. The complainants using social media are primarily media persons working with English newsrooms in urban areas. Accounts of several women in regional media, local newsrooms and those who don’t have formal designations and contracts but continue to work as stringers, freelancers, part timers or informers have not been documented.
There is an attempt to include all relevant cases in our database based on the ongoing conversations on social media. We are aware that we may have missed out cases because the conversation continues to grow at a very fast pace even as we try to finalize the data. Additionally, some people have deactivated their social media accounts after initially sharing an experience and hence, it is difficult to go back and get the relevant information from those posts. Any omission is purely unintentional.
Dictionary of how we have categorized 'Nature of harassment'
1. Groping: Incidents when the perpetrator touched the survivor complainant without consent, tried to “feel” them up, forceful hugging, putting their hands on the complainants thighs, breasts, rubbing their body.
2. Sexual assault: Forceful groping, sexual intercourse or sexual activity that left the survivor bruised, injured
3. Unwelcome sexual advances: Making sexually coloured remarks, trying to get too close physically, talking in innuendos, making sexually inappropriate comments
4. Obscene behavior: Sharing nude pictures, appearing for an interview in a hotel room wrapped in a towel
5. Forced kissing: Kissing someone – on their face, mouth – without their consent
6. Persistent Pursuing: Relentlessly making a pass at someone, persistently expressing interest in someone even when they have expressed disinterest, stalking, emotional blackmail
7. Harassment: Causing emotional, mental trauma at work or otherwise because someone is not giving into your advances
8. Ogling: Staring at a person’s breasts, hips, or their bodies in a sexually suggestive manner that causes the survivor discomfort and/or shame