Covid volunteer faces sexual harassment over calls
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Covid volunteer faces sexual harassment over calls

Covid volunteers complain of blackmail, sexual harassment

Covid volunteer faces sexual harassment over calls

New Delhi: In these challenging times, a lot of good samaritans have emerged and are trying to help in every possible way they can, however, the experience turned bitter for Preety.

Preety, 24, a social worker, started volunteering for Covid relief by distributing free ration kits, free ambulance services, free food services and much more. For the same, she shared her contact number on social media and that did not turn out well for her.

A few days ago, she got a call around 3 am. She received the call as she thought it’s for help. The other person started talking in an inappropriate voice. She immediately put down the call.

Preety said, “It was not the first time something like this happened, earlier as well, drunk people used to call me speaking inappropriately, later people started calling me for job opportunities and when I told them that we don’t give any job then they would abuse me. While I keep on asking them if they are in need of food or any emergency services and if we can help them, the response was not what I was expecting. I distributed my number because if I shared my email id instead of a phone number, then not everyone could contact us for help.”

Preety said that when she initially started helping people, it was so devastating for her to get these calls that she even cried. She said, “There was a guy who started contacting me with different numbers since I kept on blocking his number, he called back again and it continued till one week. He said that women like me damage the image of every single woman and I don’t deserve to live just because I distributed my number on social media. He used to say that now as I have distributed  my number, I am obliged to talk because I wanted people to talk to me like this. He thought that he has a right on me, but I know that I have done this for a good cause.”
Preety belongs to a very conservative family and she never wanted to complain about this as her parents won’t understand. The only solution that she could figure out was blocking his number again and again. Later this guy started blackmailing her that he will tell her family members about  this. She was not able to do anything, she spent days crying, she got very scared and sought help from her friends to finally get rid of that man.

“This keeps on happening with me, some people even send me nude images on WhatsApp while some call me late at night. I don’t have any option since out of all, there can be some genuine calls and I cannot refuse them,” said Preety.

NS Nappinai, Advocate, Supreme Court & Founder of Cyber Saathi said, “There are too many instances of samaritan efforts to spread messages for help turning into nightmares. Preventive measures would indeed be better than cures. Adding specific dates for help sought may mitigate  continued sharing beyond such dates. Using hospital or blood bank numbers instead of personal numbers is another alternative. It is also most important that victims file complaints. It is only when we take  recourse under the law, can we ensure that systems function effectively and with more complaints coming to the fore and more stories of action  against criminals getting reported, law itself will act as a deterrent, victims taking action. Effective enforcement and sufficient awareness  of such outcomes will also then become preventive deterrents.”

Pankaj Jain, Fact Checker, Founder – SMHoaxSlayer said, “This is a serious issue, while the girl is trying to help someone in need, the men are calling her out of perversion. This is sad, people with a sick mentality are targeting the ones who are trying to help others selflessly. I always believed, given the society we are brought up in, advice or warning doesn't do much work. One has to be punished for his wrong deeds like violations in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, traffic rules etc.
Similarly, the men in question in this case also need to be punished as hard setting examples for others.”

Jain also suggested ways to counter the problem:

  1. The girl who gives out her number in public should record all calls coming in from unknown numbers.
  2. Police should give out a WhatsApp number, only for women where the girls can send the recorded call along with the number from which she received this call with a small description.
  3. Police can work on a fast mode to find out the culprit and punish.
  4. Out of the fear of something similar, many girls who want to volunteer, don't give out their number. This step may encourage them and make them feel safe.