News East West
NEW YORK: “This is the story you don’t want to hear when you ask me about India. But this is the story you need.”
So says Michaela Cross, an American student at the University of Chicago, who has posted her harrowing experiences of “relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse’’ during a study trip to India last year on CNN iReport.
Upon her return, she writes, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is now on a mental leave of absence from the school after a public breakdown in the spring.
Her story “India: The Story You Never Wanted to Hear” evoked a huge response getting more than 800,000 page views as of Wednesday morning.
Cross says she left for India a few days after the gangrape of a 23-year-year medical student in New Delhi in December, and she said that helped others understand what she and her classmates went through.
Calling her `cultural experience’ in India both beautiful and traumatizing, Cross says, “Do I tell them about our first night in the city of Pune, when we danced in the Ganesha festival, and leave it at that? Or do I go on and tell them how the festival actually stopped when the American women started dancing, so that we looked around to see a circle of men filming our every move?
“Do I tell them about bargaining at the bazaar for beautiful saris costing a few dollars a piece, and not mention the men who stood watching us, who would push by us, clawing at our breasts and groins?
“When people compliment me on my Indian sandals, do I talk about the man who stalked me for 45 minutes after I purchased them, until I yelled in his face in a busy crowd?”
She continues, “For three months I lived this way, in a traveler’s heaven and a woman’s hell. I was stalked, groped, masturbated at; and yet I had adventures beyond my imagination. I hoped that my nightmare would end at the tarmac, but that was just the beginning.’’
The University of Chicago has confirmed that Cross is a student at the school and she is on mental leave, according to CNN.
Cross writes that she didn’t tell anything to the professors on the trip until things reached “a boiling point” — what she called two rape attempts in 48 hours.
CNN quoted Indian American Dipesh Chakrabarty, a University of Chicago professor who was in India for the first three weeks of the session, as saying that he was unaware of Cross’ situation.
“Both faculty and staff in Chicago and our local Indian staff counsel students before and during the trip about precautions they need to take in a place like India. Ensuring student safety and well-being is the top priority of both the College and staff and faculty associated with the program,’’ Prof Chakrabarty said in an e-mail.
Her might end up stereotyping all Indian males.