When ragging in hostels turns to sexual abuse
“Have you set foot in adulthood?” asked one of my tormentors.
We reached the university hostel. My parents very were happy because I had been admitted in one of the top notch universities of Pakistan located in Punjab. It was the first time in my life that I was going to stay away from my home and I was petrified.
I was accommodated with my seniors as there were no rooms available for freshmen. The first night, I could not sleep at all because the place was filthy and I couldn't come to terms with the fact that I had to stay there for a long, long time.
The days that followed were terrible.
The first thing that comes to a freshman’s mind when they set foot in their university is the horrid thought of being ragged. The British tradition of ragging new students is unfortunately prevalent in Pakistani universities.
In certain universities, an official ‘Rag Day’ is observed where seniors ridicule newbies and ask them silly questions. This may be somewhat tolerable, however, the ragging which I experienced, was nothing short of a nightmare.
I was regularly sexually harassed by my seniors.
I have been depressed and traumatised. I had to take anti-psychotics as part of the recovery process. Even though, I have recovered now, the bitter memories still jolt me sometimes. Thus, I’ve decided that expressing my demons via writing is the best way to get closure, so let me narrate to you how I was routinely abused by my seniors.
One evening, I was in my room with my senior, who was also my roommate, when a couple of guys came and took me with them. I wasn’t dressed properly and I had no idea where they were taking me, but they were so forceful that I was dragged along.
They took me to a room, much more horrifying and dirty than the room I was living in. There was also a desktop computer there.
“Have you set foot in adulthood?” asked one of them.
I was taken aback when he asked me this question. I didn’t reply. They laughed at my silent face and continued to ridicule me.
“You see that computer? Go there and open the paint application,” ordered the second guy.
They then asked me to draw obscene things and asked me vulgar questions.
I was confused and terrified. I wanted to sob in my mother's arms, but I was away from home, sitting between two men who then went on to sexually harass me physically. They passed lewd comments while the torture continued. When I was finally released, I was a wreck.
I packed my bags and went home.
After a few days, I came back to my hostel. As soon as I stepped into my room, I saw a scary looking guy sitting with my roommate. He was looking at me in a strange way. He asked me my name and inquired about my background. Before leaving, he told me his room number and asked me to be there in 10 minutes.
Nausea overcame me again – nervous and confused about what was going on around me, I began to shake uncontrollably. My roommate told me to go to his room. He said this student would not hurt me like the other one did. With no real option, I went to his room.
The door was half opened. The lights were dim and I could not see properly. I knocked and he told me to come in. I was shocked to see what was happening inside the room. I was abused and sexually violated a second time.
It was an extremely upsetting experience that I cannot put into words.
I was weeping as I packed my bags and left for home once again in the middle of the night. I felt used and drained of all confidence. A part of me died that day and I have never been able to recover.
I did not tell anyone at home about what was happening to me because I was terrified of my father. I made up a story, telling them I was feeling sick and felt the need to be home. But I had to return eventually, every time.
This shameful course went on for almost three months.
This was not ragging at all - it was torture of the most cruel kind.
The whole year was hell for me, as you can well imagine. I could not study properly. I was constantly petrified, scared of even my own shadow. Eventually, I was debarred from taking university examinations for three months.
The sad truth of it is that I am not the first victim, nor the last. This form of ragging is routine and happens to many new students who go to hostels. Most newcomers avoid staying at their hostels during the first three months. They have to resort to renting flats or small houses near the university and stay there until the dust of ‘ragging’ settles.
Mind you, it isn't that the authorities are unaware. I, myself, opened up about the things that happened to me to the Physiology Department Head. Yes, she felt very sorry for me, but nothing was done. No action was taken and the same boys continued to sexually abuse many more after me and then the victims turned into the abusers, and the vicious cycle goes on.
Still, no action has been taken against horrible acts of ragging despite reporting it several times. It has ruined the lives of many students and will continue to do so, because there is no check and balance in hostels; the do’s and don’ts only exist on paper.
Today, I am still in the same university, continuing my education. I have gone through a lot, this even resulted in me being diagnosed with depression. I hope to recover fully one day and till then I am trying to look at the brighter side of things.
My reason for writing this blog?
Take action against those animals who rape innocent students and call it 'ragging'. Punish the authorities - punish them severely because they know full well the reason behind students' trauma and choose to ignore it.
Kill this tradition of ragging before it destroys the lives of more students.