Women volunteers complain of intrusive calls, harassment

Updated - March 24, 2016 02:52 pm IST

Published - December 10, 2015 12:00 am IST - CHENNAI:

Some women volunteers, who have worked online and on the ground to help with relief efforts, are now facing harassment: messages and calls from men who have seen their profiles and numbers online.

Dhivya Balachander, a civil engineer and one of the administrators of the popular Facebook page Tamilnadu Flood – Support, said some of the women have begun receiving Friend Requests and messages that are unrelated to relief activity. “They start off saying that they are like brothers to the women or thank them for their help and then, they want to be friends. Then, they send messages or ask questions that have nothing to do with the work we are doing,” she said.

In reply to Ms. Balachander’s post about this on the page, one woman has shared a screenshot of messages she received from a man asking what she was doing and then messaging repeatedly when she doesn’t reply.

Divya T., a volunteer from Bengaluru, said she had accepted numerous friendship requests on Facebook, as this was used as a means of communication.

“One man kept messaging and telling me he was scared. I asked him what the matter was, and he said he was feeding a calf. He messaged throughout the night and I ignored him. The next day, it escalated: he said he was alone in a room full of water but when I tried to find out where, or get his number to organise help, he would say he did not know. Then, he said to “consider him a brother” and kept trying to send me a picture. It was awful,” she said.

On Twitter, one woman shared her experience about a man she had gone to check on calling her asking if they could go out sometime. She added that other women she knows too had been getting weird calls.

“We are now collecting screenshots and Facebook profiles of the men sending such messages and have warned on our page that we will file a complaint with cyber crime cell of the Chennai city police,” said Ms. Balachander.

Anupama Srinivasan, programme manager, Pranjnya, an organisation working in the area of gender violence, said that a lot of rules about sharing personal information online were done away with at this time but again, as always, the onus of staying safe would fall on women.

They are getting calls and messages from men who have seen their numbers online

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