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India: ‘a traveller’s heaven, a woman’s hell

US student diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is now on a mental leave of absence

  • IANS
  • Published: 19:20 August 22, 2013
  • Gulf News

A street in New Delhi
  • Image Credit: Subhash Bhardwaj/Gulf News Archives
  • A street in New Delhi. Image used for illustrative purpose only.

Washington: Back from a study trip to India last year, a Chicago university recalls it as a visit full of adventures and beauty but also relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse.

In a powerful account posted on CNN iReport under the username RoseChasm, Michaela Cross says upon her return, 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” has struck a chord around the world, racking up more than 800,000 page views as of Wednesday morning, CNN reported.

Cross, a fair-skinned, red-haired South Asian studies major, who left India a few days before the deadly gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, said that helped others understand what she and her classmates went through.

On her return, Cross struggled to find a way to talk about a cultural experience that was both beautiful and traumatising, CNN cited her as saying in her essay.

She writes: “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?”

“How it feels to be a woman in India”

Later, she writes: “For three months I lived this way, in a traveller’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.”

A University spokesman confirmed to CNN that Cross is a student at the school, but would not comment on her mental leave. He said the school is committed to students’ safety at home and abroad.

The news channel quoted Cross as saying she didn’t say anything to the professors on the trip until things reached “a boiling point”— what she called two rape attempts in 48 hours.

Comments (13)

  1. Added 15:16 August 23, 2013

    Talks and Debates on stringent measures and severe punishments for those who commit such assaults on women. End result being those criminals are released, escaped or the case is prolonged till their natural death. This is a clear negligence from the police, government and judiciary. What happened with the Delhi incident ! Once the media trumpet is over on this .. government and authorities are relieved.. even the so called women organizations who cried for victim. Who is to be blamed ? The poor government and its subsidiaries. One thins is sure the tougher and faster the law and its enforcement the lesser the criminal activities.

    Baiju Murathankal, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 15:06 August 23, 2013

    As an Indian I am ashamed at the way we citizens are treated be it our country or worldwide . I am totally lost in words in the manner our American guest was treated and more recently today, a journo intern who was gang-raped in Bombay city which was THE safest city of India!!! Even my sisters / Mum could walk out or in, till 12 midnight with no fear. Indian media have disclosed the names of the sicko individuals which makes this 24/7 safe city of Bombay UNSAFE for our women. Its a double wake up call for the Indian Govt to walk the talk on the previous Delhi case and the many cases thereafter, as well as the Maharastra Govt for the shame bought to the American guest and more recently the photo-journalist

    Mel, abu dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 14:50 August 23, 2013

    why are people ashamed to say i am an indian? why! after all we should realize the fact that there are 'men' not only in india but also in other countries...india is not the only country where women are raped....but yes..india is the only country where such incidents comes out as news..where people are warned...where people raise their voice for a victim.

    krishna, abudhabi.uae, India

  4. Added 13:48 August 23, 2013

    I'm surprised that anyone would have expected any sort of civilized behavior in India! The way things look as on date, it wouldn't come as a surprise that India formally becomes the First Nation to institutionalize criminal activities! Word of advise to anyone traveling to any part of India.... 1. Travel in groups 2. Never venture into unfamiliar areas. No place is safe! 3. DO NOT expect any help from any one if you get into trouble. 4. DO NOT think that the police will help you.

    Aman Pal Singh, Muscat, Oman

  5. Added 13:45 August 23, 2013

    Other countries should ban women travelling alone to India

    haseeb, riyadh, Saudi Arabia

  6. Added 13:44 August 23, 2013


    ash, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 13:32 August 23, 2013

    I always against and speak against these type of incidents happens not only in India and anywhere in world. Those who criticize my country just read statics of 2012 of GOI. These type of biased report from CNN will not affect my great country. I am very much doubtful about the credibility of this report. I agree that there are problems in India because we are having population of over 1.27 billion and PLEASE NOTE our media is not censored at all. Even a single incident report very next day. I have noticed there are some medias always try to defame India in international level with pictures and reports from any third parties. My request to those people please suggest name of single country where these type of incident never happens.

    Manoj Kumar, Ajman, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 12:54 August 23, 2013

    i don't believe that this only happens in india but all over the world, so don't blame a country only for this, no matter if its America or Europe women are sexually harassed every where. the only solution to this is women should be careful to where they go accompanied with a male compatriot. India is a beautiful country and i'm proud of my country.

    Mikhail, Fernandes, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 12:12 August 23, 2013

    The total male literacy rate in India is supposedly 82 % and the graph dips as we move towards the north of India. If we plot a graph of indecent incidents and sexual harassment the graph would definitely show a rise as we move towards the north. There is a definite relationship between literacy and mindset. Though a feeble one but still a factor. As far as Delhi is concerned there is almost nobody who calls the city his own and shows love and gratitude towards it the reason being it is a city with so much diversity. The city is a near true representative of Indian diversity and the Government has to realize that any negative experience out of Delhi is a blemish on the entire nation which has so much more to offer. Delhi's social security structure has not even hit puberty to be called the capital of the biggest democracy in the world.. Its quite sad...

    Xubair, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 11:41 August 23, 2013

    With young minds being fed with profanity and obscene garbage that is now an integral part of Bollywood and the Indian television networks, this is what you'll get. Kids grow up watching "item girl" movies, music videos and dance scenes with no adult supervision. Dance shows are common throughout India with obscene dance steps. Such items which used to be considered as a taboo in the past are now considered normal in every Indian household. And sadly, the indian nation is bonkers over the media, they'd rather die hungry than miss out the latest bollywood movie or the ridiculous TV soap. Good moral values and ethics always start at home. These issues can be controlled if moral values and ethics are taught to kids through out their school life, if there's proper control and censorship in the media and a proper moral and ethical code of conduct implemented in all institutions of the country.

    Annoyed, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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