To pester, to bother, to annoy, to disturb, to agitate, to provoke, to vex, to wink, to slurp with your tongue while staring her from distance, to press your lips indicatively, to literally touch, to grope, to grab, to fondle, to fiddle physically or virtually is harassment. Small scale fondling, big scale fondling, small scale teasing, big scale teasing, flirting inappropriately without invitation, all comes under harassment. Smiling, winking or holding/playing with your crotch, while staring at a woman from across the room, or across the road is also harassment. Calling out ‘hey baby’ at a bus stop, or whispering ‘hey baby’ as she walks past you on the street, or sending a FB request without her indication of friendliness is harassment. The simplest way to identify an act as harassment is to gauge an uninvited event when it feels wrong. How women, from the beginning of time, have identified harassment is through this kind of gauging of the environment. Of course harassment does not have a verbal language of its own, for example no one comes and says ‘I am harassing you now’. Harassment is entirely constructed of gestures and actions. The job then is left on the one who is harassed to point out, this often unpredictable event. It is often visible in the form of aggressive attacks, like touching, feeling, fondling (mostly rendered in work and social environments); mild ones like winks and sleazy flying kisses (most riveting in places like bus stops, streets, in the cinema), but its occurrences is most commonly visible and shared as unspoken, yet powerful, gestures between two parties — perpetrator and victim. This happens mostly in safe spaces and respected relationships between friends, or mentors, or doctors, or drivers, or teachers, or uncles. Women in Pakistan have grown up being abused and harassed by such men who are supposed to be their safe relationships who then break their trust. And often it is not the physical harassments by strangers that bothers women to the extent of hurtfulness. It is in the instances of safe-space harassment when it is most hurtful, often traumatic and most deceiving. The notoriety of such harassment is never seized in the sensational actions of the abuser, but is felt at the pit of your gut. Human beings have instincts to guide them, and when a woman says she doesn’t feel right, the only thing left for a man to do is to apologise and make amends. How you can help society is not by protecting a man because he is a father or a husband, instead you should trust the woman who speaks out despite the accused being a father or a husband. Stand by her Sometimes men produce fair excuses after harassing women in casual settings, but it is the job of others around to ensure that denial does not take place. Consider a typical scenario where a woman points out being touched casually, by a man pretending he was doing something else. She gets several feedback’s haranguing her for her complaint. ‘‘Yikes, I was just picking the salt from the table,’ or in another case the man gets aggressive, ‘Are you crazy, I was just picking the salt from the table’ or in yet another case, everyone else on the table jumps in to save the man blaming the woman, ‘why couldn’t you move away from the table, when he was picking the salt’. In all these scenarios the man and the society are denying an act the woman felt took place,without listening to her complaint carefully. However is it not common sense, when you want to pick the salt from the table that you make sure you don’t accidentally touch the bosom of the woman, who might feel your body touching her, while she is just trying to finish her food. Consider an inverse scenario when the woman is picking a handkerchief from the ground and accidentally touches your crotch. Or a lady doctor who just treated a man in the emergency ward and sent him a friend request right after. It reeks of inappropriateness and could feel like harassment in any context. When a woman says she feels harassed, she most definitely is harassed. That is what needs to be recognised. To blame a woman, to scrutinise a woman, to subject a woman to suspicion about her claim of feeling harassed is also harassment. Imagine someone might have genuinely gone through pain and stress due to harassment, and your trolling causes them even more pain. In Pakistan it is probably easier than many other countries to help women recover from the trauma they go through when they are harassed in intimate spaces, because in this country majority of men most likely know of women who have been harassed. Their mothers, sisters, cousins, girlfriends/fiancés, wives, daughters, all of the women they ever know have at some point been in close proximity of uninvited attention from men. Someone at work, in school, at a wedding, or a funeral, on the road, at a coffee shop. Women in this country carry themselves with care, for example they don’t and can’t openly laugh in public spaces, because they have learnt from childhood that even being yourself with ease in a public space, could call for uninvited attention. Stories of how doctors, teachers, religious scholars, mentors break our trust all the time are everywhere in our society. Fortunately or unfortunately, these men have families. They might also have kids. They take shelter under these tutelages, family, wife, mother, kids and even other women who vouch for their piousness. But we need to remember that when a woman says she ‘feels’ harassed, she is probably not trying to seek attention, she is probably being bold. How you can help society is not by protecting a man because he is a father or a husband, but you should instead trust the woman who speaks out despite her accused is a father or a husband. Stand by her. The most urgent things to do to counter harassment is stop the harasser. Step back and identify harassment even if the perpetrator is does not fit the profile of a sleaze bag you have in mind; then ask for help, or report the crime. Even and especially when it is least easy to prove, and when it by someone you are supposed to trust. I think that is precisely what Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy did for her sister. The writer is Co-Founder Coalition For Women in Journalism and tweets @kirannazish | @CfWiJ Published in Daily Times, November 1st 2017.