Binge Drinking, Sexual Misconduct Common In ABCD Culture
REENA PATEL’S shocking account raises some pertinent questions- for parents, sons and daughters.
All over the world there is an accepted theory of “six degrees of separation.” Every human being is connected to another by no more than six people. With our Desi community in the US, it seems more like three degrees of separation. Having grown up in a large Indian community myself, I have always been very comfortable around Indians. This seems to carry from our parents to us, the first generation kids. Once we get to college, we seem to blend in well with other Indian kids.
“Guys need to learn that if a girl says no, she means NO. They need to learn how to ask a girl to dance instead of just grabbing her. No guy should go out with the intention of buying a girl a few drinks and then try to take her home…”
Coming to the University of Texas at Austin, a school of 50,000 kids, most of my friends are Indian. I go to all the Indian Student Association functions, I am a member of Hindu Students Council and a number of my friends are in mostly Desi fraternities or sororities. We all hang out together and go to the same parties. Within this close-knit community, there are also many problems that exist. In our effort to find our place in the American community, we have created the ABCD culture. As many of our parents are slowly finding out, this culture has the highest binge drinking rate in the nation. Binge drinking is consuming four or more alcoholic beverages in a single night. We kids like to study hard, make the grades and make sure to party even harder. We have the most spectacular performances during ISA Talent shows after which we head over to some of the best parties of the year. It is at these parties, under the influence of large amounts of alcohol that some kids act in ways that would put our community to shame.
I have a friend who went to an Indian party and met a guy who bought her a few drinks. In her drunken state, she ended up going home with him and passing out the second they got home. The next morning she woke up in a state of shock. She didn’t know where she was or who the guy laying next to her was. She quickly got dressed and ran out of the apartment. She had no idea what had happened to her the night before, and she was scared to even think of the possibilities. In the morning she made her way to the campus health services office and spoke to a nurse. She was in desperate need of a morning after pill, and she needed free services because she couldn’t go to her regular doctor. If she did that she would have to explain to her mom what happened the night before. After telling the nurse what had happened, the nurse offered to call the police but the girl wouldn’t even consider it. The reality of this young lady is that she was possibly raped. She refused to speak up out of fear of what people would say about her if she did. She had been drinking the night before. So it was her fault, right?
A second friend of mine went to a Janamashtmi celebration with her family. She had been working at a computer store for a few months and had met a guy while working. They had spent hours on the phone talking about everything, and she felt like she really knew him. When she got to the hall, she quickly met up with her girlfriends and started walking around to look for her guy. They hung out and introduced each others’ friends. He told her he got a new car and then asked her if she wanted to see it. They walked out to the parking lot. It was nearly empty and her dream world came crashing down the second he dragged her into the car and forced her lehnga off. She kicked and screamed for ten minutes, struggling to get out of the back seat of the locked two-door car. After an especially hard blow to the guy’s head she was able to get her skirt back on and jump out of the car. She ran back and never told anyone but a few close friends the story. She chose to go and see the car. So, it was her fault, right?
The last story is about a girl who went to SASA (South Asian Students Alliance) convention in January of 2004, accompanied by her two best friends, her brother and a few of her male cousins. SASA is a yearly event that brings together the Indian youth with people who are influential in our community. She went to a few of the parties that went on at night as well as a number of seminars that were held during the day. As each day passed, the guys got more aggressive. The first night she had a few guys just try to dance with her By the second night, it seemed like a battlefield. Every time she would decline a dance, a guy would do one of two things, either grope her or try to force her to dance with him. By the end of the night, she had hand prints bruised into her arms and she had punched five guys for touching her inappropriately. The guys just laughed and walked away. Needless to say, she didn’t go find out what was happening at the clubs for the remainder of SASA. That girl was me, and I chose to go to those parties. So, it my fault, right?
All of these situations end with one question, “So, it was the girl’s fault, right?” As much as I have seen Indian girls blame themselves and stay quiet in these situations, its time to speak up. We as a society need to realize that rape or even sexual misconduct is not EVER a girl’s fault. Sex is great when two people want it, but that’s a decision each person should make on his or her own. But it is definitely not ok for the hundreds of girls I know that are so upset about these kinds of personal experiences but don’t say anything. I think its time we make our Indian community aware of what they are doing because they’re only destroying the integrity of our own women. It is time for changes to occur in our parents, sons and daughters. Our ABCD culture is turning into something regrettable instead of something we can take pride in. We should all be entitled to have fun in a way that keeps everyone safe.
I think guys need to learn one big lesson: If a girl says no, she means NO. They need to learn how to ask a girl to dance instead of just grabbing her. No guy should go out with the intention of buying a girl a few drinks and trying to take her home. To all the guys out there, you have mothers and sisters. Someday you might even have a daughter of your own. How would you feel if anyone laid a hand on them? It is really easy to slip up under the influence of alcohol, but one mistake could ruin your career, your life and not to mention scar another human being for life.
While rape or sexual misconduct on the part of males is never the girl’s fault, there definitely is a need to take precautions to try and avoid this kind of occurrence. Girls should go out in large numbers with friends that will take care of them and watch out for them. They shouldn’t be afraid to make a scene when guys treat them inappropriately. Most importantly, they should make their intentions clear to everyone around them and reconsider the way they come across to the opposite sex. Every time that you stay quiet about this sort of situation, you are letting your attacker think that his behavior is acceptable. The way to stop the problem from recurring is to speak up.
To all of the parents reading this, your first reaction may be to lock your daughters in their rooms at home. This isn’t going to solve anything. They will continue to go out and do things behind your back. This is the relationship between the majority of Indian kids and their parents. Realize that openness is the best gift you can give your children to prepare them for independence. It is really hard for Desi parents to discuss sex and rape and drinking with their kids in a rational manner. Indian kids suffer from what I like to call the “jack-in-the-box” syndrome. While at home they lead very sheltered lives. So once they get to college they spring out of their box to the opposite extreme. Parents please sit down and talk to your sons about respecting women and the consequences of their actions if they do not. Talk to them about how overdrinking will affect their judgment. Even though it may be hard, also talk to your daughters about how much trust they should place on the opposite sex and about the situations they may find themselves in when not under your care (i.e. rape, sexual assault, peer pressure, pregnancy etc.). On a personal note, my parents did this for me. I feel open enough with them to discuss anything. They know exactly where I’m going, what I’m doing, who I’m with etc. The only reason that we are this close is because my parents sat down and talked to me. They didn’t try to hide the truth from me, but rather opened up my eyes to what is going on around me and how it affects me. With this power, I can face anything the world throws my way. I am a confident person who is not afraid to speak up for what I believe in. Please give the same gift to your children as early as possible.
(This article was first published on our website nripulse.com a few years ago.)