“Hey! Do you know where Aranya* is based now?” A Facebook message began like any other. Nazma* saw it while sitting in class. She saw and ignored it. The 23-year-old who is an architecture student from Hyderabad was not accustomed to replying to messages from unknown people. However, this message was different – the message sender, a man named Abdul Zeeshan, was asking Nazma about an old friend.
She responded saying she had no information about her. And the conversation for her ended there. But not for Zeeshan.
"“About a month later, my messenger buzzed again. The notification said it was an image. The minute I opened it, it was a di*k picture. For a minute I think I was in shock, I didn’t quite understand what the picture was. When I did, I immediately deleted it and blocked the sender.”" - Nazma
The sender was Abdul Zeeshan, the same man who had approached her earlier. And this was just the beginning of the ongoing cyber stalking and sexual harassment.
"“A month after I received the first obscene picture, I got another FB message from an unknown account. It was Abdul Zeeshan again. He had started making fake accounts to stalk me. He said that despite me trying to block him, he found me on Tinder. He said that he wanted to be ‘friends’ with me. It was bizarre because I have never been on Tinder ever.”" - Nazma
Zeeshan kept badgering her. He started making multiple accounts on Facebook to harass her further. He got hold of her photographs from the internet and started misusing them and blackmailing her. Nazma would diligently keep deleting messages, blocking accounts, changing passwords, but it didn’t stop.
‘Send Me Nudes’
Within a few days, he caught hold of Nazma’s number and the first thing he texted her was, “Send me your nudes and I will stop harassing you.”
"“I was scared to even open my phone. The range of messages on my phone from incognito numbers could be anything. It could be getting a morphed photo of myself on a naked body or messages from random men who wanted to sleep with me or links of my photos on obscure porn websites. It was traumatic.”" - Nazma
Living in a Cave
Nazma deleted herself from every social media platform that she ever made a profile on. Her only digital footprint now was on Gmail.
"“ I am a student and I need to correspond with my teachers, send assignment on a very regular basis. I even thought of dismantling my Gmail account but I realised that I will not be able to pass my college exams if I did.”" - Nazma
After ridding her phone of all the social media applications barring her email, things quieted down for a bit. But it was a lull before the storm.
"“While attending college one day, I got an email from an unknown email ID. It was from him and this time, he had not just excavated my Gmail ID, he had hacked into it!”" - Nazma
Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Cloud, Hacked!
Zeeshan had hacked into her Google account and pulled out pictures from her cloud. He now had access to every photo that she had ever taken on her Android phone. He used this wealth of information to add more obscenities on each and circulate it on porn websites.
There really was very little that Nazma could do on her own apart from blocking the numerous numbers. She had not informed her parents yet. Thus, along with a friend, went to report the matter to the SHE team in Hyderabad.
SHE Teams is a division of Telangana Police for the safety and security of women.
She explained the entire situation to them, showed them screenshots, emailed them everything. They assured her help and assistance but they didn’t have the expertise to address this kind of crime.
Unable to find help even from the authorities, a distraught Nazma decided to leave the country for some time.
"“I was way too traumatised to live in the country. I decided to move to Saudi Arabia where my father was based. However, my physical movement had nothing to do with my online abuse. It just never stopped!”"‘What Is Gmail?’ Asked the Cop
With the abuse taking a serious toll on her mental health, Nazma decided to come back to the country again and file an FIR at a cyber crime cell. When she approached the Station In Charge at Hyderabad’s Cyber Crime Cell, he asked Nazma two questions:
1) What is Gmail?
2) Is he your ex-lover?
"“After asking these rudimentary questions they made no effort to understand what the case was and how I was being harassed. They instead said that even if they investigate this, they will have to source information from Google, which could take months.”" - Nazma
Nazma came home defeated. The messages stopped for a month, but resumed again.
She is still battling the daily barrage of messages and emails. She has written an email complaint to the commissioner of police as well but no one so far has been able to help her.
Her mental health has taken a toll in the process.
"“Imagine anonymous people having the right to make you feel disgusted about your own body! I have never even met this man, but he seems entitled to talk about the way I look and how I should project myself. I am literally living in a cave scared of even going out. If he knows so much about my digital footprint, he could easily land up in my door step any day.”"What to Do If You Are Being Abused Online
Many victims of cyber crime do not come out in the open and register a complaint. Even if they do, they are often not taken seriously.
We spoke to cyber security expert Rakshit Tandon to find out what a person can do if s/he has faced any form of cyber crime. Here is what he had to say:
Either the police is not equipped to deal with cases of online trolling or they brush it off as a ‘non-crime’. Senior Lawyer Rebecca John, however, believes that they have the wherewithal to make quick amends.
"“What is the police doing? They are so well-equipped, but still I have not seen a single case where the person is arrested. They advise people to deactivate their accounts and try to put the blame on the woman. The same misogynistic mentality that is seen during rape cases is seen in online harassment as well, and nothing will change if this mentality doesn’t change." - Rebecca John to The Quint for an earlier article on cyber stalking
Taking cognisance is the first step towards addressing a crime. If the cops are unable to help women navigate the new forms of crime, how will online spaces be safe for women?
. Read more on Gender by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsStalked, Morphed Nudes Spread Across Porn Sites & Cops of No Help . Read more on Gender by The Quint.