I was only 7 when I first heard the words, “don’t look under the bed, there’s a monster underneath”. Back then, I shuddered at the thought of this, jumped right onto my bed, wrapped my blanket tightly around myself and went to sleep. I went to sleep waiting for the sun to rise, waiting for the monsters to disappear with the dawn of the sun rays, waiting for a safe and beautiful morning. As I grew older, I obviously got rid of this childish notion of there being monsters under my bed. I grew strong and confident knowing that they were gone, that they’d never bother my sleep again, and most importantly, they didn’t really exist.

Today, I’m 23 and I know that monsters do exist. They not only exist but they lurk in every corner of every street. And every second, they threaten the safety, dignity and self-respect of millions of girls around the world, just like me. They catch us in vulnerable, helpless situations and take complete advantage of us. Also, they come in different forms, be it as a passenger of the Indigo airlines or as my SCUBA diving instructor.

This one particular monster, my personal SCUBA diving instructor from the ‘Dreamz Diving’ organization, clasped my palm tight and led me away from our boat, the boat that was half an hour away from the nearest shore, the boat where the rest of my friends were preparing for their dives with their personal instructors. We were all told to give our instructors the ‘OK’ signal underwater every few minutes to let them know that we were alright. When we started, the feeling of self-contained breathing underwater overwhelmed me. The excitement of my first dive diverted my attention from the wrong that was happening to me for the first few minutes.

We descended underwater, meter by meter, and finally reached the sea bed. My instructor had my breathing equipment in his control and my oxygen tank in his hands. But as we swam across the corals, the fish and the fluorescent-coloured plants at the very bottom of the Arabian Sea, his hands were no longer on my diving equipment. First one hand, then the other and finally both. I cringed in shock. I tried to shake his hands away from my body but in vain. The shock slowly turned to fright when his hands began to move across my body. I looked in his direction in despair but couldn’t see him. After all, he was right behind me with both his hands groping me. I was aghast and tried to think fast. I tried to break free but the grasp was too tight. He then signalled asking me if I was okay. I signalled with an ‘OK’. 12 meters below sea level, with my breathing equipment under his control, I didn’t dare show any fear.

The sea was calmer than ever, but there was a hurricane inside my head. He moved one of his hands away from me to adjust his equipment. By reflex, I guarded myself with one of my hands to prevent him from touching me again. In the matter of a few seconds, his hand forcefully found its way back to where he removed it from. My body turned numb with fear. I wanted to scream and shout, I wanted to release myself from his clutches, I wanted to cry, but all I could do was signal him with an ‘OK’ because more than anything else, I wanted to get back to the boat and to my friends, safe and sound. For the next 40 minutes, he took complete advantage of my silence and my helplessness. His hands found their way to every part of my body but they chose to stop only at a few. They pulled me closer to him, caressed me and violated me. All I could do was signal him with an ‘OK’.

The nightmare was finally over. We got back to the surface and I frantically looked around for the boat. It was a tiny object at a distance, easily 10 minutes away from us. I released my hand from his tight grasp and swam towards the boat. He swam along without suspecting anything and we reached the boat.

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