A woman searching for ventilators and plasma for family members infected by Covid-19 had to endure sexual harassment and unsolicited dick pics after she shared her number on Twitter. The incident occurred in the past week, even as the second wave of Covid-19 rendered India’s healthcare infrastructure inadequate in several states. With a rising number of Covid-19 cases, desperate patients and their families have been taking to all platforms of communication, especially social media, to find hospital beds, ventilators, oxygen cylinders and medicines like Remdesivir. Mumbai resident Shasvathi Siva was one of them.
Last week, when the country reported unprecedented spikes in a number of Covid-19 cases and deaths, one of Siva’s family members also fell ill. Siva writes in Vice that she felt the real magnanimity and severity of the situation only when the crisis hit home. The sick family member was in need of a ventilator, which was in shortage due to the spike in cases. That was when Siva decided to take to social media.
“I’ve always believed in the power of the internet, and went forth and put out a request on Twitter asking for help or contacts who could point me in the direction of a ventilator. I was put in touch with multiple contacts who helped out. In about six hours, we successfully found a ventilator," Siva wrote. But her ordeal did not end there.
The family member’s condition worsened and in a few days, she needed plasma therapy to treat her symptoms. Despite several apps, networks, and communities working toward connecting plasma donors to those in need, the task proved to be challenging. Siva once again turned to social media for help. “This time, a few friends stepped up and got a few influential accounts to post on my behalf. Soon, my mobile phone number got passed around on some stories and some tweets. I panicked a little when I saw my number on some popular accounts, but a friend reassured me this would be the easiest and quickest way to reach me," Siva wrote in Vice.
Following the viral post, Siva started getting multiple calls from blood and plasma banks and others. While many of them were genuine and helpful, Siva soon realised that she had started getting calls and messages from strange men who had no intention of helping her but were instead calling to harass her. One of the anonymous men who called her asked her if she was single. Two more men called her and complimented her on her display picture.
I thought it wouldn't get worse, but since this morning, I've received (on whatsapp) 3 dick pics, and 7 men trying to video call me continuously. Even in a medical emergency, men think only with their genitals.Women: NEVER, EVER let your number out in public forums. https://t.co/CAJJKiQmR6
— Shasvathi Siva (@shasvathi) April 16, 2021
“I continued getting calls asking where I live, whether I live alone, if I’m single, whether I’d speak to them, what my full name is. One man-made kissing sounds," Siva revealed.
The next day, she started getting video calls from multiple men and her WhatsApp messages were filled with unsolicited dick pics. Taking to Twitter, Siva wrote, “I thought it wouldn’t get worse, but since this morning, I’ve received (on WhatsApp) 3 dick pics, and 7 men trying to video call me continuously. Even in a medical emergency, men think only with their genitals" she wrote. Siva further warned women to “NEVER, EVER let your number out in public forums".
The incident reflects the misogyny and lack of empathy that seems to be prevalent in the country, even in the middle of the worst medical health crisis the country has ever seen. In Maharashtra, the condition is dire with the state recording 62,097 in the past twenty hours, continuing its streak of daily spikes. The state also recorder 512 deaths, the highest in a single day since March last year.