Washington: Back from a study trip to India last year, a Chicago university student recalls it as a visit full of adventures and beauty but also relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse.
In a powerful account posted on CNN iReport under the username RoseChasm, Michaela Cross says upon her return, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is now on a mental leave of absence from the school after a public breakdown in the spring.
Her story "India: The Story You Never Wanted to Hear" has struck a chord around the world, racking up more than 800,000 page views as of Wednesday morning, CNN reported.
Cross, a fair-skinned, red-haired South Asian studies major, who left India a few days before the deadly gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, said that helped others understand what she and her classmates went through.
On her return, Cross struggled to find a way to talk about a cultural experience that was both beautiful and traumatising, CNN cited her as saying in her essay.
She writes: "Do I tell them about our first night in the city of Pune, when we danced in the Ganesha festival, and leave it at that? Or do I go on and tell them how the festival actually stopped when the American women started dancing, so that we looked around to see a circle of men filming our every move?"
"Do I tell them about bargaining at the bazaar for beautiful saris costing a few dollars a piece, and not mention the men who stood watching us, who would push by us, clawing at our breasts and groins?"
"When people compliment me on my Indian sandals, do I talk about the man who stalked me for 45 minutes after I purchased them, until I yelled in his face in a busy crowd?"
"How it feels to be a woman in India."
Later, she writes: "For three months I lived this way, in a traveller`s heaven and a woman`s hell. I was stalked, groped, masturbated at; and yet I had adventures beyond my imagination. I hoped that my nightmare would end at the tarmac, but that was just the beginning."
A University spokesman confirmed to CNN that Cross is a student at the school, but would not comment on her mental leave. He said the school is committed to students` safety at home and abroad.
The news channel quoted Cross as saying she didn`t say anything to the professors on the trip until things reached "a boiling point"-what she called two rape attempts in 48 hours.