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May 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Molesting Dive Instructor Sees It as “Just Playing” with Female Divers

from the May, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In 1980, I was in Akumal, Mexico, diving with my business partner, who had only completed a few dives. One divemaster said he would look after her, so while her husband and I went off with another guide, she and her guide went in another direction. After the dive, she didn't have much to say, but that night confessed to her husband that the guide had groped her repeatedly. Too inexperienced underwater to know what to do, she was afraid to get away from him and head to the surface.

The next day we reported it to the American dive store operator, who didn't seem to believe her story, and basically said that all he would do was to talk to the guide, though I wonder if he even did that. (This story is published in our book, There is a Cockroach in my Regulator). In the '80s, I reported on two similar incidents, both as disgusting, and with little or no action taken by the dive business owner. Thankfully, times have changed. Denial and inaction are no longer the outcome, as you shall see.

Earlier this year, a woman diver in India reported in a blog that her divemaster had molested her underwater. On January 26, Kavya Raman, 23, traveled with friends to join a training course at in Udupi with Dreamz Diving School. Their divemaster was Dhirendra Rawat, 46. On the blog Youth Ki Awaaz, Raman wrote that she had to suffer Rawat's molestation for about 40 minutes underwater. "The excitement of my first dive diverted my attention from the wrong that was happening to me for the first few minutes . . . The monster had my breathing equipment in his control and my tank in his hands. As we swam across the corals . . . 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 signaled, asking me if I was okay. I signaled with an 'OK'. Forty feet below sea level, with my breathing equipment under this monster's control, I didn't dare show any fear."

Back on the beach, Raman confronted Rawat. "I turned to the monster, in front of his crew and in front of my friends and asked him why he did what he did to me . . . By this time, my friends lost their cool and began questioning him too . . . I asked him to admit to his act and tell me that it wasn't just a mistake but an intentional act of molestation. He did so without any hesitation." Raman then filed a complaint with the police against Rawat, and found out that he had harassed women on previous occasions. "We were informed by one of the officers that this was the second such report against him in the last one-and-a-half month," she wrote in her blog. "We found many such unreported cases against the same man for the same crime. It was appalling."

The first incident happened in November, when two couples were taken by four divemasters for dive training near Udupi. One of the foursome told The Times of India, "Rawat slowly took Meena [name changed] far away and got her isolated. She didn't know swimming, so she was at his mercy. We finished diving in about 30 minutes and after more than an hour, Rawat came along with Meena. In the room, she broke down and narrated what had happened. Rawat had groped her. When we confronted him, he admitted to it, saying 'I was playing with her'." They called police, but Meena backed out from filing a complaint, fearing it would affect her future. In the second incident, in December, he targeted a doctor. She lodged a complaint with police, who arrested Rawat in January. He spent 15 days in custody till he was granted bail.

When The Times called up a dive shop in Goa that hires Rawat as a dive instructor, a spokesperson said, "Tell me which corporate entity doesn't have cases against it?" When the molestation cases were pointed out, the person taken aback and said management would review Rawat's services.

Regarding the latest charge against him, Rawat was arrested and later released on bail. A police officer told the Indian Express that his trial will start this month. Police also cancelled Dreamz Scuba Diving's business license, and issued a press release stating that if any person had suffered in such a case, they should immediately inform the authorities.

-- Ben Davison

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