In April, 66-year-old Aisha* was surprised to receive a message from an unknown profile on Facebook. A man named Elvis Donald claimed that he wanted to be friends with her. Though initially reluctant, the widow, who had recently lost her sister, began to hold daily conversations with him.
Initially, Aisha didn't see any harm in engaging with Elvis. He claimed to be a 50-year-old Indian, who was working in the United Kingdom. He told Aisha that he was a divorcee with a seven-year-old son and that he originally belonged to Bengaluru.
Aisha, who lives alone at her residence in Chennai, found herself becoming emotionally attached to this stranger and when he proposed marriage merely a month later, she accepted. But that was when he began to show her his true colours.
"I was first a little sceptical when he proposed. I cited our age difference and said I was not ready for marriage. But he just spoke so sweetly and I don't know how he managed to completely trap me," she says, sounding defeated.
He first attempted to extort money from Aisha and when she refused, he threatened to send morphed nude pictures of her to everyone on her friend's list.
"Every time I asked him questions about his personal life, he shot me down. When I raised any suspicion, he said he is coming to India in December and that he will come to meet me with his divorce papers," she adds.
Aisha lives on her and her late husband's savings. But that didn't stop Elvis from asking her for money. Soon after he proposed, he claimed to be in West Africa and said that his company had not given him his allowance.
"He demanded that I send him money. I initially refused but he kept troubling me. And just to stop that, I sent him Rs 10,000. He told me to transfer it to a bank account in Bengaluru since he had relatives there and I did it," she explains. "I thought he will return the money but instead, he began to ask for more," she alleges.
Elvis then demanded that Aisha send him Rs 60,000 and when she said she couldn't, the threats began.
"He wants to put dirty pictures of me everywhere. He even sent them to me. I am living in fear every day. I am terrified of what he will do to damage my dignity," says the 66-year-old.
"I have filed a complaint in the local station but not even an FIR has been filed," she says, tensed. The complaint was filed on June 27 at a station in Besant Nagar.
When TNM contacted the police, a senior police official said that the investigation was underway.
"I am personally looking into the case. We are yet to track down the accused. We are collecting bank transaction details and phone records before filing the FIR," he stated.
But Aisha's lawyer and human rights activist Sreejith Perumana does not accept this explanation.
He points out that Aisha has already submitted to the police the messages Elvis sent her as well as details of the money she transferred along with the account number.
"This is the question of a woman's dignity. The police cannot be so lax about it. Any damage done will be irreparable and will cause extreme distress for the victim," he says.
"We are now planning to file a private complaint to the Metropolitan Magistrate. After the Nirbhaya case, there has been an amendment to the criminal procedure code which tells the police to act immediately if a woman receives a threat call. But here, the police are unnecessarily delaying the FIR when the matter is so serious," he adds.
Aisha, meanwhile, has hardly had a night of peaceful sleep since the threats began.
"This is all I can think about. I am very afraid," she says.