I felt compelled to write something to do with this because of something that happened to me the other night. It’s nothing rare – it’s happened before on various occasions. I can also guarantee that it’s probably happened to many women of all ages and plenty of my friends.
The other night, I was an angry woman. I had been touched inappropriately after repeatedly saying no. One decline wasn’t enough and neither was the second, third or fourth. The advice that has been given to me all my life to say no, did not work.
A drunken man in his late 20s, early 30s was stumbling ahead, in front of me, whilst I walked from a pub towards Charing Cross Station. My natural instinct was to cross over the road to avoid any attention but I think this stubbornness in me, kept me on his side. He caught me walking past and tried to grab my attention, slurring his words pathetically which made him look and sound like a sleaze ball.
He tried again, catching up with me as I tried to walk quicker. I tried this time to politely decline his clear attempts of chatting me up ‘No thank you, I have a boyfriend, please leave me alone‘.
Three CLEAR indications that this woman obviously doesn’t want to be bothered right?! Wrong.
He continued to follow me across the road telling me he ‘only wants to help‘ – because clearly I was the one who needed the help – and then as I said ‘go away‘, he grabbed me by the arm.
I’m sorry, but at any point during our brief and forced encounter, did I say I wanted you to touch me?
Is it because I’m a woman, that you thought you’d try your luck with me? Or perhaps was it because I was on my own. Maybe it was the apparent ‘signals‘ that I was giving off with my head down, clearly an intention that I wanted you, that turned you on and therefore thought you’d give it a go. Was it because my legs were showing? A small bit of flesh that made you think I was fair game? That I might be easy? That I wouldn’t have a boyfriend dressed like that or that I wouldn’t have a boyfriend because I was walking home on my own.
Did you hear me when I didn’t respond to your first approach. Did you listen to me when I said no? Did you take my words on board when I told you to leave me the fuck alone.
But what I really don’t get is why you grabbed me? Why did you put your hands on me? I said no. You wouldn’t know this but my heart was beating faster when I could see you weren’t going to leave me be. My instinct to scream at you when you touched me was something primal. You left me alone when I shouted for you to ‘piss off‘ but I feel you only backed off because people were nearby.
You touched me without my consent.
And what if I were really on my own, walking down a street. Would you have gone further? Were you as drunk as you appeared to be? Or could you have overpowered me? Perhaps if you’d gripped me a little tighter, I might have suddenly frozen and the fear of being attacked would have overwhelmed me.
I wonder whether you have a mother. I wondered straight after our encounter whether you had a sister, a female friend or work colleague. Do you think they’d enjoy the same treatment? Do you think you’d be angry if someone did that to them? Did you think about me and my friends, my parents or my boyfriend when you started harassing me. I wonder if you thought about me in the morning, if you remembered me at all. I wonder if you thought about how scared you made me feel, how worried you made my mum, my dad, my auntie, my family’s friends feel when I vented my anger on Facebook.
You don’t know this, but after you harassed me, I immediately felt self-conscious of the outfit I was wearing. I felt as though I were naked. I felt really, really vulnerable. And you know what? It really made me angry.
I’m angry for letting myself feel this way. I’m angry for having to call my boyfriend so that I could talk to someone whilst walking home. I’m angry at you for thinking you had a right to touch my body. That you had every right to follow me, to make me feel like a piece of meat, to tell me that I needed your help.
What upsets me most is that this isn’t the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last for me or for another woman. I’ve been cat-called, I’ve had my bum felt, I’ve had my breasts ogled at when I’m trying to have a conversation, I have to put up with ‘jokes‘ people make about women and then get the ‘oh lighten up‘ reaction when I don’t find it funny. But you know what? I actually feel sorry for you.
Yep. I feel sorry for you because you clearly have no respect for yourself. You have no respect for others and the saddest thing is that you’ve not been educated. You’ve not been taught that when someone says no, that means exactly that. I know plenty of single men that given that situation, they would never have thought to do what you did.
I just hope that if you have a son, you’ll teach him your errors and hopefully a woman’s place on this earth can be that much more closer to being equal to man. Because we are far from it – clearly.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or want more information, Citizen’s Advice is a great place to help your situation.
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