I am a 21 year old student, living in the UK. In my short life, I have experienced harassment countless times & whilst they vary in severity, they all contribute to ultimately making me feel unsafe & disrespected.
Amongst them all, there are primarily two instances that remain with me to this day. When I was just 14, I walked with my mum to our parked car. As it was the height of the summer, I was wearing a short skirt without leggings or tights. There was a gentle breeze that blew at my skirt & occasionally blew it up. As I struggled to keep it down whilst I walked, a middle-aged man passed & said directly to my mother & me: “Don’t hold it down, you’re ruining my fun.” We were both appalled &, as with most of these cases, so paralysed with shock that we remained silent when we should have spoken up.
Sadly, this continued &, to my shame, never have I once challenged comments or actions from strangers on the street. However, single-handedly my biggest regret in life was not reporting an incident of molestation on a plane journey.
I was 19, traveling from India to Malaysia & was very tired. Although this should be irrelevant, it’s still needs mentioning, but I had entirely conformed to the Indian culture with particular regards to dress & for this flight, I wore a long skirt and long sleeved top. No flesh was on show from the neck down, besides hands & feet. Several hours into the flight, I was woken by someone touching my lower right leg & thigh. However, because of my tired state & general confusion, I did not compute that it was the stranger next to me. This continued for another 3 times, yet whenever I was woken, the person next to me pretended to be asleep so I thought nothing more of it. By the 4th time, I moved my legs further away, hunched over more & protected them with more clothing. However, this did not deter him & as he could no longer access my legs, he began to grope my breasts whilst I slept. Naturally, I woke up, yet to avoid another situation of him feigning sleep, I grabbed his hand that was on my chest & caught him in the act. I confronted him, asked him what the hell he thought he was doing, at which point he grabbed his blanket & covered himself, including his face, with it.
I woke up my traveling companion & he ordered that I switch places with him which I gladly obliged. He then confronted the man himself, telling him that he owed me an apology. The man in question did not respond. My traveling buddy asked if I wanted to call for a flight attendant but at that moment in time, I simply said, “No, I just want to get as far away from him as possible & forget about it.”
To this day, it is my biggest regret that I did not report him for his harassment. I sincerely hope that he does not do it to anyone else, yet something tells me I was probably not the first & won’t be the last.
I do not wish to view men as the enemy as this is an extremely unhealthy attitude to adopt. I will say this however, given the frequency of unwanted verbal & physical attention that many, many women endure on a daily or weekly basis, these men certainly do not create a culture or environment in which I can respect them.
Location: India and United Kingdom