I was 16
I was 16 years old and it was a weekday summer afternoon. I’d finished my shift at New Look and was waiting at a busy bus stop to catch the bus to my friend’s house. I was wearing (of course you’re wondering what I was wearing) a white A-Line skirt to just above the knee, a blue polyester shirt and jelly shoes (it was the 90s and I will never be an apologist for 90’s fashion). I sat on a wall behind the bus stop, and an old man sat down near to me. He started whispering things to me. Vile, awful, sexual things that only I could hear. I shuffled away. He shuffled closer. I quietly asked him to stop. He continued. Eventually I panicked and shouted at him to leave me alone. And everyone else waiting at that bus stop turned to look at me. Not him. Me. I felt the burning heat of embarrassment and shame. I thought; they are wondering why that rude teenager just shouted at that nice old man. I thought: they think I’ve done something wrong. When the bus came I climbed on and sat at the front by myself. No-one spoke to me, no-one asked me if I was ok. When I reached my friend’s house I carried on as normal and never told anyone what had happened. I was too ashamed.
I was 17
One afternoon all of the sixth form girls from three local secondary schools were gathered together in a school gym to listen to a talk from a well-known charity about how we could protect ourselves from attacks by men. They talked to us about changing the clothes we wore, changing our hairstyles (ponytails should be avoided as they give an attacker something to grab), changing our routes home, not going out after dark, not going out alone. All the things that we, as teenage girls, should do to stop men from attacking and hurting us. The boys did not get this talk. I thought; if I get attacked when my hair is in a ponytail, is it my fault?
I was 19
My friend and I went out for a drink and a chat on a Friday night. She was driving so we had one alcoholic drink and then switched to Appletise. We left the pub at about 9pm to walk back to her car. It was parked in a lit, town centre, outdoor car park; we were both wearing jeans, t-shirts and trainers. (You were wondering weren’t you?) As we reached her car three drunk young men shouted at us; taunting us and making jokes. We tried to smile like we got the joke so…