Sexual harassment

Late last night I turned into my Barkingside street and a lone man in a car pulled up alongside. When he said “Can I ask you something”, I knew there was a chance it was going to be sexual harassment but I also thought he might have been lost. I stopped and barked “What” in as stern a tone as I could manage. He complemented my appearance. I said crossly “Oh please” and began to walk again – but I’m near my house and by this time slightly flustered as well as slightly drunk. I should have walked fast past my house but instead I faltered. He drew the car level and propositioned me. I made it clear this wasn’t welcome. He didn’t go. I shouted “Just go”. He made a more explicit proposition before driving away. The episode lasted perhaps a minute.

I didn’t get the car reg because that would have meant following him and in my disarray the most important thing seemed to be not to lead him on, though it’s obvious to me now that’s not the case. I wouldn’t be able to pick him out in a police lineup because it was dark. I don’t remember the precise details of the car. So when I reported it to the police (who responded well) I couldn’t give them much to go on.

This is the first time I’ve reported anything like this because in common with many if not most women, street harassment – groping, propositioning, sexual insults, inappropriate sexual compliments – happens often enough to feel like a normal and inevitable part of life in the UK. It shouldn’t be – some of it needs reporting and all of it needs a sharp responses. But I think this is a man who deliberately sets out to frighten and humiliate. He follows women walking alone into side streets late at night, harasses them from his car, and in the face of rejection becomes more sexually explicit.

If I could turn back the clock I’d have tried to get a photo and focused on the getting the car reg, though if he has any sense he’s using fake plates.

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