true crime

'I was indecently assaulted on the weekend. By a woman.'

This post deals with sexual harassment and might be triggering for some readers.

It was my favourite type of Saturday afternoon.

No social plans. Just hours to spend however I pleased.

I went to the gym and to an appointment at the laser clinic. Then I decided to walk to the shops to return a pair of shoes I’d bought online and changed my mind about.

But as I crossed the park I walk through most days, it started to pour with rain. I had no umbrella with me and just a pair of thongs on my feet. At the edge of the park, by a crossing, I sheltered under some trees, deciding what to do. Should I forget about shopping and grab a taxi home? Or should I find somewhere close by to purchase an umbrella?

There were about 10 or so people huddled in the same place, clearly having to reassess their own plans for the day.

Seconds later, I sensed someone standing close behind me.

Then I felt a hand on my left bum cheek followed by a… definite squeeze, and three very firm, very deliberate pats.

I swung round, horrified, ready to tell a creepy guy to back off.

Watch: Women And Violence: The Hidden Numbers. Post continues after video. 

But standing behind me was a middle-aged woman, wearing white pants and a pink raincoat with the hood up.

Surely not…?

As the woman stepped in front of me, her eyes moving down my body, I just gawped, following her gaze.

It was like my reactions had reverted to slow motion. With the rain hammering down around me and the music from my headphones blasting in my ears, I couldn’t seem to grasp what had just happened.

For a crazy moment, I wondered if I had dropped something and she was trying (albeit in a very strange way) to alert me to it. But I searched the ground and there was nothing.

By the time I looked back up, she was walking off.

Finally, the penny dropped.

“Hey!” I yelled, whipping off my headphones. “What the f*ck!”

By now she was crossing the road. And she didn’t look back.

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“What the f*ck!” I yelled again, my words swallowed up by the downpour.

Shaking, I walked out into the rain, not knowing where I was going. My feet were slipping in my thongs and I was getting soaked but I couldn’t seem to commit to a decision. I waded through puddles eventually coming to a bus stop, where I managed to squeeze in under the packed shelter.

But suddenly I found I didn’t want a bunch of strangers standing so close to me.

Instead, I flagged a taxi. As soon as I was safely inside, I fired off a message to my Whatsapp group chat.

“You won’t believe what’s just happened to me…”

At first, it was almost nothing more than a strange story to share with my friends.

But when the responses I received seemed to reflect my own casual tone, it dawned on me how wrong that was.

“At least all those squats are paying off,” one friend said.

“People are sooo weird hey,” said another.

Someone even sent me the “peach” emoji followed by the “cry-laughing” face.

When I called my parents to relay the story, my mum was horrified (but then proceeded to ask me what I’d been wearing.) My dad simply chuckled.

No one asked me if I was OK. And I realised, I wanted them to.

If it had been a man who assaulted me, the response would have been different.

I wouldn’t have been urged to take a physical violation as a compliment. I likely would have been encouraged to call the police.

I don’t think the incident would have particularly amused anyone. I don’t think it would have been dismissed as simply “weird”.

I think it would have been taken seriously. And I think people would have checked in with me, made sure I was OK.

This is not a criticism of anyone I told – because truly, I didn’t know how to react either.

Should the gender of the person who assaulted you really matter? My first response was shock that the person who touched me didn’t fit the mould I expected.

But the aftermath, the embarrassment, and the general sense of violation I experienced? That would have been the same regardless of who I found when I turned around.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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