If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, please seek help with a qualified counsellor or by calling 1800 RESPECT.
Jesse Ratu, a 24-year-old mother of two, has always felt safe during her peaceful morning walks.
But this Sunday, something changed.
Jesse was returning to her apartment in Southport, on the Gold Coast, at around 7:30am when she saw a man approaching her.
“He looked a little lost,” Jesse told Mamamia. “I brushed it off a bit.”
As she went to buzz in to her apartment, she could see his reflection in the glass windows and noticed that he was walking at an increasingly fast pace. It made her nervous.
When she turned around, he smiled at her.
Again, despite her discomfort, Jesse tried to ignore him.
That’s when he decided to grope her on the bottom five times, while Jesse was facing in the opposite direction.
LISTEN: The year that was #MeToo. Post continues below.
“Don’t f*cking touch me,” Jesse said instinctively, while simultaneously freezing up.
“Sorry, I had to do that,” he replied, according to Jesse. “You have the best arse.”
She ran inside her apartment and through tears told her partner Brendan what had just happened. He bolted downstairs within seconds, but after 20 minutes of searching the streets nearby, was unable to find the man who had assaulted Jesse.
While Brendan scoured the streets, Jesse plucked up the courage to call the police.
“I was a bit nervous and very, very scared,” Jesse said about reporting the incident. The police said they would send people over, and while she waited, she called the complex manager to request the CCTV footage she knew would have caught the act out the front of her apartment.
“They were amazing,” Jesse said of the police. She eventually went to the police station and made an official statement, in the hope that they would be able to find the man who left her so shaken.
Days later she still feels, "very unsafe, very wary," she told Mamamia.
"I have not been out on my street on my own yet. I don't feel comfortable doing that just yet... I haven't even checked my mail." Her avoidance of the area where the groping took place is a very common response in victims of indecent or sexual assault.
In light of her experience, Jesse encourages any woman who is subjected to this kind of violation to report the incident to police.
Her advice is echoed by Senior Sergeant Brett Meadows of Victoria Police’s Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Team, who told Mamamia that if you are ever groped in a public place, to call triple zero and try your best to recall any identifying features of the perpetrator.
"If you're telling the police officer on the other end of the phone, the man's just getting off the train, tram or bus or walking through a particular park, a police officer then radios through to police in the local area... and hopefully there's a police officer who's just around the corner who can pick the man up based on your description and we'll go from there," he said.
"And if we do lose them when then we've still got descriptions, we'll look at CCTV footage and we'll get a statement."
A NSW police spokesperson told Mamamia that police, "take very seriously and investigate all reports of sexual or indecent assaults, regardless whether the assault occurred in public or behind closed doors".
Jesse said that if she found herself sitting across from the man who groped her on Sunday morning, she would ask, "What gave [you] the right? What made [you] think [you] had the right to touch me without my permission? Why did you feel so entitled?"
When a woman is touched so brazenly in a public space, her sense of safety and privacy is compromised. Those few seconds stay with her, often, for the rest of her life, altering the way she sees the world.
And that isn't just a 'cruel' thing to do. It's a crime, and like Jesse did, it's worth reporting.
Since Jesse spoke with Mamamia, it's been reported that a man has handed himself in and been charged with two counts of sexual assault. The man is due to appear in court in February.