The horror of molestation came surging back to me a few weeks ago when I was out for a walk with puppy Stan. Stan was out of sight and I was hunkered down taking a photograph of some fallen leaves.
The first I knew that there was anyone around was when I felt someone tapping on my shoulder and a voice from behind asking: Is there anything interesting there?
I jumped up, swivelled round, and heard myself saying to the man standing far too close to me: My dog is just over there! (I was praying that Stan would emerge like a wild animal and not a playful puppy!)
Years and years ago, when I was about seven, I had taken our strong Dalmation for a very short walk and just as I was about to turn at the place where my mother had drawn the end line, a red van pulled up beside me and a greasy looking man started asking me for directions and told me to get into the van to show him the way. I clung to the lead; warned him that my dog would bite him and ran the few hundred yards home like the hammers of hell.
A few years on, a so-called friend of my father’s lured me into a back room and mauled me. It still makes me feel sick. Nothing horrendous happened but it completely shattered my trust in men and made me realise that it wasn’t only greasy guys in dirty red vans that were potentially problematic.
On again, and fury of furies at a boss’ audacity in coming into my office on Week One of a new job, locking the door and attempting to maul me as if I was some sort of innocent abroad. He was a nasty, slimy little man with eyes I will never forget. I was a lot taller than him and hit him a right belt that did the job in getting shut of him. I also threatened a few of the strong men of my life on him which got him running scared. (Probably no huge coincidence that I got the boot out of the job not long after!)
I confided in my mother about all these episodes as they happened and it transpired that she too had suffered quite a bit from unwanted male attention, especially when she was new to the workforce in the 1930s.
It seems to me that this horror is part of our society. It’s not something that one is inclined to talk about to anyone outside of very close friends or family.
I’d like to think that things have changed but I’m not a bit sure that they have?