Sexual harassment has, worryingly, become an everyday experience for many of us here in the UK: all one has to do is scroll through @EverydaySexism’s Twitter feed to see the shocking prevalence of harassment, catcalls, whistling and assault that women are faced with on a daily basis.
Now, in a series of viral tweets, a woman named Nathalie Gordon has shared her own experience about being sexually harassed by a man during a bus journey. Worse still, she has revealed what happened afterwards – and exposed a huge problem with our society in doing so.
Describing a tale depressingly familiar to many of us, Gordon begins her account by saying. “Let me tell you a story about why men will never understand what it's like to be female.”
Let me tell you a story about why men will never understand what it's like to be female.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
Gordon goes on to explain that she was travelling to a meeting, and minding her own business, when a man tapped her on her knee. She took out her headphones, and he asked her where the bus was going.
He then asked her where she was going – and alarm bells immediately started ringing.
Gordon writes: “In that moment, I instantly became worried. Again I am polite and say 'no thank you'.
“I go to put my earphones back in… [but] he pulls them from my hand and says ‘don’t be rude’.”
In that moment I instantly became worried. Again I am polite and say 'no thank you'. I go to put my earphones back in.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
He pulls them from my hand and says 'don't be rude'. I say 'Sorry'. I don't know what to do, I don't want to provoke him.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
Gordon, like so many other women who find themselves subjected to the unwanted and inappropriate advances of a man, felt afraid and threatened.
“I [didn’t] want to provoke him,” she explained in her tweets about the incident, before revealing that she turned away and attempted to ignore him.
However, as she stared pointedly out of the window, she realised that the man had not been perturbed in the slightest by her lack of attention. Instead of accepting that ‘no means no’, he continued to stare at Gordon – and, to her horror, began rubbing his crotch through his trousers.
Gordon, sickened and afraid, got up from her seat and walked down to the front of the bus where she approached the driver for help.
His response, however, left her shattered.
I look out the window but out the corner of my eye I see he is staring at me and has started to rub his crotch.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
I'm horrified and turn to ask him to stop doing it. He laughs at me. I get up and go to the bus driver.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
I tell him that a man is rubbing himself on the bus. The driver, a man, says 'he probably isn't- sit somewhere else'.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
I say 'the man just asked me for a drink and when I said no started to rub himself'. The driver says, 'what do you expect me to do?'— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
Unwilling to accept that she should just ignore her harasser, or “sit somewhere else”, Gordon demanded that the driver call the police – or, at the very least, remove the man from the bus.
The driver replied: “You’re a pretty girl, what do you expect?”
I say 'remove him from the bus, call the police- I don't care'. The driver then says to me, 'you're a pretty girl, what do you expect?'— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
In response to the bus driver’s comment, Gordon has penned a list of things that she and all women should absolutely be able to expect.
Things like, say, “f**king respect for women, no matter who they are, or what they look like, or what they’re wearing.” For “men to stop thinking that every woman on the planet owes them something”. To “feel safe on the bus, the street, my house, or anywhere I choose to go”. And, above all else, “to stop feeling so alone and scared” all the time.
Gordon adds: “No man will know what this feels like, which is why so many will choose not to care.”
You know what I expect, fucking respect for women no matter who they are or what they look like or what they're wearing.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
What I expect is fucking respect for women who don't want go for a drink, who ask for help, who are afraid.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
What I expect is fucking respect for anyone who feels vulnerable, for people who say no, for anyone who asks for help.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
What I expect is for men to stop thinking every woman on the planet owes them something.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
What I expect is to feel safe on the bus, the street, my house or anywhere I choose to go.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
What I expect is to stop feeling so alone and scared. No man will know what this feels like which is why so many will choose not to care.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
What I expect is not to be more afraid of offending men than being safe.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
What I expect is to not be on guard EVERYWHERE I GO. And I know other women are - we're all scared, all the time.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
What I expect is for good men to be on our side, to support us, to listen, to care, to stand up for us when we can't and to educate others.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
Gordon has not given up: she has spoken to British Transport Police and Transport for London, and an investigation has since been opened into the incident.
“I’m being taken seriously,” she says.
Yes, Gordon’s story is a tale as old as time – one which we’ve all heard, or experienced ourselves, countless times before. But that’s why it’s so important for victims of sexual harassment to come forward and speak out: this may have become part of the female narrative, but we should not accept it as normal or expected.
Instead, we'll keep saying it, and keep going public, and keep reminding other women that this happens to everyone. We will keep reminding men that this is the female experience. And we will keep fighting for change.
According to Gordon, her tweets resonated with so many women that many people responded by sending her private messages of their own experiences of sexual harassment.
She told Metro News, “Support from people on the internet is phenomenal – the outcry of love and worry from almost as many men as women.”
However, while there is a great deal of love and support, Gordon added that the fact that so many women are experiencing harassment – and not reporting it – is terrifying.
She told Bustle: “I think that’s what compounds everyday fear in women.
“One of the most terrifying things about this whole ordeal is how many women are saying, ‘Yeah, me too’.”
I have now called the British Transport Police and contacted TFL. An investigation has been opened. I'm being taken seriously.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
Gordon has called upon bystanders to offer their support when they witness sexual harassment.
“Don't ignore it,” she said. Find help. Be the help. Make a noise. Shout. Scream. Go sit with the vulnerable person. Embarrass the perpetrator. Call the police.”
She continued to add that bystanders “have the ability to change a situation”, explaining: “They don't know how much just an acknowledgement that they know something is happening that is wrong and they're with you, weathering the storm beside you – that would have transformed how I would have felt at least.”
So many women sharing their stories. For all those who've been in similar positions and never reported it text 61016 or call 0800 40 50 40— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
If you ever see me on public transport or anywhere in London and you feel vulnerable, find a way to tell me & I promise I'll stand with you.— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) May 4, 2017
Gordon hopes that her sharing her story will raise awareness of an issue that has become frighteningly normalised – and, more importantly, that it will instill other women with the confidence they need to report a harasser.
“For all those who've been in similar positions and never reported it text 61016 or call 0800 40 50 40,” she said, before going on to add that she will always offer her support if she witnesses anything similar happen to someone else.
“If you ever see me on public transport or anywhere in London and you feel vulnerable, find a way to tell me,” she said.
“I promise I'll stand with you.”
In 2015, it was revealed that 90% of people were not reporting sexual harassment experienced on public transport.
In a bid to combat this, British Transport Police launched the Report It To Stop It campaign, calling upon people to “report anything that makes you feel uncomfortable”.
“We understand that if you experience unwanted sexual behaviour, you might want to forget about it and move on,” the website states. “You’re not alone, many people don’t report.
“However, reporting it can help us to stop it. Every report builds a picture for us and every bit of detail brings us one step closer to finding the offender and bringing them to justice.
“No incident or detail is too small or trivial. What has happened is not your fault. We will always take you seriously and treat you with respect.”
Tackling the sexual harassment of women has not, historically, been a priority for women.
Nowadays, however, things are very different: in an attempt to crack down on sexual abuse, Nottinghamshire Police has expanded its definition of hate crime to include misogynistic incidents – such as catcalling and uninvited sexual and verbal advances.
“I’m delighted that we are leading the way towards tackling misogyny in all its forms,” said Nottinghamshire Police's Ch Con Sue Fish at the time. “It’s a very important aspect of the overall hate crime work being conducted and one that will make Nottinghamshire a safer place for all women. What women face, often a daily basis, is absolutely unacceptable and can be extremely depressing.”
If you do become a victim of crime it is important that you ask for help and report it. You can call the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016. In an emergency, dial 999.
Images: Twitter / iStock