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You have to read this best-selling author's epic response to the man who assaulted her in broad daylight

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Kayleigh Dray
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Shame, fury, and her quest for justice; the bestselling author of The Liars Club has penned a powerful essay about the shocking moment a strange groped her in broad daylight on a busy New York street.

On the day in question, Mary Karr had enjoyed a pleasant lunch at a local bistro with her son and a “gentleman caller”.

Afterwards, in a bid to make the most of the “sunny but not steaming” weather, she decided to walk home through the city.

But then the unthinkable happened.

Writing in The New Yorker, she explained: “An approaching guy chatting equably with a tall friend dodged at me to grab my crotch.

“I don’t mean brushed by it maybe accidentally; I mean he grabbed between my legs with a meaty claw, big as a waffle iron.”

She added: “He also called me the C-word with breath that stank of beer. Then he passed on into a sandwich shop with his buddy.”

Mary Karr described how she was assaulted on a busy NYC street in broad daylight

Mary Karr described how she was assaulted on a busy NYC street in broad daylight

In the piece, Karr explains how she struggled to react to the alleged assault – and that her initial instinct was one of overwhelming shame.

“Shame hit, a cold backwash of elemental shame: something bad had been done to me; therefore I was bad.

“Even though I knew better, I started scanning for how I’d incited this.”

The author began wondering what she had done to provoke the attack, even considering her outfit - a trope often used to discredit victims of sexual assault - in her distress.

However, in a sudden moment of quiet clarity, she decided to stand up to him.

“If this sick bastard will do this to me in broad daylight, what’s he doing to these young’uns at 3 a.m.? My mind shuffled through the myriad times that run-ins like this had happened before,” she wrote.

“Then I came to and shouted…’Not today! Not this bitch! You picked the wrong woman to fuck with today!’”

Karr, after finding support from a local homeless man (the majority of other bystanders ignored her outburst), then dialled 911 and reported the man to the police.

While they did not have enough to press charges, they did keep the man in prison overnight – something which Karr said left her feeling “vindicated”.

Nearly two thirds of young women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace

Nearly two thirds of young British women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace

Yet, again, it is a staunch reminder of the fact that many sexual assault cases will not result in a formal punishment.

In fact, according to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 109 seconds.

“Only six out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison,” they state on their website.

Karr goes on to note the statistics show that “twenty per cent of women in the US have been raped at some point in their lives.” However she adds that the figure is “more like a hundred per cent for women who will have endured things many men might consider minor—an unwelcome penis pressed against your leg at a party; being humped at the water cooler; being fondled, lunged at, felt up, squeezed, rubbed against… verbal assaults.”

It is a problem which is seen all over the world; in fact, in shocking new research released in the UK, it was revealed that nearly two thirds of young women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

After surveying over 1,500 woman, researchers found that 52% had experienced “unwanted behaviour” at work, including inappropriate jokes, sexual advances, and groping.

The report also revealed that 79% of these women did not tell their employers it was happening, as they were concerned it would affect their career prospects – or that they wouldn’t be believed.

Whatever the circumstances, nobody has the right to force you to have sex, have sex with you without your consent, or sexually assault or harass you. 

If you report the incident, the police will take it very seriously, and there are lots of organisations, like Victim Support, who can help you think about what you can do next.

Karr says: “My own pet opinion is that the guys who make creepy comments on the street or grab you or constantly seek to reassert sexual possibilities in ways that make you uncomfortable aren’t just oafs.

“They seem to get a perverse thrill from mortifying you. That’s why I chased the Grabber down.”

You can read Mary Karr's full essay, titled The Crotchgrabber, in The New Yorker.

Images: iStock

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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