Sunday 25 September 2016

'He pointed at me, turned to his friends and said: "I fancy that one"'

'He pointed at me, turned to his friends and said: 'I fancy that one"

Sam Griffin

Published 17/10/2015 | 02:30

Jenny Stanley from Portmarnock in Dublin who was subjected to verbal abuse as she walked from Camden Street to Eden Quay in Dublin City Centre on a Saturday night
Jenny Stanley from Portmarnock in Dublin who was subjected to verbal abuse as she walked from Camden Street to Eden Quay in Dublin City Centre on a Saturday night
Jenny Stanley from Portmarnock in Dublin who was subjected to verbal abuse as she walked from Camden Street to Eden Quay in Dublin City Centre on a Saturday night

A bus journey home shouldn’t stir up feelings of degradation and fear.

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Waiting for a bus home from Dublin city centre late last Saturday night, Jenny Stanley found herself in a deeply uncomfortable situation.

A situation, which, in her own words, left her feeling "powerless".

First on Camden Street, and then as she moved on to Eden Quay, various groups of young males, aged from their late teens upwards, repeatedly made crude remarks towards her as she walked across the city.

And with every wolf whistle, jeer, comment on her physical appearance and intention-laden "hello", Jenny was overcome with feelings of degradation, objectification, anger, fear and raw sadness.

"As I reached my bus stop, I realised I would have a long wait and so zipped up my long, padded jacket and braced myself against the cold October night," Jenny wrote in a letter to this newspaper this week chronicling her ordeal.

"It was not long before it became clear that the cold would be the least of my worries that evening."

It started on Camden Street at around 10.45pm as Jenny, a teacher on a year-long career break, waited for the number 15 bus to begin her journey home to Portmarnock in north Dublin. What followed was a persistent and prolonged bout of male attention that the 25-year-old neither looked for, nor wanted.

But encountering such behaviour is something she says she and other women are having to deal with more frequently in Dublin city.

"It's commonplace but last Saturday, I noticed, was a particularly busy night in town. It's just that unnerving feeling. It's maybe not to that extremity all the time but even the comments, throwaway comments that people feel entitled to share with you. It's things like 'oh you're looking well,' or 'all right love, what's the story?'," Jenny told the Irish Independent.

After receiving sustained unwanted attention, she decided to leave Camden Street, where the "packs" of all-male groups continued to converge.

"Based on their behaviour towards me, one another and other members of the public, 'pack' is the most suitable word," she said.

Caught between not wanting to engage with them but eager to let them know their advances were not welcome, Jenny said obvious stares that showed her lack of interest were ignored by the-would-be suitors.

And so they continued unabated, with passers-by simply looking on but at no point intervening.

Similarly, at no stage did the friends of those making their comments step in.

Alcohol played a role too, Jenny says.

"It was not until one group in particular passed that my vulnerability became acutely apparent. It began with one group member looking directly into my eyes, pointing at me, turning to the others and announcing: "I fancy that one. That one."

"To which another member replied in agreement, suggesting what he might like to do if he got me home. To which another added further detail to this imagined scenario in which I was an object with the sole purpose of filling their desires," Jenny said.

She escaped across the city to Eden Quay where she joined another queue anxiously waiting another bus home - dodging and ignoring comments and remarks as she walked and then waited.

She sat near the bus driver on the journey home and was subjected to even more vitriol as she disembarked from the bus when a gang of males started howling, making sexually explicit gestures and banging the windows from upstairs. She broke down in tears when she eventually got home.

What annoyed her most is the feeling that there was nothing she could do to stop the waves of abuse. However, she is certain the only way to tackle such behaviour is to speak about it.

"I'm pretty sure it's something that most women have experienced and the feelings it leaves you with, they're just so horrible. But it's the sense of powerlessness that really has an impact on you."

Jenny added: "It needs to be spoken out about. The throwaway attitudes of 'oh well, boys will be boys', I think that really needs to change. This is abuse, that's what it is. This verbal taunting really cannot be tolerated."

Jenny said her friends, when she told them about her experience, could all recount similar tales, though none have done anything about it.

"I suppose you become hardened to it and you build up a skin to it, but at the same time you shouldn't have to," she said.

"Turning a blind eye will do nothing to challenge the behaviour of these people, who feel the need to share these thoughts with you. People just have to speak out."

Irish Independent

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