Monday 24 October 2016

Sarah Carey: I've been groped several times but never made a fuss

Published 17/07/2013 | 10:33

Sarah Carey - 'I've been groped several times'
Sarah Carey - 'I've been groped several times'
Tom Barry pulls Aine Collins onto his lap in the Dail.

Every now and then sanity prevails. Fine Gael TD Aine Collins has proven herself completely sane by trying to calm the Lapgate storm.

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I was getting tired of women who weren't politicians and had never been groped pushing her around and telling her what to do. Collins has said that she has forgiven her colleague and friend Tom Barry for his inappropriate behaviour and just wants to move on.

In fact, a long list of female politicians, including Mary O'Rourke, have said that the best way of dealing with sexist behaviour was to ignore it and keep doing their jobs.

If that policy is good enough for them, why do other women, who aren't them and have never been in their position, judge them for not making a fuss?

You see, you might think that if it were you, you'd slap the guy or demand he be punished. But in life, we often think we'd do X in situation Y, but then it happens, and things don't work out the way you thought.

Possibly because I'm small and have a sense of humour, I've been on the receiving end of a bit of groping down the years. Every single time I've carried on as if absolutely nothing had happened.

I'm not talking about repeated offences or actual harassment. Just once-off lunges that always took place at some sort of social, at an event or overnight if work required travel.


The angry women say that my failure to complain enables men to believe they've done nothing wrong and repeat the offence. Logically that should be true, but in real life my voluntary amnesia worked out quite well.

Why do I ignore the wandering hands? For many reasons. Firstly, I'm really slow. You could meet me in the street and we'd have a chat. Three nights later I'd wake up and say, "Hang on a second! When she asked me if I was on my way to hairdresser, she really meant my hair was a mess. What a cow!"

Men have occasionally said something sexist to me, but I haven't reacted because it can honestly take a while for it to sink in. I might be raging that the fabulously witty put down only came into my head a day later. But the moment has passed.

The other thing is I hate scenes. Even if I do cop what's going on, my instinct is to avoid a row. In the face of conflict, I just keep smiling, remove the offending limb and create distance between me and the groper; perhaps rushing to the loo to compose myself.

If I didn't say anything the next day it was because I wish it never had happened, and therefore pretending it hadn't was an attractive out.

Then I realised that the lack of reaction was having unintended benefits. Firstly, I knew damn well that if I ran whingeing to HR about a co-worker, in the long run, I'd be resented for making the fuss.

Also, you may actually like the person involved, and know there was no malice, as with Collins and Barry.

Secondly, I always found that the groper, rather than thinking he'd done nothing wrong, knew well he'd overstepped the mark and was incredibly grateful to me for not complaining.


Rather than him having power physically over me, I ended up having psychological power over him and reaped the rewards.

To the outragerati who think this is appalling, let me just say this.

In my experience, men who like women have never been a problem for me. It's the men who hate women you need to watch out for.

I've been psychologically harassed and bullied, taken lower pay than male colleagues and been in tears in offices over discrimination.

The perpetrator was never the harmless git who got a bit excited with drink taken.

The woman-hating creep in charge? He was the problem.


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