Tuesday 24 October 2017

Women can be far too tolerant of sex pests - we need to deliver our own Swift retribution

Singer Taylor Swift has pledged to donate some of her fortune to other victims of sexual assault. Photo: Getty Images
Singer Taylor Swift has pledged to donate some of her fortune to other victims of sexual assault. Photo: Getty Images

Catherine O'Mahony

So music star Taylor Swift is back in the headlines. A somewhat improbable victim of sexual assault. Easy to shrug your shoulders and move on. A celebrity non-story.

But perhaps we need to pause on this one. There's a mundanity to the Taylor Swift story that's hard to gloss over. I know no woman without a story of casual sexual assault. Not one. That needs to change.

My own worst experiences were on the Tube in London, where I worked for several months in the early 1990s, and the Metro in Paris, where I often visited in those years. I learned to enter the train carriages gingerly, trying to position my back against a door or a barrier. If I failed to do that, or if the crowd of people was too big to manage it, I knew there was a fair chance that someone, an unidentifiable someone in a throng of packed bodies, would take an opportunity to grope whatever part of me they could reach. I also knew that I would not react. I would squirm away if I could but mostly I would look straight ahead, humming some tune in my head, willing for it to be over. Was I too shy? Too inert? Just too young? Who knows.

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