This week in public… I was leered at in the street

I was walking to dinner with my parents and we stopped to cross the road at Toll Cross where a man was stood waiting in front of us. He turned around, already wearing a very sour expression on his face, and we made eye contact. Then, he proceeded to look me up and down, taking in every detail of my body, my outfit, and my face, his facial expression becoming more and more bitter with every second. It must have lasted for less than a minute, but it felt like an hour. After he’d finished his sweep, he met my eyes again. I stood perfectly still and tried to project a composed, expressionless exterior, while inside I felt plain angry and disgusted. My mum witnessed the entire thing and after this stranger turned to cross the road, I looked at her face and saw her jaw had dropped in shock at this man’s brazenness. I am relieved to say my dad was looking elsewhere and missed the whole ordeal.

As we crossed the road behind him, my mum and I began to discuss very loudly, what on earth did he think he was doing? Over dinner I said that this happens to me often, particularly when I’m walking on my own, and how reassuring it had been for me, that my mum had seen it all on this occasion. My dad was surprised and angry to hear this, whereas my mum listened to it with an all-too knowing look on her face. I find it comforting that other people share my outrage at these incidents that happen daily to people everywhere. I regret not speaking out to this stranger, maybe asking a polite “can I help you?” to catch him out. Next time, and sadly there will be a next time, I like to think that I will challenge behaviour like this in the moment.

I’m not going to discuss what I was wearing, or what my facial expression may have been at the start of the event, because those details aren’t relevant and are never relevant.

At The Student, we have decided to introduce this column in order to create a space where we can talk about occurrences like this that might make people uncomfortable, both by witnessing it and talking about it. But one way we can strive to change these events and one day be rid of them completely, is to talk about them.

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Image via Pxfuel