21 May 20143 June 2014 Politics / Culture / Reflection On harassment Bridget Murray I was thirteen when a boy the year level above me in high school said I dressed like a ‘try hard hooker.’ We had no uniform at my school, you see. I had small boobs, I didn’t wear short clothing, because I felt uncomfortable in my skin; I was a student who only talked to my friends and was too shy to speak to other classmates. I had never spoken a word to that boy. In fact I don’t think he was even in my class. From then on, my already-covered body became further covered in clothes. I was afraid to attract any unwanted attention. I was sixteen when a friend of mine and I were sitting at a busy road bus stop: she in jeans, me in a dress. There was no chair to sit on so we sat on the ground. Yes, I was cross legged but I was certain that no one could see under my dress nor would anyone want to. My dress had daggy flowers on it. I still looked like I was thirteen. There wasn’t anything appealing about me at all. A car pulled up at the lights, and a guy wound down his window and took photos on a strange angle of us. As they drove off, he yelled: ‘Nice underwear.’ I felt sick to my stomach. I knew they meant me and not my friend. The old lady standing near us told us to report them to the police but we had no license plate number and knew nothing of cars. I was just a scared little girl wanting to not be noticed. I was eighteen as I walked down a busy street towards a tram stop. It was summer; the temperature was 38 degrees Celsius. Shorts were a necessity if I wanted not to drown in my own sweat. I already felt uncomfortable in shorts so I had been walking with my head down, shoulders hunched, trying to make myself disappear. By this point my eating disorder was in full swing, so I looked even less appealing with clothes that didn’t fit and a sickly face and body that no-one would want to touch. As I walked two older men started following me, yelling out things like, ‘hey bitch, nice legs, wanna fuck?’ They kept following me for a few streets. When I crossed the road to get away from them they continued to follow on the parallel side shouting inappropriate things until I finally got on a tram. There was a group of young adults standing outside a pub and they heard and saw the men harassing me, but didn’t bother to ask if I was ok. I was twenty and in very unflattering gym clothes and sweating at the bus stop after a gym class. It was a summer evening, sun still out and warm. I was in my own suburb, one filled with families, couples, old people – a suburb in which I have always felt safe. Across the road people spilled in and out of a busy local pub. A man my father’s age walked over to ask the time. I gave it to him and he wandered over to the bus timetable sign to check it. He sat down in the bus shelter a metre away from me. I played on my phone, smiling, exhausted, content. When he spoke I didn’t hear him the first time, I had my earphones in, so I pulled them out and looked up, expecting him to be commenting on the sunset. His penis was out of his pants. He was masturbating – and then the words started to go into my ears: ‘Want to touch it? Or are you shy? You must be shy. Come on touch it.’ I froze up, I’ve always been good at running off, at avoiding, at hiding. This time I couldn’t. He stood and blocked me into the corner of the bus shelter. I was trapped with his penis at my face level, continuing to say ‘touch it, don’t be shy, you’re a shy girl, come on touch it.’ Suddenly overcome with adrenaline, I crouched and dodged around him running onto the main road. I ripped out my phone, I couldn’t think, my mind was blank blank blank, penis, blank in my mind, can’t think, couldn’t think. I rang the last number I had called on my phone log, my younger sister. The man assumed I was calling the police, pulled up his pants, and started running up the street into the suburban area. I hysterically sobbed into the phone, barely able to get words out. I hysterically sobbed when the bus arrived soon after, and continued to sob on the bus. Every passenger looked away, pretending they didn’t notice me. Once home I called my local police station, told them what happened, started describing his appearance and suddenly the policeman cut me off and said, ‘Did the guy touch you?’ No. ‘Oh you’re lucky then.’ He didn’t bother taking my details. I don’t even know if he wrote a report, he just said he’d drive by the area to look out for the guy. I was twenty one and at a hip hop club taking photos for a gig. I was asked to go in casual black attire and told to take photos of the crowd on the first level and then to move to ground level once the act 360 came on to perform. The crowd were people my age and as I pushed past them, past the bar to get to the door to ground level, I felt a hand grab my waist and a voice whisper in my ear: ‘I’ve been watching you, you’re the most beautiful girl in the room, let me buy you a drink.’ I swung around to find a man far older than my father (not that his age mattered) and tried to get away. I tried to slink through the crowd while apologising, ‘Sorry, I can’t have drinks on the job,’ and stupidly thanking him, ‘Oh but thank you for the offer’ – afraid he’d get aggressive if I was rude. I got down to ground level took photos of the rest of the crowd for another five minutes then left. The manager didn’t ask why I went early. Through experience I found girls to be gentler and less harassing. They were also my sexual preference. But the final time I spent the evening at my exgirlfriend’s house she was rough, grabbing my legs apart, trying to continue to have sex because she ‘wasn’t satisfied yet’ and still ‘felt horny.’ I continued to push her off until I was nearly falling off the bed. She gave up because I refused to stop saying no and refused to stop fighting back. When I said goodnight, she didn’t respond. The next morning she gave me the silent treatment, only to say one thing: ‘I had a terrible night’s sleep because I didn’t get to finish fucking you. I thought you were my whore.’ Bitter words of ownership – that she later claimed to not be abuse but simply a ‘joke’. I am twenty-two in twenty two days and I have had enough shit to last me a lifetime. I don’t want to go out, meet new people, give out my trust when humans are behaving like this. I don’t want any part in this world while both genders – while people – think they can own other people. I am not an object to be used, to be owned, to be abused. I’ll say when you can comment on my appearance, when you can take photos of me, when you can catcall me, when you can expose yourself to me, when you can touch me, when you can have sex with me. I’ll say. You need my permission to go ahead. You need my consent before you go ahead. You need to stop and not go ahead. You need to stop. Bridget Murray Bridget Murray is currently studying a Diploma of Early Childhood Education. In her spare time she is a writer, photographer, embroidery enthusiast, fine art model and selfie poster on instagram. Her online presence can be found at bridgetmurray.weebly.com/ More by Bridget Murray Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. 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