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When did a side order of sexual harassment become as de rigeur as a kebab on a night out?

THIS TEXT ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON WALESONLINE ON JULY 25TH 2014, ALONGSIDE THE EXPERIENCES OF FIVE OTHER WOMEN. THE WHOLE PIECE IS WORTH READING.

I agreed to write this piece a few hours before going to see Paul Weller in Cardiff Castle. At the end of the evening, having split up from my friend, I was queuing to get out of the grounds with a horde of boozed-up mod wannabes, when a man in the crowd – a total stranger to me – grabbed my breasts.

It took me a while to understand what had just happened, and then he had melted back into the throng.

This is clearly absolutely not ok. But it’s not the first time it’s happened, and I daresay it won’t be the last.

Just a few days earlier, I had a horrible experience while jogging in my local park. I go out at the same time every day, and one morning I noticed a man standing at the park gates, just watching me. The park was deserted apart from the both of us. I didn’t think too much of it, but by the time I’d finished a third lap he was still there, so I took another route out of the park and home. I felt uneasy, and vulnerable.

The next day he was there again, and by my final lap he was stood behind a lamppost, intently staring at me. The following morning, I went out of my way to run in another park. This is also absolutely not ok.

When my son was a baby, I was walking in another park when I spotted a man behind a tree, clearly pleasuring himself. This time a man in the park saw him and chased him away. These are just three incidents. There are countless more.

Since when did it become acceptable for strangers to grab your body, in full view of their friends, and somebody not SAY SOMETHING? When did a side order of mild sexual violence become something to be listed alongside a kebab and singalong at the end of a good night out?

And why should something as simple as going for a morning run be something that strikes fear into women?

The choices I have to make every day are affected by this all-pervading threat, so much so that it’s barely conscious any more, and it just shouldn’t be this way.

There are times when I thank my lucky stars that when I had a baby, he was a boy. I can’t imagine how worrying it must be to watch a daughter grow into a woman and go out into a world where they are taught from a young age to always be on their guard.

There are of course many men who don’t behave this way. But there are far too many that do, and don’t even see what’s so wrong about it.

Until all little boys are taught that girls are their equals, not pieces of meat to be catcalled at, heckled, intimidated and groped in public, this will remain a world where I would be reluctant to bring a daughter. And that makes me very sad indeed.

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