My Year Abroad: Sexual Harassment (Part 3)

Whilst living in France over the past 9 months, it has astounded me how many times I’ve been leered at, catcalled or “accidentally” touched by people I’d rather not make acquaintance with. I’m so tired of walking home at night after work, or going out for a run and constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m alone, or, at the very least, not being followed.

I remember there being a feed on the TAPIF assistants page a while back where a few people shared some things that had happened to them, so I realised I wasn’t alone. So I reached out and asked other assistants to share their stories. In less than 24 hours, nearly 30 people had commented and messaged me with their stories of harassment in France. It was overwhelming and, quite frankly, I’m so glad that my encounters with harassment have been so “tame”…

This week’s article, Part 3, is focused on terrifying instances of women being followed home. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Last week’s article was based on stories of girls being followed and harassed by people on the street – predominantly verbally. This week, the article focusses on accounts of women being physically harassed – from unwanted leg touches to rape.

Public transport is a goldmine for harassers and creeps. Confined spaces, often with lots of people so women are discouraged from making a scene. Taking the metro for a woman is basically a Russian Roulette of “will I get groped today?”…

“Once on the RER a drunk man tried to kiss me. I elbowed him (probably not my best idea admittedly) which made him leave, and another man came to sit next to me so that if he came back he couldn’t take the same spot (which I appreciated). He then did come back and started throwing his lighter at me. He threw it once and I ignored it, the man started trying to get me to give it back to him, but the man next to me just picked it up and handed it back. He kicked up a fuss and then threw it again, this time it hit me hard and I got angry so I kicked it down the stairs (again admittedly not my best idea…). He left again but then came back and was caressing my leg, I told him not to touch me and luckily my stop was soon and I got off and he didn’t follow. “

“A guy once sat across from me on the metro and tried to talk to me multiple times. He kept mumbling stuff about his dick. I ignored him and for some reason that made him angry so he put a hand on my leg. I saw red. Even if I’m 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, I threw the biggest punch ever on that motherfucker’s nose. He tried to punch me back but some guy stopped him. An RATP agent was called to the scene. He said punching people was wrong, no matter the circumstances. I told him to go fuck himself. He tried to fine me. I glared at him like Trump glares at Mexico and left.”

“I had a guy come up to me while I was waiting on the tram. Asked for money, noticed my accent, realized I was American, got entirely too close to me and asked for a bisous as he stroked my arm. I had to physically push him away.”


The ‘innocent’ bystanders…

“A middle aged man on a really busy metro kept doing anything he could to get my attention, including groping me. I managed to get away to a different car and he didn’t follow (partially because it was so busy) but I was really shocked by how no one surrounding me bothered to try and help me get away from him.”

These infamous wankers (pun intended (Americans see below))…

“The 2 worst incidents…were the masturbators of 2015.On two separate occasions I was walking home pretty late at night. First time a guy followed me and whipped out his dick saying all he wanted to do was watch my ass. I threatened to call the police and he ran away. Second time I was walking home and noticed a guy sitting on the stoop next to my entrance. As I approached I noticed he was sitting there penis out. I typed in my code as quick as possible. Then I heard him knocking on the door trying to get me to let him in.”

“I was walking to an apéro in a super nice area of Paris. There were a group of romes on a blanket asking for money. One was standing up and whipped his dick out as I was walking by I kept walking straight ahead but I saw out of the corner of my eye. I felt so dirty and gross after that.”

Since when did not getting what you want mean touching was fair game?


“I…had two men stroke my elbow on the street, asking me for my number.”

“I was sitting on a bench in town FaceTiming my boyfriend when this old guy approached me in an electric wheelchair. He came super close and tried to speak to me but I didn’t understand so I stopped to listen to him but I couldn’t figure out what he was saying, so I explained that I wasn’t French etc etc and then he wheeled past me, I thought he was leaving so carried on talking on FaceTime and the next thing I know his hand is under my jacket and he’d tried to grope me under my shirt. I jumped up and shouted and he wheeled off very quickly. I spoke to the police and made a statement and they were super friendly and the guy just got a caution, but still not ideal!!”

“Somebody asked me to buy his newspaper. When I ignored him, he touched my leg.”

And Heaven forbid that girls just wanna have fun and go dancing…

“Before I came back, my coloc’s and I decided to have a girl’s dance night at the club. There was this one guy who kept following me around the dance floor, grabbing my by the elbow or my waist and pulling em to him. At one point he reaaalllyy held on as I pulled away until I turned around and I told him I’d punch him in the throat if he didn’t leave me the hell alone. Needless to say he was all shook up.”

“I was at a bar last week wearing a low cut top, and one guy had the nerve to try to put his head in my breasts and motorboat me.”

But, alas, things can get even worse than groping on the metro or having guys whip their

dicks out as you walk by. Some men go as far as to violate the personal, private space of women.

Before carrying on, I want to take a moment to admire the bravery of these girls and acknowledge the trust that they had in me to come forward and share their experiences.

“I was sexually assaulted by a guy who lived across the hall from me. I stayed in a CROUS halls of residence and his room was about 3 feet away from mine. I couldn’t even tell anyone apart from my friends as the “wardens” who were supposed to deal with things like this were just other residents trying to make some extra money, so I could have been telling them about their friend. It would have been useless. There was no support over there at all and I ended up making myself really ill because of it – so much so that when I came home at Christmas I never went back [to France].”

Rape is one of the most degrading and humiliating things that can happen and no one, no one, should ever have to go through the experience.

So why, in England and Wales, are there “approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men… raped … every year?” [1]

Why, in the US, are 1 in 6 women raped during their lifetime? [2]

Fun fact: women aged 18-24 (the age f the majority of women working on the Assistantship Program) are three times more likely to be victims of sexual assault. Women are not “fair game”. It doesn’t matter what they are wearing, how we have our hair, how much make up we’re wearing, how much we’ve drunk, who we’re with, or where we are. No means no. Silence means no. ANY ANSWER OTHER THAN A DIRECT “YES” MEANS NO.

As a woman, I have never understood the level that men must feel themselves to be on to stoop so low as to think that violating a woman is the ONLY way they can get laid. To feel a sense of power over another person by rendering them incapable is not power, it’s cowardice. It’s weakness.

The feeling that the only way you’ll get to touch a woman is through groping and unauthorised touching is, quite frankly, pitiful. But you don’t deserve pity. You deserve shame.

Shame on you.



Wanker (n.) :

A commonly used Australian/british/new zealand word used to describe a fuckball, jerk, asshole or jackass.
Another word for tosser, which is usually reffered to when someone is being a tool or a complete dick. Source


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