Five Jewish women share their experiences of sexual harassment and intimidation

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Five Jewish women share their experiences of sexual harassment and intimidation

Following the murder of Sarah Everard, victims of abuse open up about their struggle to keep safe

Young women, who have all spoken about their experiences of sexual intimidation, stand outside their homes in tribute to Sarah Everard. The women pictured are not the same at those featured in this article.
Young women, who have all spoken about their experiences of sexual intimidation, stand outside their homes in tribute to Sarah Everard. The women pictured are not the same at those featured in this article.

I was 15, on my way home from school in my uniform. As it was winter and getting dark early, I called my mum and asked for a lift home from the bus stop in Finchley. 

I waited, holding my keys between my fingers, headphones in with no music playing, to stop people from approaching me – everything girls are taught to do. I noticed a man walking towards me, so I walked away from him and I kept my head down.

He motioned for me to take out my headphones and started talking to me, asking me where I was from and how long I’d lived in the area for, whether I knew any bars in the area – even though I was in school uniform. I was terrified and no one at the bus stop intervened.

I saw my mum’s car pull up out of the corner of my eye and I rushed to get in. My mum arranged for me and my sister to wait in a shop after school from then on. The man got to go on living his life and, to this day, I fear he
continued preying on other girls or women with no consequences. 

Flowers lay in the bandstand in Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard,( Paul Quezada-Neiman/Alamy Live News)

Aged 15

A guy stopped me in the street to ask me for directions. I jumped a little because I was lost in my own thoughts. He was probably in his 30s. He was not threatening, but I was already alert because he had startled me, which he apologised for. 

After I concluded the directions, I felt he was lengthening the conversation unnecessarily and then he said: ‘Thank you, you are my hero, can I give you a hug?’ by which point he had already invaded my personal space. I pushed him away and stepped back and he became defensive, but I was speedily walking away from him. I am not sure why I didn’t run. 

Several years later and I’m still uncomfortable to walk down that street alone at night.

Aged 17

Sarah Everard

I was catcalled three times last week on the same street near my house. I’ve been subjected to wolf whistles, lewd gestures and verbal abuse from men, shouting from their cars that they’d like to ‘eat my p****’ and that I’m ‘going in their w*** bank’. I routinely move carriage on the Tube because men make me feel uncomfortable by staring at me or talking to me. 

The only thing that stops men harassing me, is when I’m with another man. This is why men are shocked when they hear about sexual harassment; they never see it. 

I want to choose my outfit based on what makes me feel good, not on how men will perceive it. I want to choose my route home based on what’s easiest for me, not the route that’s most well-lit. I want to walk down my street without needing a man by my side to protect me. I want men to know what I go through every single day. I want accountability for sex-ual harassment. I don’t want this to be normal any more.

Aged 24

I was returning to my office in north-west London after buying lunch and noticed a man lingering in the short walkway I had to pass through. I hesitated because I was worried about passing him, but also didn’t want to make a negative assumption about him. As I got nearer, he put his hand down his trousers and asked if I wanted to have sex with him. 

I ran down the road and phoned my friend at the office and asked her if she could ask for the security guard to come and accompany me inside. He came out to get me and I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. 

I didn’t feel I could tell him what had happened, but felt responsible for making sure other female colleagues were protected. I told my friend the details and she relayed it to the security guard on my behalf and he sent round a safety email. 

I felt so embarrassed and kept worrying that male colleagues would hear about it and view me differently.

People paying their respects and laying floral tributes for Sarah Everard at the bandstand in Clapham Common, the day after the cancelled vigil. Credit: Matthew Chattle/Alamy Live News

Aged 34

I was swimming at my local pool in north London and was followed up and down the pool lane by a man who insisted on talking to me at each end. I felt I had nowhere to hide and was being pursued. When I got out the pool he propositioned me, which was so uncomfortable. 

It shouldn’t make a difference, but I was wearing modest swimwear and a swim cap and never once initiated conversation with him. I was there to swim, not to be chatted up by a strange man.

Aged 42

  • Interviews conducted by Jewish Women’s Aid

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