"On Saturday 21st June, I went to a pub to watch the World Cup with some friends and then went to another pub to have dinner.
As I was walking home that night, I had to walk through a group of 8 or 9 drunk 'lads', and as I walked past them, one of them slapped my butt and ran away. I started shouting at him and of course his friends thought it was hilarious; a couple of them stood there laughing at me, surprised at my reaction. The rest walked away laughing. As they were walking away, heading into town for a night of fun and sexual harassment, I called the police.
Nothing came out of that because there was no CCTV evidence and I have no idea who the guys were. It was quite a strange experience, having police officers in my house at 2:00am.
Since then, I have heard all sorts of comments, some bad, some good, but two that stuck out were 'you don't have to go around telling everybody about this now, it was horrible, but just get over it' and 'it wasn't personal, it was just a lads' prank'. The latter comment came from one of the police officers who visited me.
I have not doubt in my mind that every single response and piece of advice that I was given was well intentioned. My friends and family want me to be safe, so they want me to protect myself and be careful.
However, telling ME to be more careful, means it's my responsibility to not get hurt, rather than the perpetrator's responsibility to not hurt me. It also creates the illusion that if you follow this advice, you are safe. It's dangerous to teach girls and women that if you avoid certain men, certain streets or walking alone at certain times of the day will guarantee that we are safe, because that's simply not true; perpetrators of harassment and violence do not always have a particular look, they don't always hang out in dark alleys and they're not only out and about after midnight.
Finally, telling ME to be more careful, means that I wasn't 'careful enough' when this guy hit me. That I wasn't careful enough when I engaged in the risky and provocative behaviour of walking home. That a week before that, when a guy grabbed my butt in a club, I wasn't careful enough, my bad! That'a year ago, when I was walking home alone after work, and a young man picked up his girlfriend and threw her on me, I wasn't careful enough. She wasn't careful enough either.
There is a discrepancy between my friends' intentions and the actual outcomes of their words and advice, when they give me advice after such an event. Their intention is to make me feel better and help me be safer; the outcome is that they lay the responsibility of my safety on me, and suggest that I protect myself by somehow never coming across men that I don't know. The first is hurtful and the second impossible.
A man who is very dear to me and loves me alot summaried 'my problem' when it comes to street harassment: "Your problem is that you think that you deserve to be left alone. Nobody else thinks that".
There are no quick solutions, because street harassment is so widespread and so accepted that it will take time for society to realise that it's harmful and problematic. However, what we can do now is stop telling women to be safe, and start telling men to not make women unsafe. It's time to focus on the perpetrator instead of the victim. Stop shrugging harassment off as a 'lads' prank', and 'not such a big deal', because 'boys will be boys' and lad culture makes all this acceptable. If a woman tells you she's been harassed please listen to her, accept her feelings and don't blame the harassment on her failure to protect herself".