Victim shaming is a term I have only recently become aware of but I first felt the consequences of it when I was just thirteen.
Myself and my friends used to have a favourite pizza place in town, every Friday we’d meet up there after school and we became quite friendly with the owner whose name was Fanta and one of the delivery drivers named Mohammed. For some reason or another Mohammed took a shine to me, he paid me lots of compliments, all of which made me very uncomfortable. As a young teenage girl I did not know how to receive this unwanted attention from a thirty something year old man so I followed my friends lead, laugh at it all and say how crazy this guy was.
Soon Fanta told us that Mohammed was becoming obsessed with me, Mohammed thought I was lying when I said I was just thirteen and he would drive over to the local college everyday thinking he could catch me out there. This terrified me but I didn’t tell anyone because I was embarrassed that I had attracted such a screw job.
Not long after that when me and my friends where walking through town one night we bumped into Mohammed who was sitting in his parked car by the road. He called me over and of course I turned the other way to leave, but my friends finding this whole scenario hilarious dragged me over to him, then they ran away leaving me alone. He opened his passenger door leaned over and told me to kiss him. I drew away in disgust and he grabbed my arm trying to pull me into his car. I managed to get away from him and caught up with my friends. I was so furious at them, we got into a huge argument, I said they shouldn’t have left me on my own with him. They said I shouldn’t have let it get this far.
I stormed off and headed home, on my way back I heard Mohammed shouting my name again. He was driving alongside me telling me to get in the car, I tried to ignore him. He drove on and pulled up ahead of me, he then climbed out of the car and tried to grab me again. I’ve never run as fast before or since that night. I ran up a side street and headed to the main square in town, I thought he would leave me alone if there were people to see him.
He didn’t follow me to the square and I felt safe surrounded by people, I bumped into my brothers best friend, who, when seeing how out of breath I was asked me if I was okay. I told him I was just heading home and decided it was best not to tell him that I was currently being pursued by a grown man, he probably wouldn’t believe me anyway.
When I eventually got to my street I was so pleased to see my house…however I wasn’t pleased to see Mohammed parked outside my front door, waiting for me. I scaled my high garden wall and crept in through the back door, I left the lights off and ran upstairs, watching him from the window above, willing him to leave. I was on my own that night, my brother was at a party and my parents were both at work. I was thirteen years old, home alone, petrified of the man waiting outside my door. My first thoughts?
“I’m going to be in so much trouble.”
“Why did I let this get so out of hand?”
“What did I do to lead him on?”
Eventually he left. He drove away and I never saw him again.
To say I have experienced victim shaming may seem a bit unfair. I was never abducted or raped or anything as horrific as that but I could have been, that evening could’ve played out very differently for me.
Looking back I realise that I didn’t have to go through all those weeks of his attention, I shouldn’t have spent months afterwards worried that he was going to show up wherever I was. I had plenty of opportunities to tell someone that this guy was harassing me but I didn’t take them because I feared how my cries for help would be received. I feared being mocked, I feared not being be levied and I feared being blamed. At thirteen I had no idea what victim shaming was but clearly I had already been acclimatised to it.