Put yourself in her shoes: 'Every woman I know has a story'
Vickey Curtis was attacked in Dublin two years ago, after a taxi driver wrongly claimed she hadn’t paid him. “He pulled over and started screaming at me. I told him the Garda station was down the road and to bring me there to settle the argument. He flipped the lid because he was obviously trying to scam me. He got out of the driver’s seat, and I had my bag around my shoulder, and he pulled the bag and me out of the car.
“As he was screaming I dialed 999, and then he started punching me in the face. I punched him back. When he heard me on the phone to the gardaí, he got in and drove off.” Curtis reported the incident but was told by the Garda that they “couldn’t do anything because I didn’t have his licence. I didn’t get that number, obviously, because I was being punched in the face at the time. They said that the likelihood was that he was an illegal driver hiring the car off somebody else, so they couldn’t do anything about it anyway.”
Since then Curtis has taken a photograph of a taxi’s licence anytime she gets in one, or jots the number down in her phone.
Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, chief executive of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, refers to the upcoming Trinity campaign, saying, “It’s not just potential victims who need to heed preventative things.”
She also makes the point that reaction to harassment is not universal. “Someone being grabbed in a pub might have a devastating effect on one person but not on another. To interfere with someone in that way, it’s about not having respect for boundaries. It seems that people don’t have that kind of respect . . . Everybody’s individual space is very important. It’s nobody’s right to interrupt that in any way. That seems to be a basic learning that a lot of people don’t have.”
Hazel Cullen, now in her 20s, was with two friends when they were attacked as teenagers in Wicklow, after a man offered to help with a bike they were carrying up steps.
“He turned around to my friend and said, ‘Will you meet me?’ She said no. He said, ‘Come on,’ then he grabbed her by the arm. She clocked him across the face, and I told him to get a grip. Then he walked up the lane ahead of us.”
The man was hiding ahead of them, and when they walked by “he jumped out, punched me in the face, then jumped on top of her, and tried to rip her clothes off. I was punching him in the back, and eventually he gave up and walked away. He wasn’t drunk. He was strange, but he seemed fairly lucid.”
Cullen injured her hand fending off the attacker. “I would say I feel there’s a cultural problem,” she says. “We need to do something about that. It’s a funny one saying to girls, ‘Don’t walk home on your own,’ because that reminds me of the blame thing. Who are we blaming for this? I know so many people who have been attacked, and harassment is an everyday reality. It’s totally commonplace. Every woman I know has a story.”
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s national 24-hour helpline is 1800-778888