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Róisín Ingle: I watch as teenage boys hunt teenage girls at Howth Junction

Rage comes up from the part of me that had to expect the unexpected when I was a teenage girl

In the 42-second CCTV video I saw on Twitter, a video I can’t stop watching, several teenage girls are rushing to catch a Dart that has just arrived on the platform at Howth Junction in Dublin.

One of the teenage girls, who has long brown hair, pushes the button to open the train door but not all the doors are opening. She realises she must rush ahead further down the platform to find a door that will open and hopefully let her on. Now other teenage girls with long hair appear, running, trying to board the train. It’s mundane enough, the beginning of it anyway, this 42-second CCTV video that I can’t stop watching.

Also on the platform at Howth Junction train station are a group of teenage boys who have just come off the Dart. I see them in the CCTV video, the one I’ve watched about a hundred times. Some of the teenage boys are wheeling bicycles. Some of them have their hoods pulled up as they walk away from the train.

At about 24 seconds a girl in a black headband can be seen trying to board the train. The doors don’t open so she runs quickly towards the other doors further down the platform. As she passes them, one of the boys on the bikes lifts his leg behind him, like he’s doing a trick shot at soccer practice, and aims his runner at the side of the girl’s head. He is a very good shot, the teenage boy on the bike. It’s almost like he’s done this backward kick before. His foot connects with the girl’s head, or the side of her face, and at 26 seconds I watch as the girl, barely breaking her stride, just keeps on running, her small black handbag swinging on a thin strap from her shoulder. It’s almost as though this has happened before or at least something similar has happened before and she’s not at all surprised to be kicked in the head by a teenage boy as she runs for the train.


At 30 seconds in the CCTV video I can’t stop watching, another girl is rushing for the Dart. As she passes, one of the boys (who doesn’t have a bike) takes aim and spits at her. She keeps going, they all do, the teenage girls running for the train, running for the train away from the spitting, kicking teenage boys. Running away from the gender-based violence up the junction. But they don’t call it that. We don’t call it that.

At 33 seconds we see another girl running on the platform at Howth Junction to catch a train. She is small and slight with long dark hair. She looks about 17. I don’t know where she is going, home maybe or to meet a friend. She is carrying a plastic bag as she rushes to catch her train.

It all happens very quickly, so quickly that I have to keep watching again and again in order to understand exactly what has happened. First the spitting boy, seeing her coming and taking aim, spits with precision at the side of her face. The girl is not expecting this to happen but perhaps she knows, instinctively as she moves through the world in her teenage girl body, to expect the unexpected because she swerves. She has excellent reflexes.

She swerves expertly to avoid the boy’s spit, like an avatar in a violent video game, and as she swerves, another boy, a friend of the spitting one, shoves the wheel of his bicycle at her. It’s like a violent video game and now it’s like a disaster movie, because now the ground seems to open up and in a second the girl is gone. Gone girl. Not on the train. She has stumbled and fallen head first into the gap between the train and the platform. She has disappeared from view in the CCTV video I can’t stop watching.

Mind The Gap, is what they say on the London Underground. Mind The Gap. You don't expect to be pushed into the gap

She is carrying a plastic bag and as I watch her tumble headfirst into the gap between the train and the platform’s edge, I wonder what was in the plastic bag and whether her hand let go of the bag as she fell headfirst down to the tracks below. It’s not important, it’s only a plastic bag, but I think about this detail as I gawp at the CCTV video I can’t stop watching.

I try to put myself in the girls’ shoes but I can’t. I find myself being glad that I am too lazy to ever run for a Dart. Grateful I am too large bodied to fall through the crack between the platform and the green train. Mind The Gap, is what they say on the London Underground. Mind The Gap. You don’t expect to be pushed into the gap. Even some of the boys are shocked when it happens. Shocked, like a footballer who has scored an unexpected goal.

The girl is swallowed by the gap and the boy wheels his bike on away from her, like it’s nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, the spitting boy raises his two hands to his head, stunned, like he can’t quite believe that if you go around spitting at girls as they run for the train that it might have terrible, unforeseen consequences.

I’ve watched the video of long-haired teenage girls running along the platform a hundred times or so now. I’ve watched it on a loop to see how long it will take to be desensitised to it. But no matter how many times I watch, the disgust curdles in my stomach and rage comes up from the teenage girl part of me that will never forget all the times I knew to expect the unexpected things that were going to happen to me because I was a teenage girl.

And all I can do is keep watching. I watch as teenage boys hunt teenage girls on a 42-second CCTV video. And I think of all the teenage girls who are prey for them as we give thanks for the easing of restrictions this week, for all the old freedoms returned, for all the haircuts and hugs. Prey for them.