This post was originally published on Hear to Change on 1 November 2017.
I was 10. My mother had just let my younger sister and I go shopping together alone for the first time, and we had already spent hours giggling and wondering what to spend our holiday pocket money on. We were in a drugstore when he approached us. He must have been 17 or 18, with his pale, adolescent face covered in freckles. He told me he thought I was cute, and he that he liked the hairband I was wearing. I flushed, not knowing how to react, unused to interaction with older boys. He started asking us where we were going. Conscious not to appear nervous in front of this stranger, with my sister looking on, I mumbled that we were leaving, and walked out of the store quickly. He followed closely behind, asking if he could come with us. His hand first on my shoulder, then on the small of my back. He was so much bigger than us. We walked faster, then faster still, almost out of breath as we reached the nearest taxi rank. We didn’t know where to ask the taxi driver to go, but we knew we had to leave. My sister jumped in first. As I went to follow her, his hands clutched at me. It was the first time anyone had ever touched me in such an intimate way, in such intimate places, and I was terrified. Shaking, I shoved him off and slammed the taxi door. We asked the taxi driver to circle the block a few times before we got out and waited to be picked up in a quiet corner of the mall. Many years later, I still wonder how he could have thought that my body was his to touch. I wish I could have had the courage to shout at him to stop. To hit his hands away in disgust, instead of freeze in terror. To tell him that what he was doing was wrong.