Harassment: The shock of being abused by a stranger on the street

The shock of being abused by a stranger on the street

Here in NSW Monday was a public holiday to mark the Queen’s Birthday.

Sydney was noticeably quieter than usual, presumably because many took the opportunity to flee the city and enjoy the long weekend away. We didn’t.

We stayed local and enjoyed having very little to do.

On Monday morning my three daughters, aged 9, 6 & 3, and I set out for a scoot in our local neighbourhood to get a coffee and milkshakes.

It was a lazy stroll, the girls took turns racing, being the leader, picking flowers. The sun was shining and the streets were dead: it was an idyllic suburban scene.

After we’d stopped at a nearby cafe we were making our way back home when the serenity was interrupted. Rudely.

As we turned off the main road, onto one of the streets back towards our home, a man driving a white car swerved towards us, leaned out the window and screamed “F&*(ING SLUTS!”

There were no other cars on the road and we’d barely seen another person the whole time we were out. It was clear we were the subjects of his verbal abuse.


It is not the first time I have ever experienced this type of harassment (show me a woman who hasn’t) but it’s the first time that it’s happened to my kids. That it happened in broad daylight, in the middle of suburbia, on a quiet public holiday, without a trigger, shook me.

It possibly shouldn’t have shocked me given how prevalent this behaviour is, but it did.

Even though he immediately sped off, away from us, it felt horribly, disconcerting. I felt unsafe.

Did he know us? 

Why did he say those words?

Why was he so angry?

What do those words mean?

These were the questions my middle child posed and they weren’t questions I couldn’t confidently or accurately answer.

I posted something on Twitter about the experience soon after it happened and I was bombarded with kind responses and messages of solidarity.

Sadly this kind of verbal harassment isn’t rare and the vast majority of people who got in touch did so to say they hoped my girls and I were ok. They were sorry this had happened.

But soon enough, of course, the detractors came.

I obviously made it up because I had nothing else to tweet. Only ‘feminists’ would ever concoct such a bogus claim. #ThingsThatDidNotHappen.

It’s not the first time I have experienced this. Not being believed. Having my words and intentions misconstrued to fit the grand conspiracy that I hate all men.

It is almost as predictable and disconcerting as being harassed on the street. And yet both remain deeply shocking.

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