Stories of sexual harassment and assault are, sadly, not unusual, but a recent assault on a woman in Paris has gone viral in dramatic fashion.
CCTV outside a café captured most of the incident, which was posted to Facebook by the victim, Marie Laguerre. In the footage, a man is seen walking past the twenty-two-year-old Laguerre. He evidently says something to her, as she turns round and throws a comment his way as he continues walking. She keeps walking too. Then the man stops, grabs an ashtray and hurls it across a terrace of people in her general direction. He makes his way over to her and assaults her. It makes for shocking viewing.
[EDIT : A tous ceux qui disent que les témoins n'ont pas assez bien réagi : tout s'est passé très vite et ils n'ont pas eu le temps de comprendre la situation. L'agresseur était dangereux. Après l'agression, je suis revenue et les témoins ont été d'un grand soutien, merci de ne pas les lyncher] Hier soir, alors que je rentrais chez moi, vers le Boulevard de la Villette dans le 19ème arrondissement à Paris, j'ai croisé un homme. Il s'est permis de m'adresser des bruits/commentaires/sifflements/coup de langue sales, de manière humiliante et provocante à mon passage. Pas de chance, c'était pas le premier de la journée et j'étais fatiguée. J'ai donc lâché un "ta gueule" en traçant ma route. Car je ne tolère pas ce genre de comportement. Je ne peux pas me taire et nous ne devons plus nous taire. Ça n'a pas plu à cet homme. Après m'avoir jeté un cendrier dessus, il est revenu sur ses pas et m'a suivi dans la rue. Il m'a frappé au visage, en pleine rue, en pleine journée, devant des dizaines de témoins. J'ai porté plainte. Ce n'est pas le seul. Le harcèlement c'est au quotidien. Ces hommes qui se croient tout permis dans la rue, qui se permettent de nous humilier et qui ne supportent pas qu'on s'en offusque, c'est inadmissible. Il est temps que ce genre de comportement CESSE. #NousToutesPosted by Marie Laguerre on Wednesday, 25 July 2018
Laguerre later said the man had verbally harassed her, making sexually suggestive comments. She had simply told him to shut up. The incident was particularly disturbing in how suddenly the encounter turned nasty. People – mostly men – were quick to come to Laguerre’s aid by confronting the man. But she cuts a lonely figure, standing by herself in the immediate aftermath of the assault. However, in response to criticism that others there didn’t seem to offer help, she noted on her Facebook page:
“To all those who say that witnesses have not reacted enough: everything happened very quickly and they did not have time to understand the situation. The attacker was dangerous. After the assault, I came back and witnesses were of great support.”
In the midst of all the recent – welcome - discussion around sexism, sexual harassment and equality it is disappointing, and worrying, that such incidents still happen often. Along with long-established, everyday occurrences like cat calling and unwanted comments as women go about their days, the toxic undercurrent still has strength.
Certain arms of the media make it worse too – from the body shaming articles around celebrities weight gains and losses to the decidedly unsavoury practice of ‘up skirting’. The term refers to when paparazzi angle their cameras low to get shots of female celebrities’ crotches and asses. No, it’s not a smack to the face but it is a kind of assault nonetheless and is intrusive and violating.
Irish presenter Laura Whitmore has been vocal about the practice recently. Back in May, she tweeted about a petition to have the practice added to the UK Sexual Offences Act.
Upskirting should be a criminal offence and not supported by our media outlets. It’s is a violation of privacy and degrading of women— Laura Whitmore (@thewhitmore) May 27, 2018
And in June it was announced that British Prime Minister Teresa May is to introduce a new upskirting law in the England and Wales (it is already an offence in Scotland).
This Morning co-host, Holly Willoughby has addressed such invasive behaviour too. After the Brit Awards in February, she took to her Instagram account to express disgust at the upskirting attempts by paparazzi.
The incidents were made all the worse as that evening guests carried white roses. The aim: to highlight the #MeToo movement and promote gender equality and respect for women. The evening enfed on a different tone.
Most women know the familiar experience of being at the receiving end of unwanted comments and attention. If we were tempted to respond to the perpetrators, would we do so now?
Truly, there is much to be hopeful about, as we continue to discuss harassment and assaults, but there is clearly still a long way to go.