My 13-year-old daughter and I went to see Jane Eyre at the National Theatre on the South Bank, a few weeks ago. It was a clear night and we walked across the bridge to catch the tube, talking about the play as we went. Jane Eyre’s strong sense of justice comes across early in this exciting production, along with her independent will and ability to make clear choices in a world where women were expected to behave in particular, passive, conformist ways.

It was pretty late when we boarded the train, and the carriage was almost full of other theatregoers on their way home. My daughter was sitting on my right and the only free seat was on my left. After a couple of stops, a man got on. It was hard to tell, but he was probably in his 30s. He cast his eyes around the carriage before declaring, quite loudly, that someone would have to move. “I want to sit opposite her,” he said, staring at my daughter.

I could feel her physically recoil beside me, hardly able to believe that he was talking about her. She looked at me wide-eyed and didn’t speak, but grabbed my hand with her smaller sweaty one. I reassured her that it was OK. “There’s a seat next to me,” I told him.

No one else in the carriage spoke or even looked at us. He sat down very close next to me and proceeded to stare across at my daughter, craning to see round me. “What’s your name?” he asked. She didn’t reply.

“Pretty, pretty, pretty,” he said.

I told him quite clearly that she did not wish to speak to him and that I would like him to stop. Again, no one else said or did anything to help or support us.

For me, this was a first. The first time I had been out with my newly teenage daughter when she was sexually harassed. I felt ashamed about not knowing whether she had already been subjected to something like this before, when I was not with her, and I felt nervous to ask – she looked so fearful.

I also felt a sense of responsibility or fault. She had been late home from school, rushing to get changed and, as we left the house, I had grabbed a tailored jacket for her. It belonged to me and she wore it over a short, navy H&M dress, with socks and Doc Marten shoes. Her legs were bare. Maybe I should have taken a moment and insisted she wore tights? Or a longer skirt? Or trousers? So, already I was experiencing feelings of guilt and shame, and the harassment was not even aimed at me.

The incident also felt threatening and isolating. By now, we were four or five stops from our destination and my daughter had hold of my hand very tightly. I told the man we were going to move, but he got up himself and moved further down the carriage as a couple of seats had become vacant.

Now other passengers started to look up at us, one offering a tiny smile. Although the man had moved away, my daughter seemed to feel no safer and asked if we could leave the train before our stop and walk the rest of the way home, but we didn’t.

© and source/ rest: theguardian

(Excerpt etc. first posted on feimineach.com. Orig. attribution above.)

#womensstoires: He sexually harassed my 13-year-old daughter – right in front of me