Gaia’s Story – ‘ He was so close to me, I was scared he could hit me easily and I couldn’t get away, pinned in by all the people. ‘

I was on a bus in a large city. The bus was packed with schoolchildren. The wheelchair space was set up that in using it, I ‘blocked’ 4 pull down seats. I felt terrible as people kept complaining about how few seats there were. At a bus stop, a very old man tried to get on, but there wasn’t a seat. I gestured to the seat facing me, he sat in it. During the journey, he kept touching my legs and telling me I was “very beautiful” and was “coping so well with my disability”. I was very scared and situated very close to him. I felt guilty as I had invited him to sit in the first place. I told him, “I’ll tell my husband that you think I am beautiful”. As a feminist, I didn’t want to have to invoke another man’s “claim” to me. But it worked, he took his hands off my legs. But he kept saying he “hoped my husband knows how beautiful I am”. I was worried that if I pushed him away or said “no” or shouted or asked for help that people would say he was “only being friendly” and that I was “overreacting”. He was so close to me, I was scared he could hit me easily and I couldn’t get away, pinned in by all the people. I got off as soon as I could. But as I got off, an old lady was struggling with her grandchild, buggy and a dog. She said “please, someone help me!”. I was behind her and offered to help (I could have held the buggy on my lap, held the dog’s lead or even held the child [I am trained to work therapeutically with children and DBS checked]). But she shouted at me “Not you!”. When I got off the bus I was shaking and crying. I felt scared to be in the city alone. I have often had similar experiences. Even when it doesn’t happen, I am scared of it happening. 

Author: Hannah Mason-Bish

Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex

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