I was egged by a group of young men while I was standing on a street corner. I kept the attack to myself, but now I wish I hadn’t.
I was waiting to cross the road in a busy part of my hometown when it happened. A warm mid-week night, there were plenty of people around. I’d had a good night. Dinner with a friend and some late night shopping.
So as I stood by the side of the road waiting for the traffic to subside, a car approached. Suddenly I heard loud and unhinged cheers. Three young men stuck their torsos out of the car windows. I felt stinging pain on my neck. I didn’t see them throw the eggs, but by now I was wet. Raw egg dripping down my shirt. Even my bra was completely soaked.
“Why would somebody do something like that?” I said to the strangers who now surrounded me. The truth is, I was embarrassed, like I was somehow responsible for what had just occurred. I didn’t know what to say to these people who were looking at me all bewildered and sympathetic. A kind woman gave me some tissues and a man who’d got out of his car to see if I was OK said, “They’re stupid.”
But nobody said anything about reporting the incident to the police. The egg-throwers were long gone and it had all happened so quickly, there was no opportunity to get a license plate number. So I wiped myself down as best I could, crossed the road, and got on my bike. It only took five minutes, but as I rode a route I’d ridden a million times before, my world felt different.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would never really know what was about to happen next. And that there was nothing I could do about it. I’ve lived happily here since my early-20s, but being out alone now made me nervous.
Mere blocks from the place where a woman was raped and murdered a year earlier, being egged is hardly the worst thing that can happen to a person. But still, I kept wondering why they had chosen me. Was it something to do with the way I looked? Did I remind them of a hated teacher? Did they think I dressed funny? Did I repulse them?
Later, when I told my friend with whom I’d had dinner about the incident she told me that she’d seen the same car driving down the road minutes earlier. “They threw something at me, but missed.” she said. “I thought it was a water bomb. There were all these couples around but they were only targeting women on their own.”
That’s when I felt relief. The attack wasn’t personal. At least not completely. It was because I was a woman, on my own, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I know I shouldn’t have felt this way and I was baffled by these feelings of self-blame. Yet I am far from alone. It is estimated that only about one-third of crime victims go to the police and that women are less likely to report crimes committed against them than men. The reasons for this lack of reporting are varied and complex, but I wonder how many women there are out there like me, who are a little ashamed of what happened to them. Thinking that there’s no point in going to the police. That nothing can be done anyway.
I’m fine. I’m certainly not scarred for life. And yes, it is unlikely that going to the police would have done any good. But it would have enabled me to say that what happened was wrong. Officially. It would have given me a sense of power and control. And that’s why I regret being in the two-thirds of women who stay silent when they become a victim of crime.
Winnie Salamon is an author and journalist. She has a PhD about the plight of reality TV contestants and lectures in media studies at the University of Melbourne.