A leading Church of Scotland woman elder asked this question in the wake of the high profile kidnap and murder of Susan Everard – “Why is it that boys and men get away with making us feel unsafe?”.
Susan Pym, wife of BBC Health Editor Hugh Pym, has recounted on social media her own experience of being sexually harassed by men.
The former pupil of Dumbarton Academy, who lives with her husband and grown-up family in London wrote: “I am so sad for Sarah Everard and her family. It has made me reflect on how unsafe women feel, how vulnerable we are. Why is it that boys and men get away with making us feel unsafe?”
To illustrate her point she showed a picture of tennis player Pat Cash the day he won Wimbledon in 1987.
Susan, who is a member of Riverside Parish Church, Dumbarton, where her husband has over the years given a number of talks to the congregation, added: “Why? Because I was there at that moment when he put the trophy lid on his little boy‘s head. I have exactly the same photo.
“What you don’t see is, at that very moment, a man who has a jacket over his arm, is rubbing himself against me from behind. I couldn’t move.
“As the crowd dispersed I turned around and shouted in his face and then two other women came up and shouted at him.
“He had done it to them too but the crowd was too big to get away. He denied it and left in a hurry.”
A previous Reclaim the Night march in Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire.
“Why is it that boys and men get away with making us feel unsafe?”
Susan, who is an elder of St Andrew’s Church of Scotland in London and attends the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh each year, added: “I have so many more stories; of being groped by a boy at school every time he walked past in the corridor, of my driving instructor who would stroke my leg as we practised parking, of being followed by a man in Paddington when I was 22 and having to run into a cafe to escape, of often changing carriages in the tube to get away from male pests; of two women who independently told me that a man was rubbing himself against them at a bar at a family party, a\nd of my daughter who at 15 was followed by a foreign student on the London tube in the middle of the afternoon. He was caught!
“She bravely reported it to transport police and with CCTV they caught him. He was imprisoned and had 14 counts against him.
“So to my male friends out there, please never think women ‘ask for it’.
“We should be just as safe as you are walking in the streets at any time of the day or night. These moments of revulsion and fear haunt all women, we just don’t talk about it enough.”
There was an immediate, supportive response to Susan’s post.
Kate Macnish said: “I don’t think there is a woman in the country who could claim never to have been accosted, threatened, abused, stalked or attacked by a man. We all have those experiences that are fixed in our minds, that wake us up in the night.”
Hannah Mary Scott-Goodlad posted: “Oh Susan, I’m so glad you shared your story. It makes me angry and hurt. “Not every man is…, but every woman has…”
The Pym family – Susan, Hugh, Kirsty, Andrew and grandmother Joan have all come out in support of Susan speaking out.
Susan has received support from her family for going public on this. Son, Andrew Pym, wrote: “Well done for sharing Mum ” and daughter Kirsty added: “Well said, I notice it happening on a daily basis. Even just walking to the tube my friends and I experience catcalling as if it is part of our daily commute.”
Her husband, Hugh, an award-winning journalist health editor of BBC Television added: ” Well said Susan – very important we face up to and discuss the reality of what is happening.”
Susan, whose mother, Joan, lives in Barloan, Dumbarton, said: “To guys who have read this far down, ask your daughters, your wives, your sisters, girlfriends and your mums if they have had such an experience. You might well be very surprised. You might also be encouraging them to speak for the very first time.
Another friend, Joseph Fleetwood, said: “Women don’t ask for it. If men do horrible things to women it’s because men choose to do it. That script needs to be flipped pdq.”
Susan replied: “It is only now we feel we can talk openly about these kinds of incidents and not feel ashamed and as though it was our fault in some way.
Church elder Susan Pym meeting Her Majesty the Queen.