The #MeToo movement is growing.
Women have been sharing the hashtag on social media as a sign of solidarity to survivors of sexual harassment, assault and abuse. Dubliner, Niamh Byrne felt it was important to speak out and not be shamed by anyone. She bravely shared her experience:
"I will never forget the worst incident- and there have been a few, believe me. 17 years ago, I got separated from my friends in Temple Bar on a busy bank holiday night out. I was yapping on my phone. When I turned around my friends were gone.
There were so many of us nobody noticed I wasn't there, until I rang them, and they had walked too far from me. I hailed a hackney. It took a while. Like I said, busy bank holiday. Nightmare to get a taxi.
As soon as I got in, I knew something was wrong.
"You're being paranoid", I convinced myself, while taking my phone out of my bag. Just in case.
He took off so fast my head hit the head support behind me. I knew we were going the wrong way so I rang my friend to ask her, in all of my naivety, to leave some extra cash out under her doorstep. We spoke in Irish. He was taking the long way home so he could charge more. Yeah, that's what he was doing. She left €20 under her doormat.
It took him about 5 minutes to speed from Temple Bar to the Strawberry Beds area. In those 5 minutes, I desperately called my Dad's mobile. "Please answer." Nope. I called my boyfriend at the time. He spoke with him. The man became angry and agitated. I still convinced myself he was just taking the long way home. When he threw the phone back at me violently I was talking myself out of a panic. "Deep breaths. It's gonna be ok. You're being paranoid. He's taking you home."
I considered jumping out but he was already annoyed that I had rung others. Besides, he was driving too fast. Later we worked out that he drove at at least 100kph if not more the whole way. To the narrow "country" road where he had probably meticulously planned to take me, or whatever woman he got his hands on.
He pulled me out of the car roughly, I was pleading with him. He pulled me around to the boot of the car. (I later learned this was a sinister sign). I pleaded with him. I struggled. I told him all the people I had rung would be out looking for me and who knew I was on the way home. He hit me over the head with something.
I came to in the corner of a field a few moments later, my phone still in my hand. It was sore. My handbag was in his car still.
I could feel something trickling down my face. Blood? Shit. My head was bleeding. My phone was ringing. The light was flashing on the screen and I didn't want to be seen or heard. It was Ian, checking to see I "got home ok". I told him what happened, in a whisper. You see, it was so dark, I couldn't see my hand in front of my face.
I couldn't tell if the man was nearby/ gone/ still on the road, waiting to run me over. My boyfriend talked me into walking onto the road with my hood up, and running towards the nearest house with lights on. The Gardaí came, took me to hospital after we retraced my steps. My head had to be glued where I had been hit.
The next day, while out with the Gardaí retracing my steps, I turned, now in the daylight, to see my Dad, a stoic man who never cries. On his honkers. In the middle of the road. There was a stream nearby. And a hut. He was having a moment.
"How are you alive? How did you get away? We could have found your body here... in a few days...weeks even..." It was a sickening moment of realisation. He could have been here under hugely different circumstances.
I still don't know how I got away. Someone was watching over me that night. What struck me in the aftermath, was people's attitudes to the whole thing.
"Oh you were out walking on your own."
"Oh you were drinking."
There were even rumours about what I wore:
"Oh, she was wearing a skimpy outfit."
Nobody said "what an evil, angry, aggressive man to have premeditated this...". Well, maybe the Gardaí said that...
I WASN'T wearing a skimpy outfit, all that was visible were my hands and face (if even). Not that that matters. It was a series of unfortunate events that culminated in me being abducted and assaulted and somehow escaping sexual assault or worse. My friends felt awful. My boyfriend felt awful. I felt awful for causing so much upset. My parents were shaken. And relieved. And yet, all I could think was "who has he hurt before?" "Who will he hurt next?" "Does HE feel bad?"
I doubt it.
Perhaps we can focus more on teaching boys/men not to "help themselves". I am lucky. But so many others aren't."