A 19-year-old woman is the latest high-profile case of catcalling. According to the Evening Standard, Pagan Lilley Motlagh-Phillips says she and her 18-year-old brother were walking down a London street on June 6 when two men on a moped approached and the driver shouted at her, “Are you all right, darling?”
Motlagh-Phillips, who was strolling at Cherry Tree Walk in Rainham, says that she ignored the men, opting not to respond, but her silence further angered the driver, and according to her, he demanded a response. Her brother told the fellow to leave them alone, which made the driver threaten to run her and her brother over. Motlagh-Phillips said the man then drove down the road only to come back toward them. She pushed her brother out of the way, was hit by the bike, and was left unconscious after impact. The driver advanced in her direction and she says he then reversed over her. “This man took a moped and ran me over because I didn’t entertain his advances. I didn’t swear, I wasn’t abusive, but he ran me over in broad daylight,” she told BuzzFeed News. Motlagh-Phillips, who wound up at a nearby hospital with internal bruising, needed crutches after the incident.
How this young woman was treated is enough to make anyone’s blood boil, but what was more devastating was the lack of support Motlagh-Phillips said she received from the authorities. “I sent the screen shots to the police officer who was dealing with my case it took them a 6 weeks to arrest him,” she tweeted. “They released him within 2 hours … When I asked why do you know what they said? He has no previous convictions & theres no messages on his phone to indicate he ran someone over … Wait it gets better. I said shocked ‘does he have an alibi?’ You know what they said to me ‘No, He doesn’t remember where he was.'”
According to BuzzFeed, a 21-year-old male was arrested on June 30 and released by the police, which on Aug. 4, tweeted out a call for witnesses of the incident. But according to Motlagh-Phillips, that same day she received an email from the police to let her know that the department would not be investigating further. “All possible investigative leads have been explored and the investigation has concluded, but should any additional information come to light which will help to identify the suspects, this will be reviewed by the investigating team,” the police department said in a statement. Motlagh-Phillips says one of the higher-up officers told her, “Violent muggings and stabbings had to be prioritized.”
This is not the first case of a woman being physically attacked after ignoring or rejecting unwanted street harassment. Over Labor Day weekend at the J’Ouvert festival in Brooklyn, N.Y., a man grinded on 22-year-old student Tiarah Poyau. When she told the guy to get off her, he fatally shot her. In Kansas City, Mo., Chelsea Rodriguez was attacked after rejecting the advances of three catcallers. She and a male coworker were beaten by the men, though Rodriguez said her coworker is part of the reason she survived. A woman in New York City was attacked on a subway platform when she ignored a catcaller, who spit on her and then slashed her arm with a knife. Tyrelle D. Shaw attacked several Asian women in New York City, hitting them in the face with a plastic bag holding a heavy object. “I’ve been rejected, so much I feel absolutely numb,” he wrote on his personal blog, saying he wanted to “hit over a million Asian Women in the face with a stick.” Adrian Mendez in Marion County, Fla., ran over a 14-year-old girl with his SUV after she refused to have sex with him for $200. A Louisiana woman was hit in the face with a metal pipe after being harassed by a group of men.
No woman should have to fear for her life when approached by a man, yet so many are attacked when they don’t respond to or reject unwanted advances. This is why women are coming out against catcalling. It’s not a compliment. It’s not flattering. It’s terrifying. And the fact that a woman’s only option seems to be engaging with a person she doesn’t want to talk to in order to avoid being physically or verbally attacked, is supremely unfair. Whether you are polite, hostile, or silent, the danger is still present and very real.
Catcalling isn’t just a trivial nuisance. It’s a scary, day-to-day thing that leaves women feeling uncomfortable, unsafe, and often injured or dead. It’s time for the men of the world who are guilty of this practice to do better and stop making excuses, period.