Where there is a movement to end sexual harassment and assault, there will always be one denier. In Australia’s case, it was Claire Lehmann, who took to Twitter to respond to a piece titled ‘I’m a walking target for men on our city’s street’, an article published in The Sydney Morning Herald which detailed the sexual harassment one woman faces in her everyday life.
Lehmann tweeted the article with the caption ‘Men don’t grope on Australian trains. This is straight up fantasy.’ This outrageous claim which roughly translates as ‘I have never been assaulted on a train therefore all claims of assault on trains are fantasy’, received a ton of backlash, resulting in women recounting their own experiences of sexual assault on public transport.
Dr. Emma Beckett responded with ‘All of us who have experienced it must be imagining it then? What about the time a guy on the train just started masturbating in a carriage occupied by just myself and a school girl? Did I imagine that too?’. With another user, Kirra O’Malley, tweeting, ‘so the man who trapped me between two carriages and threatened me with a razor blade while he groped me wasn't real? brilliant. I’ll just let that trauma fall out of my head now then.’
Una Butorac opened up about countless time’s she’s been assaulted on trains, saying ‘Oh ok, I guess that’s sorted then. Everyone can go home...except that I had men on trains touch me on the ass, masturbate across the seat from me and another show me a copy of school girl pornography all while I was in high school. #notafantasy’ as did Elise, who tweeted: ‘As a schoolgirl I was: followed; touched; verbally abused; propositioned; and, on one memorable occasion, had a young businessman spend the entire trip (40min) kneeling on the seat in front, facing me over its back, staring at me the entire time. Sydney trains 😍’'
They were joined by countless other women with stories of groping, public masturbating and unwanted touching on many journeys over many years. The harrowing accounts not only proved Lehmann’s irresponsible tweet completely wrong, but also highlighted the extent to which sexual harassment is prevalent everywhere you go as a woman.
One user aptly responded to Lehmann’s tweet with the brilliant: ‘I often fantasise about existing in a world where my ass doesn’t get grabbed by men on late night trains.’
Not only picking up on her odd choice of word claiming that sexual harassment is in some way a ‘fantasy’, Tara perfectly outlined the irony of this woman seemingly living in a harassment-free world while the rest of us have to confront it regularly.
It’s ignorant denials of sexual assault such as this that makes it so difficult for women to come forward with their claims and justifies that lack of legal justice women so often receive in response to harassment and assault claims. Police already do little to tackle crimes that disproportionally impact women, we don’t need anyone giving them more reason to do so.