The Predator Isn’t Always A Celebrity!
In a week which has seen yet another celebrity in the news for his alleged sexual assault on women I am reminded that not a lot changes. All women have stories. We do, we all have them, and while mouths open to spout rubbish like “Why now? Why didn’t they say something at the time, funny how it all comes out together isn’t it?” I want to shout from the rooftops that when you are young, impressionable, bedazzled and exposed to behaviour with a narrative that it is “normal”, saying something “at the time” isn’t always an option. It is often only with hindsight, and often a lot of it, that we can look back and feel certain enough that it was wrong, or that we weren’t just imagining it to be so.
Or, perhaps with experience of life when we become strong enough to stand up and be counted it is the first time we really feel we can say those now famous words, “me too” and tell the stories that unfortunately belong to us. And with that, there is also safety in numbers. One person puts their head above the parapet making it easier for everyone else. We’ve come a long way in recent years when learning how to call men out for their bad behaviour. From those pattings on the bottom delivered by bosses in the office, to the groping, advances and other unwanted attention we will have all of us felt at times, this is a new era and yet still we have the condition of requiring justification on calling it out. Still strong women who ARE capable of standing up to be counted, women like Kathryn Ryan for instance, who won’t divulge WHO she was talking about when she categorically announced there is a predator on the same circuit of work as her for fear of his legal team shutting her down, can’t open their mouths wide enough because the power that lies within the hands of the manipulator can often still be too strong to cope with.
The questions then come thick and fast once it finally can be revealed, “why now?” followed by “some men” saying “but it’s not all men” failing to understand that we know that chump. However, unfortunately all men have a responsibility to listen and do better as a result of the “some”.
Here’s one of my stories, my first actually, showing it isn’t just celebrities abusing power, position or status to exploit and abuse. It may usually only be celebrities who get called out publicly, but these stories are by no means exclusive to them. Because, me (like you if you’re a woman I’m sure) too!
Just one story, one of many, which came uninvited as they all do.
Looking at my eldest daughter, who’s 4 months away from turning 14, it seems unfathomable that at her exact age I was subjected to what I now know to be a sexual assault from a man who was ten years older than me. A first, but sadly not a last time advantage was taken. It is, by far, the most shocking because of my age but in the years that followed I could write essays about male sexually predative behaviour directed at me. From the men who repeatedly asked me to reach up high to a kitchen cupboard to fetch more glasses down so that they could simply see up my skirt as I did so at a friend’s dinner party, to the guy who took me on a date, drove me into the middle of nowhere and forced himself upon me until I gave in, thinking I’d better, just to get it over and done with. This first tale however, is the one I think of most because without any area of doubt, I was a child and he was an adult.
At the time I didn’t know I was being assaulted.
At the time I felt flattered.
At the time I thought I was a consenting, sophisticated adult making exciting choices with a dreamy guy and wasn’t I so lucky.
At the time I was a 13 year old child, just as my daughter is right now.
I was on holiday with my Mum in Magaluf. We’d been to the restaurant close to our hotel for lunch a few times and we’d met this guy who worked there when he was our waiter. He didn’t just work there in fact, but he was the son of the owner, a man who’s name emblazoned the front of the bar and restaurant which sat right on the beach. He was chatty and friendly and handsome and me, 13 year old me, thought he was so very cool. I’d made friends in the hotel and at 13 and 8 months I was allowed a little freedom. To play pool in the evenings with newly made friends my own age, to walk on the beach with them, to hang out and have fun. And the guy, let’s call him Mick, came to chat. A lot. My Mum wouldn’t have known this, she was assuming I was still with my friends from the hotel when this 23 year old man drove me up into the mountains, to another bar, bought me a cocktail and kissed me before touching me under my clothes. Something I wasn’t comfortable with but didn’t know how to stop.
That was enough.
Of course that was enough to be shocking in itself but this man, who was indeed a man to my child, had links to Norwich where, when I went home from this holiday, I lived. He’d been to high school here and he knew the school I had been attending before I’d started drama school. I’d told my best friend Emily, who is still my best friend today, how “amazing” this man was, how infatuated I was with him and how incredibly flattered I was that though we had not exchanged contact details he had found me anyway by contacting my old school, who had (unfathomably?!?!) put him in touch with me by giving him my phone number.
I was still aged just 13.
We began a written correspondence whereby he wrote me “loving” letters telling me how fabulous I was and sent me pictures of himself at his Father’s restaurant while working. I would write back, goodness only knows what? I don’t remember, but I was always very happy when he’d ring to chat as well, which periodically he did.
And then he didn’t, and that was that. I didn’t think of it too much for a long time. Right then, in the moment, I’d felt like I was pretty grown up and had been fine about it. But later, as years went on and I became a bit more actual grown up, I realised how much of an advantage this man had taken with me. I still wasn’t yet at the point of knowing what it really was, a predator with an under age child, but I knew it hadn’t been right.
At 21 I re-visited Magaluf with friends for my birthday. I was determined to go and have a look at this man again. Just to have a look and see who he was. I was 21, I was grown up, I was ballsy by then and I felt quite appalled at the behaviour this man had shown towards me when I was a child and wanted to see with adult eyes what he would say for himself in person. I wasn’t appalled enough and I didn’t know exactly why I was going to look at him, but I knew I wanted to go. I was on this holiday with my friend Emily who had, back when it had happened, rather than being impressed, had felt quite revolted with it all and hadn’t really understood why I was happy about it. I remember her asking what on earth he would want with a girl ten years younger than him and when she came with me to this bar and restaurant to have a look all those years later, it was very much against her better judgement. Which she made clear. But, the good friend that she is, she accompanied me on my strange plight, not even understood by myself.
Emily, two more friends and I, took a table and ordered drinks and then I asked for him. And he knew it was me. I know he did. I saw him looking and I watched. I didn’t take my eyes off him. I sat, I waited and I looked at the predator who had inappropriately touched me and kissed me and kept in contact with me when I was just 13 years old. Eventually he came to the table but he didn’t want to. I could see that. I suspect he knew that my eyes didn’t invite a reunion of a good memory, and that I was instead now a more grown up girl eyeballing the man who had taken advantage of her when she was a child.
I wasn’t uncomfortable then. But he was. And he made his excuses pretty quickly after saying hello and rushed back to work.
At that point in time it was enough that I had made him uncomfortable. It wasn’t 1993 anymore where grown men knew they could get away with shocking behaviour because somehow it was dressed up as not shocking. But it wasn’t 2023 either. This was the year 2000, and though he clearly wasn’t happy with my arrival, he wouldn’t have been worried about any repercussions. This was still very much an era when men took advantage of girls and knew they could get away with it. They did. All the time.
But I was capable, and confident enough to confront him by staring him straight in the eye, and though not verbalising or really knowing how to, I know that I made him aware that I knew, and he knew I knew, that what he’d done was wrong.
A few years ago I looked Mick up on social media. Now, three decades later a world where people running bars in prominent holiday resorts can’t really hide and can be seen with the world’s eyes open. His family bar and restaurant is still present on the Magaluf beach front scene and he still works there. Now a man in his 50s I see he is married with grown up daughters who, of course, once will have been thirteen themselves. I wonder, does he think about what he did to me that day? Was I a one off, someone he would have remembered with shame at his treatment of, or was I one of many? And when his daughters were thirteen did he think of me then. Did he wonder what it would be like to have a 23 year old man talk to and behave towards his daughters the way he had me and would he have been ok with that?
I follow this bar and restaurant on social media now, and I remember as I pressed the “follow” button wondering if he would notice, and if it would make him uncomfortable again if he did. I hope it did. Because he was a 23 year old man. And I was a 13 year old child. And it doesn’t matter what way you dress it up, that was that. Knowing now that my daughter is the exact age I was then makes me feel even more strongly about how despicable his behaviour was. He knew how old I was because I told him but even if I hadn’t, it was very clear that I was not an adult, or even over the age of consent. I hope he’s super uncomfortable about it always and I hope he reads this article, recognises himself because let’s face it, while I haven’t named and shamed, I’ve only very thinly veiled it, so that once again he knows that I know that what he did was wrong.
Because even now, even writing this with the tone that I am, there is a small part of me that thinks “yes, but I didn’t mind at the time did I, so what was he supposed to do?” when we all know that what he was supposed to do was serve the family visiting his restaurant their lunch, make nice, be polite, do his job and then not put his hands on a child in a sexual way. That is what he was supposed to do.