What happened when I was confronted by an old man at the beach.

It was a pretty hot day on Saturday.

I decided I would make the most of it and head to the beach. I love the beach and I love being out in the sun. Sometimes I like going alone. Lying on the sand, listening to a podcast or reading a book.

beach
The beach is my happy place. Image via @sophiahatzis Instagram.

Off I went.

It was around 3pm. It was still pretty warm. I placed my towel on the sand. I went to lie down but before I did I looked up and saw an older man talking to a young woman.

She was quite beautiful. Curly brown hair and tanned skin, in a yellow bikini top and black bottoms. This man looked much older, maybe in his mid fifties or sixties. Thin and sinewy with faded tattoos on his arms and black boardshorts covered in sand. He was leaning on the sand facing her. He was leaning close to her.

I assumed they’d come together. Maybe he was her uncle? Or father?

But then I stopped and really paid attention.

Something didn’t seem right. She was lying on a single towel with her bag. And this man didn’t have a towel or possessions of any sort. So I watched on and decided that she probably hadn’t come with him and this guy had just decided to start talking to a beautiful girl who was young and vulnerable and alone.

He started to get up and move away. I used this opportunity to walk up to her and see whether she was okay with this man being in her space. I asked if she knew the man.

“No, I don’t,” she said.

I said that if she felt uncomfortable she could bring her towel over to mine and lay with me.

She thanked me. I started to walk away. No worries.

And then all hell broke loose.

The man who had been talking to her started shouting out at me. He started walking over to me, continuing to hurl abuse. At this point, people on the beach were starting to look. He was swearing. Asking me who the fuck I thought I was and how the fuck I thought it was my business.

I simply said to him, as calmly as I could, that I just wanted to check if she was alright and that she was comfortable.

He continued to yell. Who the fuck do you think you are? Who made you Queen? He kept repeating that he was just trying to have a conversation with someone. So who the fuck was I to intervene?

“Where do you come from? Are you even Australian?” he yelled at my face.

“I’m from Manly. I’ve lived here all my life,” I replied. Not that it should matter.

manly
I’ve lived here all my life. Image via @breakingdownbeauty.

At this point, a lovely Englishman has come over and tried to help. Tried to calm this crazy old man who reeks of the wine he’s been sipping on all day that’s lying in a brown paper bag on the sand.

He finally walks away after giving me the finger. At this point, I’m pretty shaken. I thank the Englishman for his help and settle myself on my towel. I pick up my phone and call my boyfriend.

But this man isn’t done. He comes up behind me and presses his face into mine.

“You fucking snob. You dobbing on me now? When all I did was have a conversation? Fuck you.”

And the abuse continued. Whilst I was on the phone.

“You’re making me uncomfortable and I want you to get out of my space right now,” I said.

Now everyone is looking.

He finally walks away.

All I wanted to do was to make sure this young woman, who was alone, was okay and that she wasn’t feeling uncomfortable. Because a lot of us have been in that situation before. When a pervy old man has come into your space and you don’t know what to do. Do you ask them to go away and risk being abused as I was? Or do you sit there politely hoping they’ll eventually piss off? Sometimes you need someone to save you.

This young woman later told me that he’d been watching her most of the day. When he started talking at her (it’s only a conversation if it goes both ways) he commented on her beauty and even touched her arm.

The worst part? Noone on the beach did shit. Everyone was just minding their own business. Because it’s easy to turn a blind-eye and laugh off that man’s behaviour as him just being cheeky or having a laugh.

I know why this man blew up at me. He was embarrassed. He felt that I had humiliated him in front of this beautiful young woman he had inappropriately touched. So he pinpointed me and abused me for calling out his foul and creepy behaviour.

After he left, the young woman thanked me. She even apologised and said it was “her fault”. I was totally stunned. How could any of this be her fault?

She was alone and some creep decided to take advantage of her vulnerability. But, as women, we’re used to taking the blame for these things. We should have been wearing more clothes. We shouldn’t have gone alone. We shouldn’t have even spoken to them. It’s our fault, right?

Wrong.

What we wear isn’t an invitation. Whether we’re alone shouldn’t matter. Because we have every right to feel safe and secure.

Yeah, I could have let this go. I could have noticed some creepy man chatting to a young girl and shrugged it off as him just being cheeky and harmless. But the safety and comfort of that young woman is so much more important.  And yeah, I got abused for it. I was intimidated and frightened by this drunk old man who thought he would get away with it. Because guess what? He has HIS WHOLE LIFE. Because nobody ever calls him out.

I did.

And I don’t regret it for a second. Because if I was in that young woman’s position, I would have been praying for someone to rescue me.

Noone deserves to feel unsafe or uncomfortable. It’s our responsibility to be the helpers. Especially now.  When someone who believes it’s okay to grab women by the pussy was elected as President of the United States.

It’s frightening but we can all do our bit. We have to.

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