Voyers and Sexual Inveiglers by Zoë Coyle

My 12-year-old daughter was in her school playground at lunchtime, and an old man in an overlooking apartment stood naked watching her, masturbating. That afternoon I sat with her in the police station as she explained what had happened with fat tears sliding down her face. Then the social fall out, girls at her new school telling her she'd made it up, labelling her a drama queen. Until the following week, when he did it again. Many saw - but no charges were pressed as apparently his wife was home both times.

 My girl became mute and petulant in her distress.

 Then a few days later she was on a school excursion to the zoo. Four boys from a different school were sitting behind her at the bird show. They airdropped her pornography, and when she asked them to stop, they airdropped her abuse, calling her a slut and a bitch. Her female friends told her not to make a big deal of it, but she went to her teacher for help. I'm guessing he fell into a pit of inactivity due to embarrassment. He's in his late 50'ies, and I wonder if he's dealt with this brand of Grotesque before. The short of it is, he fobbed my girl off, and a valuable learning opportunity was lost for everyone involved.

 My daughter returned to her seat and photographed each of the boys and also their school emblem. The following day in front of her year group, she was asked to delete the 'illegal' images from her phone. And my little girl stood firm, of this I am full of respect, and she refused on the grounds that it was evidence and asked again what was going to happen to the boys.

 It seemed nothing.

 What a mad world it is where 13-year-old boys find it funny/permissible/empowering to send girls porn and are abusive when they're asked to stop. Also, these boys then get away with it, and the girls learn this is how these stories unfold. I.e., unsatisfactorily. Boys are allowed to denigrate, and girls are implicitly told not to make a fuss.

 The timing was obviously particularly dreadful because of the wanker in the apartment, but I was seething with confusion that the teachers responsible didn't take the situation in hand. I'm not talking about involving the police, but the boys' school should have been brought in, and their parents should have been told, as how else will these boys be made aware that their behaviour is illegal, offensive and misogynistic? How will they grow into the men our society so desperately needs them to be? I know if it were my sons behaving like this, I would want to know. I feel that all the children involved, both the boys and the girls weren't served by how this was dealt with on the day.

 My husband and I didn't let it drop and agitated for action. Apparently, the boys and their school were located. Adults were appalled, measures were taken, but my girl hasn't received an apology. And I ask you, isn't that the very least of what she deserves?

 And to round out the picture let's add to this cauldron arguments about appropriate clothing, my daughter's desire to express herself and fit in by wearing clothes that make me blanch, by the hyper-sexualised images her friends post on Instagram, by the dick picks the boys share as laugh.

 And and and... so here we are, my girl is resilient and magnificent, but when I still down and listen to what is going on inside me, I'm afraid, really, terribly afraid.





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Polly McGee