Originally published at The Telegraph:
I don’t remember anything about the first stranger who touched me on the Paris metro. But I do remember the overwhelming feeling of panic that engulfed me as an unfamiliar hand gripped my shoulder. I made a swift exit at the next station, before getting on the next train and positioning myself opposite a couple with young children – a safety technique that very quickly became a habit.
Five years ago, I spent some months living in the French capital as part of my university degree. I quickly discovered that Paris’s reputation as the world capital of romance – think padlocks on bridges and moonlit walks – isn’t all it’s cracked-up to be. Try sexual harassment instead.
That’s why I was please to read that the French government is finally looking to tackle this oft-unspoken problem.
The long-overdue news follows a survey in April, which confirmed what I already suspected: 100 per cent of Parisian women have experienced sexual harassment on public transport.
I spent my first few weeks there letting the regular comments and obscene gestures from French men wash over me. But when the touching, groping and grabbing started it felt like a real body blow.
London might have a reputation for sexual harassment on its underground tube system – something that TfL is now actively tackling – but the overwhelming frequency in Paris went far beyond what I’ve since experienced here in Britain.