As she did her best to retain her dignity walking up the street, she wondered why things like this kept happening to her. The punches and kicks rained on her from behind and she did her best not to fall down – she had no idea what would happen if she did, but she knew it wouldn’t be good.
It had started as a normal walk home from school. The two girls had called her name about five minutes from the school gates and she’d turned around to talk to them and they’d all walked together for about 100 yards until one of them accused her of trying to pinch her boyfriend. She didn’t really understand – she had made friends with the boy and she liked him but at 12 years old she had no real concept of relationships and didn’t know what all the fuss was about, especially as the boy in question was right there with them and seemingly complicit. She didn’t know what to say, except that she didn’t know what the girl was talking about – although it seemed that the truth was immaterial here and the boy remained silent.
After that, the abuse started. She just wanted to get away from these three people but they followed her, pushing and shoving her from behind and trying to get her to fall over. She didn’t really know what to do, and fighting with three people didn’t look like a palatable or viable option so she carried on walking as quickly as possible with the hope that, as the pavements got busier, someone would see what was going on and put a stop to it. At one point, she passed a small alley and the two girls tried to pull her into it. She fought, pulled and kicked her way back to the main street and quickened her pace still further. They quickened their pace too and the hitting, kicking and name calling carried on. There were plenty of people around – adults – who did nothing to help and just put their heads down, pretending not to notice.
By now they were approaching a main street and she was thinking maybe she should dart into a shop and ask for help. Just as she thought that, one of the blows caught her off guard and she fell forwards, sprawling onto the pavement. Nobody came forward to help her up. Nobody did anything. Fortunately, the girls didn’t kick her while she was down either but she didn’t wait around to find out if they were going to start.
She picked herself up and, despite a great deal of pain from her right hip, started walking towards the main street as fast as she could – she could see a policeman up ahead. If only she could make it to him before anything else happened, she felt she’d be safe. The others must have seen him as well as the blows from behind stopped.
She finally made it to the policeman and was about to tell him what was going on but, as she opened her mouth and turned around, she realised that all three of her abusers had disappeared, seemingly without trace.
Now she had another dilemma: should she wait for the bus home in plain sight of the policeman with the hope that they wouldn’t be on it or perhaps get on at the next stop? They lived on the same route home so she wasn’t sure that was a good idea. Maybe if she walked home via a different route, she could make it back home without running into them again. She darted down a side street and began a circuitous route back to her house, not going anywhere near where they lived.
It took her 40 minutes to get home instead of 20. The whole time, the pain in her hip was growing and by the time she got home, she was limping badly. The whole time she was terrified that if she stopped for one second, they would catch up with her somehow and the whole thing would start again. What would happen the following day at school? How could she fight this thing when she’d done nothing wrong? Would they come to her house to finish what they’d started? She knew her parents would protect her but how could they protect her at school? All these thoughts ran through her head but no answers came to her.
By the time she got home, the bruising had started. A big angry black bruise which spread from her waist almost down to her knee on her right side.
This wasn’t the first time that something like this had happened and, even at the age of 12, she knew it wouldn’t be the last …