The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Everyday Encounters

As I waited at some traffic lights on my Tuesday morning cycle to work, a taxi driver leant out of his window, said something incomprehensible, and tried to grab me.

Later that day, as I walked around central London, three different men catcalled me.

I wish I could tell you I was surprised. Although this was a high number of such interactions for one day, these incidents are not unusual for me or my female friends.

I told a male friend, and he was horrified. In contrast, my female friends rolled their eyes and shared stories of similar experiences, including being groped by a stranger on a crowded train that morning.

All this in the week that Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein is accused of sexual harassment by a string of actresses.

All this in the week that newspapers pick up the story of a 21-year-old girl who has taken a selfie with every man who has catcalled her in the past month, and posted them on Instagram.

All this in the week of the International Day of the Girl, which aims to increase awareness of the issues faced by girls around the world.

Street harassment, catcalling, and unwanted sexual advances are just a few examples of these issues, but they are examples which are closer to home than we might realise. The horror and disbelief that my male friends express when I tell them of incidents such as Tuesday’s shows limited awareness. The knowing nods of my female friends show the reality of these occurrences in their daily lives.

I don’t expect to change the culture of catcalling with a single post. I don’t expect that the men reading this yell at women in the street, or grab them on public transport. But I do expect many to be shocked that this is a regular occurrence in the lives of their female friends, colleagues, and relatives.

So, let’s continue the conversation. As Christians, we have a duty to be paving the way and being mouthpieces for truth and justice.

Guys – ask the women in your life for their stories, and listen with an open mind. Ask them what you can do to make a difference. Pray for them. Speak out against objectification wherever you find it.

Fellow females – let’s not keep the stories to ourselves. This shouldn’t be so normal that we stop bothering to mention it. Speak up, speak out, and don’t be ashamed.


Nell Goddard


  1. Well done. As you so rightly say
    “Speak up, Soeak out, and never be ashamed”

    By Jean Lesley Berridge  -  13 Oct 2017
  2. Thanks for sharing this. I (a man ) am just as astonished and shocked as your male friends. But, as Jesus points out in the Sermon on the Mount, we are all in some way implicated by the contribution of our attitudes to the general culture.

    By Paul  -  13 Oct 2017
  3. Well done Nell!

    By Penny Frank  -  13 Oct 2017
  4. You are so right – we need to work to stop it, not just accept that it’s part of society.
    Well done and thank you for saying something about this issue.
    Harassment of any kind should not be tolerated and as Christians we need to set the standard.

    By Alison  -  13 Oct 2017
  5. Very helpful to read as a man. It makes me very ashamed. And will help me to speak out.

    By Roger Simpson  -  13 Oct 2017
  6. These stories are definitely about events where a line of courtesy and civility has been crossed. They should not be taking place in a civilised society.
    A civilised society is in my view, one where the teachings of the Bible are the base reference for the rules about respect and the value that each individual has before God.
    I would be sorry though, if a man is afraid to give a genuine compliment to a woman, for fear of being misunderstood.

    By gwen staveley  -  13 Oct 2017
  7. I am 68, and this has been going on since I was a teenager (and, obviously, long before). I am so sick of it, and have this question: With all the advances in women’s rights since I was a kid, why has this area of harassment remained unchanged? More importantly, what is at the ROOT of it? How can we change root causes?

    By Peggy N.  -  13 Oct 2017
  8. Good one Nell, encourages me to listen & speak out

    By Bruce Gulland  -  13 Oct 2017
  9. Yes indeed, I’ve got a few of those stories! Most of them date back to the time, some years ago, I spent living in Athens. They were very unpleasant incidents that made me feel violated and, during some of them, scared. Although I have been deliberately brushed up against, I haven’t actually been grabbed or assaulted/raped. I can’t imagine how I would have felt had I been.

    I also have a positive story. I remember walking along one lovely sunny day. I caught the eye of a man walking the opposite direction, he smiled and called over ‘You’re looking well!’ in a completely spontaneous, non-sleazy way and I smiled right back and called ‘Thank you!’ and that was it, it made my day!

    So I guess what I’m saying is: guys, yes, please open your eyes to this stuff and stand against it, but be enouraged! Just because we’ve encountered ‘toxic masculinity’ doesn’t mean we think masculinity is toxic, it can be positively uplifting and that’s something we really appreciate!

    By Elizabeth Bridcut  -  13 Oct 2017
  10. I am 87 years old and have been aware and experinced these innuendoes all my life. Less since my 75 birthday. It is about power of the male over the female. Keep the women down let them know who is in charge.I spent 20 yaers school teaching 11-18 ,s and did all i could to empower the younger women to refuse to allow these things. But it seemed to me a lot of what I other women like me achieved was cast aside and these latest occurences are the result. I was sneared at as a” FEMINIST” . I STUDIED FEMINIST THEOLOGY WHICH I FOUND EMPOWERING.

    Jesus honoured women, never put them down Mary anointed Jesus .

    By mary quenby  -  13 Oct 2017
  11. Agree entirely with Nell Goddard!

    By Bob Wilkinson  -  14 Oct 2017
  12. It is incredible to think that in 2017 that this should be an issue for modern Britain. As both a husband and Father I am both amazed and shocked by these stories which I now know are true. Growing up my non believing Father taught me how to behave correctly and was not afraid to speak directly if I failed to respect others, especially women.
    It makes me wonder whether this is simly a by product of the low value that society has of being a Father, or marriage breakdown, or simply my needs and desires first?

    By david wilkes  -  16 Oct 2017
  13. Thankfully too there are decent men.

    By Angela Somerton  -  17 Oct 2017

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