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Kiwi women share stories of sexual assault while travelling

Cherie Howie, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sunday, 3 March 2019, 10:54a.m.
New Zealand women are sharing their stories of sexual assault. (Photo / Getty)
New Zealand women are sharing their stories of sexual assault. (Photo / Getty)

Two more New Zealand women have shared their stories of unwanted sexual touching while travelling, after a 23-year-old returning home from her OE spoke about being indecently assaulted by a man sitting next to her on the 16-hour flight.

The two women emailed the Herald after reading yesterday about the young woman's experience on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Auckland on Friday.

The man repeatedly touched her, grabbed her hands and kissed them during take off when the lights were dimmed, she said. Airline staff moved the woman after take-off and she was told by police the man was warned by them upon landing, but she shared her story to raise awareness for other female travellers.

Her story prompted others to come forward.

A 29-year-old woman wrote of her experience on an early hours of the morning bus from Rotorua to Auckland when she was 16.

"I sat in the seat next to the window and a man sat next to me. He must have been in his late 30s to early 40s. He started off friendly, asking me how old I was and where I was going.

"His questions then started to get a bit more personal, he asked me if I had a boyfriend and if I was a virgin and a few other vulgar questions."

The man put his hand on her knee, and didn't remove it when she responded by trying to push it away.

"I made it very clear that I was uncomfortable with what he was doing to me but he did not care. For the majority of the ride he touched me on my legs, inside my shirt, and kissed my neck and face. I kept my thighs firmly pressed together, so he couldn't put his hand between my legs.

"I was so young, I didn't know what to do. I had never been put in that position before. I just sat there as still as I could and silently cried."

An older woman in the seat in front kept looking behind her, but didn't intervene.

In Hamilton, the woman tried to get off the bus, but the man told her knew she was lying because she'd already told him she was transferring to another bus in Auckland.

"And he pushed me back into my seat and continued to touch me for the rest of the trip."

In Auckland she hid in the bus station's female toilets for an hour until boarding her next bus — at which point she looked out the window and saw the man, a big smile on his face, waving to her.

"As if we were friends, it was absurd."

She did not tell anyone about the incident for a long time, the woman wrote.

"I am a very strong woman, completely different to the scared, timid girl I was back then. If I ever see that man again I cannot guarantee his safety."

Another woman shared her experience of unwanted sexual touching, also when she was 16, but this time while flying with her grandmother from Auckland to Sydney.

The woman wrote in an email she had "never been able to verbalise the experience".

"Sat next to a man who was sitting by the window ... he took advantage of me when my grandmother had to queue for ages to go to the toilet. Touching me. Frightening me.

"I was young. I felt I didn't want to burden my grandmother with something like this. This is a long time ago. Just struck a chord tonight."


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