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‘I’ve Been Grabbed, Surrounded And Groped’: When Catcalling In Malta Turns Far Darker

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Catcalling, for many, can seem harmless, often disregarded as nothing more than a cheeky comment.

In truth, it oftentimes progresses into something far darker, with sexual assault and other crimes a common consequence of the verbal taunts.

“An old man in a van kept shouting ‘Aw Lilly’ at me over and over again… I said no and crossed the street. This guy then attempted to run me over multiple times out of anger.”

A Lovin Malta survey into catcalling has revealed startling insights about the reality on the ground in Malta. Victims came forward to detail how catcalling quickly descended in aggressive harassment, whether that’s being stalked, flashed, groped or threatened.

This behaviour is fast becoming an all too common daily reality in Malta’s streets, and respondents were quick to share their dark and chilling personal experiences.

“It’s the reoccurring creepy behaviours such as stalking or coming uncomfortably close that’s worse.”

Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of respondents detailed how being stalked as they went home is much more common than one would imagine.

“I was walking home after a long day at work, it was around 8pm. I got catcalled and I pretended I didn’t hear the man, and after a few minutes, I noticed he was following me home. I quickly phoned my boyfriend and the moment he realised I was talking to someone, he ran off,” one woman told Lovin Malta.

“Walking home after a night out and having someone come after you and grab your ass and then two minutes later just 100 meters away another man tries to start a conversation when I specifically told him to leave me alone,” said another.

“A guy who is from the same town as I am saw me opening the door to my house as he was in his car with all his friends and called out my name and said ‘now I know where you live’ and drove off laughing,” one respondent recounted.

One woman even detailed her experience of being photographed and followed to her workplace in Valletta.

“I was in Valletta renewing my bus card when I realised there were a group of older men who kept looking at me, passing comments and later realised they were taking photos of me. I started walking back to my workplace when I saw two of the men started walking behind me. I ran into the shop, and told my colleague that I was being followed – exactly as I was saying this the men passed by and looked directly at me in the shop and kept walking,” she told the newsroom.

And personal space is a concept that seems to be foreign to some.

“l had been walking through Sliema, before work, and a man just stopped me, took my sunglasses, and wore them telling me they’re cool. He then proceeded to ask me ‘if I just ran with these what would you do?’ No one appreciates random men stopping them, it’s not romantic, it’s creepy,” expressed one woman.

“I once went swimming in a quiet location. I had just entered the water and was only a couple of metres away from the ladder when a man used the ladder to enter the water and stayed right there, staring at me,” another recounted.

For many, sexual harassment and assault were common when they were still growing up, with one detailing how she was a regular victim between 16 and 25.

“I’ve been flashed by an older man at 16, I’ve been asked by another man to put up the zip of his trousers; I’ve been physically grabbed, surrounded, and also groped on a bus,” she said.

Some offenders tend to retaliate back when a woman attempts to defend herself, either with violence, anger or threats thrown her way. 

“I decided to walk home in the evening instead of taking the car or bus. An old man in a van kept shouting ‘Aw Lilly’ over and over again. He stopped the van and gestured to me to stop, saying he needed help. He then asked me to get in the van so he can take me somewhere and I can do him a ‘favour’. I said no and crossed the street. This guy then attempted to run me over multiple times out of anger,” said one woman.

“Once, I was waiting for the bus and some guys passed in a van and started making kissing sounds and saying vulgar things to me. I ignored them, and they proceeded to keep going back and forth in the van. After I finally had enough and shouted at them to stop, they started being racist, calling me a slut and proceeding to tell people on the street I’m a prostitute and to not come near me! I’ve never been so embarrassed and angry,” said another.

It’s worrying that a large number of respondents were simply walking home from or to work in broad daylight with their attackers oftentimes comfortable to harass despite the consequences.

No one should feel unsafe or be involuntarily placed in dangerous situations when they are just trying to get along with their lives. Getting home shouldn’t be a threat to someone’s safety.

If you want to share your story on sexual harassment please reach out to [email protected]

If you would like to reach out to authorities please reach out to Victim Support Malta at [email protected]

Have you had similar experiences? 

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