Hannah Logan, from Canada
I was 22, and although I was new to the world of travel, I wasn’t naive. I had spent the last four years getting a degree in criminology and one year working in a national victim organization. I knew all about sexual assault. I knew what to look out for; how to be safe, and how to react.
At least I thought I did.
It happened in Belfast, on a cold day towards the end of November. I heard them before I saw them; a group of 10 or so Scottish guys singing and laughing in the common room of my hostel. With a quick exchange of names, I was passed a beer and quickly became part of the gang.
I was swept along for a night of clubs and pubs. We danced, laughed, and drank for hours. I was one of two women in the group. The other woman was one of the lad’s aunts and she stayed at the bar with the two older men, both in their forties, as I danced and drank with the young ones. I was never without a drink in my hand, but I was never the one buying. It was usually one of the older men, the one the lads called ‘Uncle’ who bought for everyone, but refused to let me buy a round, as is tradition.
As the night wore on, I decided to call it to an end. I had a tour the next day to the Giant’s Causeway and the last thing I needed was a hangover on a full day bus trip. I was getting ready to leave when I was swept into another ridiculous dance. I laughed and spun around, expecting to see one of the two guys I had spent most of the night dancing with, only to find myself face to face with Uncle.
“I think you should give me a kiss.”
My good mood disappeared as this man, who barely talked to me all night and was easily twice my age, grabbed me around the waist.
I managed to squirm away, back to the younger crowd for a few minutes before deciding to leave. I grabbed my coat, said goodbye to those around me, but my escape plan failed as Uncle followed me out.
As I made my way back to what I thought was my hostel, he kept grabbing my hands, smiling, and moving in closer as I continued to pull away. I panicked, my mind racing. Should I go back to the bar with the guys? Or keep going to the hostel? It was late, nearly 2am; hostel reception was long since gone and, unless someone had moved in since we left, I was alone in my dorm. My panic caused me to lose track of where I was, leaving me lost and turned around in the unfamiliar streets.
Uncle asked where to go, I stammered that I didn’t know the way. Then he lost it. He started screaming and swearing at me. Whether he was angry at being lost, or angry at me pushing him away, I didn’t know. But his newfound rage only escalated my fear.
Luckily, it also drew the attention of a nearby local man. I rushed to him asking for directions. He noticed my nerves and the clearly drunk man behind me and asked if I needed him to walk me there. By that point, Uncle had wandered off a bit to urinate against the wall. I thanked the local, but declined his offer. Taking advantage of Uncle’s bathroom break, I raced back to the hostel and barricaded myself in my room, sliding a chair under the door as I crawled into my bed. I cowered there all night, too scared to get up even to use the toilet.
It’s been nearly five years and thinking of that night still scares me. But the worst part? Knowing that despite the panic and fear that plagued me for hours after, and still creeps into my mind while traveling years later, in the end, I got off lucky.