A teenager has been punched unconscious after turning down the advances of a man who approached her when returning home from a night out in Manchester this weekend.
Gabrielle Walsh, 18, and her friend Kyle McKeown were reportedly heading home from Club Bloom in the city’s Gay Village about 3:30 a.m. on Saturday when they were approached by a group of three men.
“I’d taken my shoes off and this guy came over and said ‘I like your feet,’” Walsh told the Manchester Evening News. “I just said okay and we tried to walk away.”
“They kept walking behind trying to talk to me,” she continued. “Eventually I turned around and said ‘I’m sorry, I’m not interested.’”
But the group of men didn’t leave them alone, with one believed to be in his mid-20s reportedly asking Walsh whether she was “with specky four eyes,” and pointing at McKeown.
“They kept harassing us,” she said. “Then he hit me — he fully knocked me out. When I woke up I was on the floor and the three of them had jumped on Kyle as well.”
In images shared on social media, Walsh’s eye can be seen to be swollen and bruised, and she told the Manchester Evening News that when she opens it all she can see is yellow.
‘Women only have to say if they’re not interested’.— Dr Louise Raw (@LouiseRawAuthor) July 15, 2019
Gabrielle Walsh, 18, did- very politely.
The man punched her unconscious. https://t.co/062z92PQBF
For Walsh, she’s now been left with physical and emotional damage — saying that she’s afraid to go in public on her own following the attack. Meanwhile, McKeown also suffered cuts and bruises in the attack.
But Walsh also been speaking out about what the attack on her says about a wider trend of gender-based violence, and women and girls’ concern about being put in a situation where they have to let someone down on a night out.
“Girls feel like they can’t say ‘no,’” she said. “They feel like if they say ‘no’ then [men] might hurt you and in this case it was true.”
It’s a point that’s emphasised too by the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition following the attack on Walsh.
"This is a terrifying example of the sexual harassment women and girls experience when on nights out and how quickly men who are unable to cope with rejection can become violent,” EVAW Coalition campaign manager Rebecca Hitchen told Global Citizen.
“It shows the sense of entitlement men feel over women’s attention and their bodies and also reflects the real and legitimate fear women have when forced to respond to unwanted advances — and the strategies they have to put in place (what we at EVAW call ‘safety work’),” she continued.
Hitchen added: “It is why relationship and sex education that teaches boys about consent, sexual autonomy, and harmful gender stereotypes is so essential, and how much more must be done to tackle sexual harassment.”
Police are investigating what they’ve described as a “cowardly” attack, although no arrests have yet been made.
“This was a violent and unprovoked attack upon a young woman who was simply minding her own business during a night out,” said chief inspector Cherie Buttle, adding that police are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.
- The attacker is described as being white, about 5ft 8in, and wearing a pink t-shirt. Police are appealing for information, and can be reached on 01618 563221.