Following on from the brutal murder of 23-year-old teacher Ashling Murphy last week, the entire nation of Ireland and beyond have been discussing the hugely important topic of violence against women.
On last night’s episode of Claire Byrne Live, several women came on to talk about their own experience with gender-based violence, including Irish model Thalia Hefernan, who spoke of a vile incident in which a man masturbated next to her.
Thalia explains that before Christmas she was pulling into a petrol station just after work when she vividly remembers, “in front of me, a man was walking with his two daughters and they were skipping. I remember thinking how lovely, they're probably looking forward to Santa coming. I think it was maybe five days in the run up to Christmas.”
Thalia goes on to explain that after getting into her car, she saw out of the corner of her eye that the light had turned on in another car to her left.
“Because it was so dark, I just looked immediately. And there was a man masturbating in his car. I think with the shock, I just reversed and drove away. Then I instantly thought of those two young girls walking in front of me with their dad,” the 26-year-old model confessed.
“As I reversed, his light went out and I thought he’d done this before. It was so confident in how he had done it,” Thalia commented, adding, “He had obviously seen me coming or saw a woman – it could have been any woman – leave on their own and had probably driven around to be in the prime position.”
Thalia described the incident as a “complete violation,” and went on to make a formal complaint with the Gardaí, however she’s since heard nothing back from them.
Thalia opened up about her horrific experience following a similar incident which occurred during a virtual vigil for Ashling Murphy. During a Zoom vigil the other day, a man hacked his way onto the call and proceeded to masturbate before being kicked out.
Continuing, Thalia admitted that she regretted not taking her case further with the Gardaí, especially after hearing about what happened at Ashling Murphy’s virtual vigil.
“I think we need to realise that there are stages of escalation when it comes to violence towards women. They may start out seemingly innocent. Some people might deem that innocent in that I wasn't touched, there wasn't any physical action taken. It was a quick, visual transaction between two people. Not that I was in any way consenting to it.”
“But when you see someone hack onto a vigil for a gorgeous girl and there were 90 people on this Zoom and he did the same thing, is this an escalation? And what will be done to stop this?” Thalia questioned.
“Will this person, after me calling the police and nothing being done, will he go onto then actually say, ‘If I've gotten away with it then and I've gotten away with it before I can go on and do what I want here on in?’”
“It's very scary and it's another realisation that as a woman, we're not safe. I think this story has really solidified this,” she added.