It is hardly six o’clock as we sit down for dinner at a restaurant in the bustling Gaslamp quarters of San Diego. Hundreds of people pass by our table on the sidewalk, offering a welcome distraction from our growling stomachs. A young girl in a short grey bodycon dress approaches us. Very clearly intoxicated, she sways from left to right and waves her cigarette in my face, hoping I’ll light it for her. I don’t, but diners at a neighbouring table do, and she heads off. Only minutes later, the sound of a collision draws our attention to the sidewalk again; a collision between the girl in the grey dress, her equally drunk friend in a black dress, and the curb.
For a while, both girls lie there motionlessly. The girl in black is the first to move, slowly pushing herself up, thereby exposing the girl in grey. Face-up, spread-eagled, her skirt now up to her waist revealing she wears absolutely nothing underneath. Unaware, or untroubled, she scrambles onto her hands and knees, then sits. She looks as though she just woke up, disoriented and slow. Except she did not just wake up. She’s not within the safe confines of her bedroom, and her naked body is not covered by bed sheets. Rather, she’s exposed to the eyes of all diners and passers-by, and her mind is getting more and more foggy as her friend hands her another drink. A few men stop and stare, one of them attempting a chat.
I’m starting to feel nauseous. Before long, this girl with no underwear will go home with a guy, pass out, and be abused. If not by one of those men standing over her now, then by someone she’ll meet later. Nobody will protect her. The friend with underwear who’s just as drunk certainly won’t be able to. The people on the street either laugh at her or scurry by, looking appalled. I simply sit and stare. Nobody will protect her.
The two girls stumble and fall, stumble and fall, until finally they manage to get back on their feet. Reluctantly they depart, wobbly, tailed by a handful of men. We resume dinner, but I can’t stop thinking about the girl. No one helped her get up, or covered her flesh, or chased away those men, or called her a cab. Not me, or anyone else. All of us either stared or looked away, as a young girl lay on the street with her genitals exposed for all the world to see. This girl will be abused; probably has been by the time I write this blog. I had a chance to protect her, and I didn’t. I didn’t even try.