Hayley Mabbett was on her way home from an NRL game when she was stalked and sexually harassed by a group of men in a car.

Warning: This article contains details of sexual harassment and threats of sexual violence.

“I heard some yelling. Unfortunately, I’ve heard many things and I just ignore it,” she said.

“But then they proceeded to yell something very clear: ‘You better be going home, or I’ll rape you.'”

The car sped off and the 32-year-old was left on a quiet Brisbane street, a few minutes’ walk between the train station and her apartment.

Ms Mabbett had experienced street harassment before but had never captured it on camera. 

“There have been many instances in the past. Unfortunately it’s not unusual, but I’ve never been able to capture it on video before,” she said.

“There are still some men out there who think behaviour like that is OK, but even if it is a joke it is not OK.”

A young woman gives a slight smile to the camera. She is photographed in a bright room.

Hayley Mabbett says she wants women to feel safe walking at night.(ABC News: Chloe Chomicki)

Victim blaming

When Ms Mabbett finally did arrive home she decided to share the video with extended friends and family by posting on Instagram.

“There were some people who contacted me to say ‘Why were you walking home alone at night?'” she said.

“I understand why women get asked that question, but it’s also frustrating that women can’t do that and feel safe.”

The example of gendered violence and victim blaming has angered advocates as the issue remains in the national spotlight.

Katherine Berney, executive director of the National Women’s Safety Alliance, said the harassment in the video was “horrifying”.

“I can’t imagine the fear that this individual felt when confronted by really credible threats of sexual violence,” Ms Berney said. 

“They were doing what is considered completely reasonable, walking home from a train station at night after a football game.

“That’s not an unusual activity, yet here we have a young woman with a credible threat of sexual violence that she managed to catch on camera.”

A young woman with red hair in corporate attire looks sternly at the camera.

National Women’s Safety Alliance director Katherine Berney described the sexual harassment caught on camera as “horrifying”.(ABC News: Adam Kennedy)

Safety concerns

What Ms Mabbett experienced was severe sexual harassment and in the days afterward she reported the matter to local police.

The Brisbane Broncos member now feels too unsafe to use public transport to head to the footy on her own.

“I don’t feel safe walking in my neighbourhood. I’ll organise parking or I’ll Uber, which can be very expensive,” she said.

A large group of people gathers for a rally one sign says girls just want to feel safe

Protests against violence against women have occurred around the country.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data on personal safety was captured in the 2021-’22 financial year.

More than 1 million women said they did not use public transport alone after dark because they felt unsafe.

Another 2.2 million women said they did not walk in their local area alone after dark because they felt unsafe doing so.

Condemnation crucial

Ms Berney said because Ms Mabbett was harassed after a footy game, condemnation from sporting codes such as the NRL was crucial.

“I do feel sporting codes have an ethical responsibility,” she said.

“Have a consistent message that behaviour like this is completely unacceptable and not the expectation of that code from their fans.

“I need them to take responsibility and to say we absolutely denounce this behaviour.”

The ABC did contact the NRL to request an interview, however, the league declined to comment on the matter. 

The AFL held a moment’s silence before each of its round eight games to pay tribute to the women who have lost their lives to gender-based violence. 

There was no acknowledgement of the national discussion during round nine of the NRL, however, the league has a long-standing Voice Against Violence campaign.

Have you faced harassment at sporting events and want to share your story? Contact chomicki.chloe@abc.net.au

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Posted 4h ago4 hours agoTue 7 May 2024 at 8:46pm, updated 2h ago2 hours agoTue 7 May 2024 at 11:28pm