Today I was followed while I was out for a walk during my short work break. I’m trying to drink less caffeine, so I’ve been walking around whenever I get antsy or sleepy. Today I ventured east of my office, a quieter alternative to the bustling main streets. I was just wandering around to clear my head and snapping the occasional Instagram of the beautiful neighborhood (basic, I know).
But as I was walking, I saw a man walk down the street toward me. I didn’t think anything of it at first; why would I? But when I crossed the street and turned around, I watched him move in the same direction, but hang back a little. That’s when I knew. My body does that thing where you feel physically calm, but you know you’re ready to hit, run, scream or bite at any moment. I was terrified.
Not only was the guy significantly bigger than me, I also didn’t know the neighborhood super well and was walking on a quiet street. There really was no-one else around to help me. I became hyper aware of his movements and distance from me. I could hear his keys jingling with every step he took. My brain cycled though all the terrible things he could do to me. Would he take me somewhere and rape me? Would he just assault me in public? If I got kidnapped, would the police find me within twenty-four hours?
I began to cut though the parking lot that emerged on my right, back toward my office and the busier streets. I could hear him still walking behind me. If there was any doubt that he had been following me before, there was definitely none now. I jumped down a retaining wall to get to the next parking lot, hoping he would get discouraged. I didn’t hear him jump down behind me, so I tried to casually look around to see where he was.
That’s when I spotted the cop car. Ordinarily I’m a little resistant to over-policing potentially dangerous neighborhoods, because it usually just causes an increase in crime. But in that moment, I’ve never been so happy to see a police officer. Just the sight of the cop was enough to scare off the guy following me, but I continued walking towards the police just in case. I made it back to my office, but I was really shaken up and needed to go sit in the lounge for a few minutes to calm myself down.
The big question here is why is this okay? My womanhood is not an invitation for anyone to behave like that. I hate rape culture and victim blaming as much as the next person, but I wasn’t even wearing anything revealing. I was wearing a T shirt and knee-length circle skirt. If anything, my outfit just proves that what you’re wearing literally makes no difference; if you’re female, you need to get used to being fearful on the streets.
As women, we’ve begun fighting back, no doubt about it. But how long do we need to fight before we’re heard? No one deserves to feel scared when they leave their houses. Safety on public streets should never be dependent on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. We all deserve to feel comfortable and welcome in our public spaces. Women are beginning to demand the respect we deserve, but how long until we actually receive it?
Personally, I’m sick of waiting. I want my body to be mine alone and I want to be respected for my sheer existence as a human. How much longer are we going to be stagnate? The suffragettes had to resort to violence all those years ago. I pray that modern feminists aren’t pushed to the same limits.
Published on Her Campus, June 21, 2016
Published on Unwritten, June 22, 2016