It was a Saturday night around 22:45 when newly 17 year old me stepped off the bus, alone. All I had to do now was the 8/10 minute walk up my road.
Within thirty seconds a car pulls up to the side of the main road and my heart sinks as they wind down the window revealing two guys, maybe 20, maybe younger. I continue walking, but they’re still there, still in their car. I assume they’ve asked me a question….why else would they be sitting there looking at me? ‘Pardon?’ I say. They say something which I couldn’t make out -clearly something to do with my appearance- but I continue walking. Only as they drive away I realise how long I’ve been holding my breath.
However, the story doesn’t end here, because unfortunately if it did, I probably wouldn’t of included it in a blog post. Scarily, that part of the story seems somewhat normal to many (don’t even get me started on the reasons why that shouldn’t be a normality, we’ll save that for another blog post). The story proceeds, as this car doesn’t drive away, but takes a left turn up my road, only metres before I’m about to as well. Coincidence? I think not.
Now if there’s one thing common sense says it is to never feel uncomfortable in a place you may be on your own. I couldn’t see up my road to tell if there was anyone there and I wasn’t going to take the risk. I turned around and walked back to the bus stop, standing near to two other people, whom although I didn’t know at all, made me feel safer.
After giving it a few minutes at the bus stop I began turning up my road again. They’re still there. Head down I attempt to slip by unnoticed. Then the calls come and as I continue walking I hear ‘Hey, beautiful’, ‘excuse me babe’, etc. Then they reverse back in line with me as I walk… they’re technically the other side of the road but as they reverse it takes every ounce of me not to a) run up the road or b) scream and yell ‘I’M NOT INTERESTED. I’M 17. PEOPLE WHO INTIMIDATE ARE NOT MY KIND OF PEOPLE’ and ‘f*** off’ may have to be added into that speech…maybe. ‘Give me a minute’ one of the guys says from the window. ‘Sorry, I can’t’. Three more requests -along with scattered ‘compliments’- and three more ‘no’s’ are said before they give in and drive off.
Needless to say I got home fine. I’ve questionned myself as I write this whether I’m just being too dramatic and OTT. Whether this is really something to write on my blog. But then I remember the feeling I had in those 5 minutes this story took place in. I felt angry. I felt angry that by a woman’s appearance we are approached. I felt angry that they made me feel scared. I felt angry that I couldn’t do anything about it in fear of what the consequences would be in return.
The biggest fear was the intimidation. They was in a car, I was in heels. There was two of them, there was one of me.
Whilst all of this was happening it was hard not to remember the girls who’ve hit the headlines in recent years – murdered, raped, kidnapped. Or the shocking statistics that around 120 million girls worldwide (that’s slightly over 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives.
So, forgive me if this post sounds dramatic, or if you believe I acted in a way which you may not have, but when over 400,000 women get sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year, it’s hard to take random guys shouting compliments out of car windows or looking at you as if you’re a piece of meat. Things like that make me feel uncomfortable, nervous and ultimately scare me. It seems some people have forgotten how their actions may make others feel.
This situation is not isolated in it’s problems. I spoke to my friends about my own experience and they all had something to add – their own stories almost identical to my own just on different days.
We can’t sit and say nothing. Pretend these things don’t happen. Because whilst we’re fighting for women’s rights globally it’s easy to forget the problems we still face here.
This post is part of a series all based on girls and women and the interesting, scary and shocking stories which come with us. I hope you stick around and read some more and I encourage discussion in the comments below.
*Statistics taken from www.unwomen.org and www.rapecrisis.org.uk
I feel as if a little disclaimer should go with this post. My views are about being treated as an equal, and although this post is about males as the ‘attackers’ as such, I am well aware of the double sided sword in which problems face BOTH men and women. The story highlighted is not the worst thing ever -and I don’t mean it to come across in that light, there’s clearly many other more violent scary cases – however it is a widescale issue which has at some point hit EVERY single teenage girl I know, hence why I wanted to tell my story which is so similar to all the others.
If you don’t believe me in how normal sexism still is, check out the everyday sexism project in which you can also upload your own story.