Trigger warning: Discussions of gender based violence, sexual harassment and assault.
Women have been the main target lately in society, but we’re not asking to be singled out in such a sadistic way, writes Rachel Garvey who describes her own experiences of unwanted and threatening behaviour by a stranger.
Recently, women have taken to social media to share their stories on gender-based violence, sexual assault and harassment stories; tales they’ve kept in the dark for too long, but they should be proud to tell such an awful story that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Firstly, women just want to be left alone while walking home or walking to work or even if they’re out walking in general. Walking is something so simple and so ingrained into our daily routines since we were able to tiptoe, but why has it become so feared? It shouldn’t ever be feared, this is where we know that society and the people in it are letting us down; we should be made feel safe when we’re outside and inside too!
It was July 2021 and Eyre Square was dotted with groups of people; some lazing on the grass, some walking through while others stood within a distance of me waiting for their bus. I remember the weather being quite nice so I kept my hoodie off and my attire consisted of blue jeans and a horizontal striped t-shirt; nothing too fancy. I sat up on the concrete tree-bed near the bus stops and slipped in my earphones. A male stranger who was intoxicated passed me by and I looked up and gave him a small smile; huge mistake. He stopped right in front of me and leaned against the concrete beside me and I voluntarily moved away. He tried to make small talk and people have told me that I’m way too nice for my own good so I answered his questions with very quiet one-worded answers.
“Are you single?” he asked and I replied with a “yes”. Perhaps that was a bad idea, but I panicked in this situation and when I panic then I can’t lie to save my life. I shrugged and said “I’ll find someone eventually, there’s someone out there for everyone”, that line being my main phrase when someone asks about my relationship status. Things got out of hand then. He leaned closer and his words went:
“I’m the only man for you, there’s no-one else out there for you, we’ll get married…you’ll come back to me, you’ll see”
“Don’t you want our kids to call you Mommy and me Daddy because I really want that”
My chest tightened with heart palpitations and I knew my anxiety was sky-rocketing, I couldn’t move and he only got closer. I could feel tears in my eyes. All of a sudden, a car veered across the two lanes on the main road coming up the small incline of road and stopped dead in front of me. The driver rolled down his window and asked “Are you okay, Miss?”. The stranger answered for me “Yeah, she’s fine”. The driver got defensive in an instant and said “Hey! I wasn’t talking to you….Miss, are you okay?”. I shook my head and replied, “No, I’m not okay”. The driver threatened to call the guards if the male stranger didn’t move on. That threat was enough to send him walking on to another location, but I felt terrified. I thanked the driver and he went on his way and as soon as he drove off, a female approached me. She was a student who was also waiting for the bus and she apologised for what happened. She told me that she had wanted to come over and help me, but that she felt too scared to interfere, but she waited with me until my bus came, making sure I got on safely.
We don’t ask for people to approach us and tell us horrible things like that; a small smile is not an invitation, don’t pretend that it is. If someone is in need then don’t be afraid to step in and ask if they’re okay. In my situation, another stranger stepping in to help was the antidote. Leave us alone. Let us walk home in peace. Let us wait for our bus in peace. Let us feel safe. It’s not a lot to ask!