A Look At My World…
(Possible TW: Stalking and harassment)
So people talk about how as a girl you only get harassed, stalked, attacked, etc. if you do something to bring that attention on, or we should appreciate it. Well I’ve spent my whole life with people following me home, leaving threatening voicemails, calling my house and threatening me while standing in front of my house, chasing me to my car, grabbing me in public…and I have to say, I don’t think I did ANYTHING to bring that attention on. I don’t wear suggestive clothing, I walk with purpose, and unless I’m with other people, I keep to myself. Even so I feel like sharing my experiences with the worst of these, from age 10 to the very recent creepy incident of this weekend.
Starting in elementary school, I used to walk 4 blocks home from the school; I’d take different routes and stop at friends houses because people would literally wait for me at the rear gate of the school. It wasn’t classmates either it was adults and teenagers, boys/men who should have better things to do than bother a little girl. I hadn’t really associated these guys with bad intentions yet, but I knew they were probably people I should avoid, because the reality is, what kind of person hangs out by an elementary school or a park without a kid or someone? I was a pretty trusting little kid, I’d never really had to deal with too much badness in my life, just a few little things that were easily brushed off, so even though I didn’t like the way these people acted, I didn’t think of them as bad people. But then I started literally being followed, to the point of crossing the street and having them cross too, pausing to tie my shoe, and they’d pause too. A few times I had people hang out in front of my house when I got home; I think they were hoping I was going to come out and play or something. To a child, it registered as creepy but not that scary, maybe they thought they knew me.
By middle school this became even worse, to the point of people literally pulling over their cars to stop me on the street, and thinking they were lost I’d come over to chat. But 4 times out of 5 they were propositioning me or asking if I wanted a ride. The creepiest occurrence of this being walking to Dollar Tree a few weeks before school to get supplies and having one car stop, stare at me for awhile, then slowly leave, and within 2 minutes another car drive along side me with the window rolled down, trying to flirt with me. Mind you I was 12, and super suspicious, and all I could see was a creepy guy in the front seat and from what I could tell someone hiding in the back seat. Lucky me, a cop rolled by and slowed down to ask what he wanted, so he sped up and left, only for the first car to come by again to stare at me. I didn’t walk home after that.
About a year later when I was 13, I was walking home from school in the pouring rain when I felt like I was being watched, and even was able to hear footsteps behind me when I slowed down, but whenever I turned around after stopping no one was there. This was in the middle of a neighborhood with lots of trees and bushes to hide behind so I started to get the idea that whoever was there saw me stop and would hide. I kind of thought it was one of my friends because it stopped after awhile, until I got home. I did my usual routine of changing into dry clothes and making sure all the doors and windows were locked. And I went into the computer room, honestly probably to go on Myspace, and within minutes I get a phone call. You could hear rain in the background of the call and the person’s voice was muffled at first but then they started yelling at me, insulting me, and telling me I was a cunt for ignoring them. So I turned off my cell, I figured whoever it was didn’t need to be able to reach me. But then my house phone rang, and being dumb I ran to answer it. Same damn person! Only this time they were threatening me and telling me to come outside, because they knew I was in there. So I hung up and peaked outside to see someone standing on the sidewalk outside of my house. I don’t think my parents remember this, but I called them and told them I was being stalked and there was someone outside of the house. I was told not to call the cops because I was just panicking over nothing. At this point my dog is barking and I’m hiding where I can’t be seen from any window. And as soon as I hang up, the phone rings again! Same person from outside, this time they tell me that if I don’t shut my dog up they’re going to come in and kill her and me. So now I’m really panicked, not only is the person outside actually the one calling, but they know my dog is a girl. This call and hang up went on for half an hour until my parents pulled up and I think the guy must have just walked off. But I was terrified for a long time to do anything alone.
By high school I’d learned to walk with purpose and carry a big knife, I knew it wasn’t allowed on campus, but I’d rather get in trouble for having a weapon, than be heading home and get in real trouble being unprotected. When I moved to the charter school I actually calmed down a lot, I felt safer, the security guards hung out with me while I waited for my rides and I walked around when the streets were so busy that you didn’t have to worry about it.
Since high school I’ve readopted my usage of carrying weapons and always walking like I’m heading somewhere, and it makes life hard for people around me because they try to walk with me and I’m speed walking, heel-toe heel-toe heel-toe, never missing a beat and never scuffing my feet like I’m shuffling around. Yet because of my size and the fact that I’m very kind of strangers I still end up with people who scare me and harass me. I’ve ended up with internet stalkers, who when they find out I’m dating someone, have threatened to hurt my significant other if I didn’t break up with them. I’ve had people leave disgustingly graphic details of the things they would do to me. I’ve even had people walk up in public and grope me, because “You wouldn’t wear a dress like that if you didn’t want touched”. Those incidents usually coincided with me wearing a knee length dress, with leggings or boots, and usually a jacket. And even the times I wore shorter dresses it wasn’t an invitation to be groped. Last year while out shopping I wore a mini dress because I’d just come from a modeling meeting, and a small boy, around 8, old enough to know better, pulled up the back of my dress and grabbed my butt. When I asked his mother about it and told her she should watch him better, she told me I probably shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt. I sat at the front of the store and cried, I felt violated and I couldn’t even get mad because it was my own fault apparently.
Then my lifelong paranoia of someone attacking me came to a peak this weekend as I was housesitting, I felt like I was being watched all day, and I wrote it off as being paranoid. As I left the house I noticed the neighborhood was unnaturally silent and empty, then I heard a noise across the street and wrote it off, but someone came running out of the park directly towards me, and you’d think someone with good intentions would say something as they crossed the street or wave, but he just came towards me with purpose. Yes I panicked, yes I jumped in my car and got my little booty out of there before he got to me, but I can’t help but think if I hadn’t, if I’d given the guy the benefit of the doubt, I could be dead, or badly hurt, I could have been dragged into the park with the horrid lighting and left there to die. So yeah, better paranoid than dead.
So the next time you say I should appreciate the attention I get, remember that not all the catcalls and ‘attention’ I get is friendly, and the amount of stuff that hasn’t been has greatly affected how I view those people who approach me in that way. The guy I’m dating says women are like cats, and I have to agree, because if you run at a cat, yell at them, or make them uncomfortable, they’ll lash out or run away. Just a little public reminder from your neighborhood creep magnet.