“Walking as a woman isn’t a crime, isn’t an invitation, & shouldn’t be a constant source of fear.”

Location: Pennsylvania Ave and K St NW
Time:  Night (7:30pm-12am)

I am a small girl, and I’ve simply gotten used to the fact that anytime I’m out alone after dark, I feel scared. Most of my friends are guys, and didn’t understand this, So I asked then what they would do if, while waiting for a red light to change, a strange man came up within a foot of me going “excuse me, I just want to talk to you.” Or if a car, 2 blocks from the white house, even, slowed to the pace of my walk and followed me for 3 blocks asking what was in my backpack. My friends were surprised by what happened, but more upset by how normal I felt it was. The status quo for girls shouldn’t be harassment on every walk.

I was walking from foggy bottom to dupot after dinner with a friend a few weeks back when I was reminded how terrifying this could be. I’m used to watching shadows so I don’t have to keep turning around to see if someone is behind me. I saw a shadow, and as the man got closer, very close, I realized he was at least a foot taller than me, and not even two feet away. I didn’t want to say anything to him that would provoke him, and I was worried starting to run would do the same. I could probably have out-distanced him with a head start, but he was so close, I wouldn’t have made it 10 yards before he caught me. This flashed through my head in the second between when he came up behind me, and when I saw his shadow raise its arms. I jumped to the side and was about to run when he turned to me and said “roar! I’m the big bad wolf”. Then he started laughing and asked me my name.

I still don’t know if he was trying to attack me, or just thought he was being funny. I still don’t know what the right way to handle this would be. I jabbered in French until he got bored of trying then went as fast and far in the other direction as possible. My friends joke about how this just makes my life a fairy tale to cheer me up, but it’s not funny, and it’s not ok. Walking as a woman isn’t a crime, isn’t an invitation, and shouldn’t be a constant source of fear.

Submitted on 7/23/12 by “RB”

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3 Responses

  1. dcn8v

    This is truly terrifying. I’m so sorry that this happened to you. Please don’t hesitate to call the police as soon as you feel you can in a situation like this. At the very least, they can send someone to check to make sure you got home ok. If you feel scared, you can scream, make noise, anything to call attention to the situation. Sometimes this reaction is all it takes to startle someone away. Your friends should be ashamed that they think this is funny. This is the opposite of funny- it’s downright dangerous and scary.

  2. Kara

    As a rather tall, trans woman, I know for a fact that I am much more wary walking about as a woman than as a man. I rarely used to give it a second thought, but am now very situationally aware, and unbidden comments from guys can make me “bristle” and be ready for something bad to happen. It is usually easy to distinguish the polite greetings from the potential “stalker”, but not always. I quickly became good at avoiding interactions I didn’t want, and looking confident, which discourages many potential victimizers. It most definitely is NOT funny and has given me a way deeper appreciation of the difference between the male and female experience of walking and minding your own business.

  3. AMLO

    Encourage the read of This article about a similiar fear but revolves around being a woman with a disability.