Street harassment flashback shocks me

On the Shakesville blog, people are answering the question: “In what ways has the idea of sexual assault and/or street harassment affected your daily movements?” The question was posed on Saturday and already there are over 400 responses. Since this is exactly one of the topics I want to discuss in a book I plan to write on street harassment, I was thrilled and I have been eagerly reading through the posts. It never ceases to amaze me how much our lives are impacted by street harassment.

I was part-way through reading a post by FriedaK about getting followed by a guy in a car as she walked home from a night shift at work when I had a flashback to a street harassment incident I had completely forgotten about. Over a year ago when I first began researching street harassment, I wrote down all of the “major” incidents I could recall but I didn’t remember this one.

In this incident I was either 14 or 15 years old and I was running a 6 mile loop through the streets near my house in Pacific Palisades, CA. I think it was a Saturday morning. I ran up Sunset Blvd and then cut up into a very affluent neighborhood because they had a large hill I liked running up. I’d run this route many times.  This day, I was part-way up the hill (and about 2.25 miles into my run) when a man in a car started driving slowly beside me. My heart quickened but I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was probably looking for a certain house, etc. Still, I increased my pace.

I ran about another 3/4th of a mile with him still beside me and I was getting more nervous each second. There was no one on the street and most of the houses had big security gates and looked very intimidating and I didn’t really see running up to one of them for help as a viable solution. By that point, he’d been beside me long enough that I worried that he was up to no good. I was too freaked out to look at him and so I just pretended I didn’t notice him and wasn’t bothered. I reached the peak of the hill and as soon as I saw a side street, I sprinted down it and kept going full speed, weaving in and out of side streets until I reached Sunset Boulevard, a well populated street.

I didn’t see him again during the run but I was really shook up. I’d been running alone for a few years at that point and I had generally always felt safe (though not enough to run at night) and it was a big shock to not feel safe anymore. My mom bought mace for me to carry around that time and I can’t remember if it was in response to that incident or not.

Compared to so many women whose stories I’ve read, this incident is nothing. I wasn’t assaulted, raped, attacked, nor did I even have anything offensive or threatening yelled at me. He may not have been following me at all. I will never know. But I do know it was very real to me at the time and in the few minutes since I remembered it happening, I have felt shaky and scared just thinking about it. It’s surprises me that I forgot about this incident and that remembering it has upset me so much.

3 Responses to Street harassment flashback shocks me

  1. Golden Silence says:

    Drive-by harassment is the worst form of street harassment because it’s so random and scary. With the ones that happen with guys hanging out on the corner, at least you can see their faces. It’s not easy to catch a driver in the act, and he can pull off before he gets caught.

    Drive-by harassment happens to me too frequently. One scary incident is when I was coming home late one night after martial arts, and this SUV circled the block a few times while the guys in it were trying to “holla” at me. I screamed like a banshee at them to leave me the hell alone, and if it weren’t for these transgendered women that heard what was going on and ran out of their house ready to fight these men (and afterwards they told me men harass them in their cars like that too), I don’t know what I would’ve done.

  2. Golden Silence says:

    Oh, and here’s a blog that was linked to DC Blogs where the author talks about receiving drive-by harassment while jogging:

    Chivalry and Courting in the District

  3. Thanks for your message and the link! I’m sorry you have had the “joy” of drive-by harassment too. Thank goodness people helped you when you screamed!! I’ve heard horrible stories about people not helping. But I’ve also heard a few good ones where people did help. Blech, in solidarity…

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