I live in a ‘not so great’ neighbourhood in Queensland, Australia… or at least it has the reputation of being so. I’m originally from the UK and hadn’t been living here long, so I brushed those sentiments off as being stigma. Sadly, I was wrong. Every time I walk to the train station to catch my train to work, I am harassed. It varies in severity, but it’s always uncomfortable and always upsetting. Virtually to the point where I take every opportunity to avoid that walk.
On most occasions I have the typical ‘cat calling’, with men regularly slowing their cars to shout at me or whistle or beep their horn. I’ve had one guy follow me from the local supermarket (after seeing me in the cashier line ahead of him); it was around 8 p.m. at night and fairly dark, he pulled over on the road to approach me and ask me to get in his car so he could take me home, when I said no, he continued to follow, until I began running.
On a worse occasion, this time in the middle of the day, I was walking along the street near the busiest road and a man walked past and lifted up my skirt to expose my underwear. He ran before I could catch a look at his face, but I screamed out at him to make sure attention was drawn to him. From that incident, I’ve taken to avoiding skirts when possible… even though that sometimes means walking in the summer heat feeling uncomfortable, or having to get changed at work.
I once had a young boy aged around 15 follow me home, almost to my front door, and expose himself to me. I screamed out that he was sick and that he needed to get away from me before I called the police. He ran off. That night I couldn’t sleep because I was scared he’d come back, because he knew where I live.
The harassment upsets me and makes me feel uncomfortable in places I’m entitled to be; the shops, the streets, the trains.
I now feel empowered by my experiences and the stories I read here, and I try to retaliate to those who attempt to harass me. I’ll tell them how disgusting they are, or how pathetic they are.
Most of these people aren’t used to hearing a woman stand up to them, so when I do this they are usually speechless. I’ll tell them that they can’t make me feel uncomfortable and that I have a right to be here too…. they’re usually dumbfounded by it, and it makes me feel better to know I stood up for myself and made them feel uncomfortable, maybe they now know how it feels to be abused in public? And when other people have witnessed me defending myself, they’ve actually congratulated me, or laughed at the men who’ve tried to abuse me (and usually other women at the same time). It feels good trying to take back the streets, to feel comfortable in places I’m entitled to. I still get harassed, but I’m much braver since visiting this site.
Location: EVERYWHERE! Eagleby, Queensland, Australia