“I don’t want to be protected, I want to be free”

Some of my “favorites”.

Out walking with a male friend, got yelled out (whatever generic crap men say). I lost my temper and flicked the guy off, to which I got the reply “You can stick that up my a**” I was furious. And there was nothing I could do.

A guy followed me home (I thought I had lost him), I was walking to class the following morning, and was greeted by the same car, pulling out of MY apartment complex and driving really slowly with the window down, not saying anything. I live less than half a mile from school, but had to get the school police to come pick me up.

I gave the cops a partial license plate and description of the car and man inside. Their response? Don’t walk alone, better yet get a lift from a friend. Every time I need or want to go home to go on campus someone should come pick me up? How can walking ten minutes to class be so dangerous?

The cops, sorry two cop cars, stopped me while I was walking to school (not that the dress/appearance argument is relevant, but I am out in pretty mundane clothes and clearly look like a student). I knew there had been some prostitute stings in the area, and obviously had been dealing with men trying to buy sex (and not just being creepers). I was late, I cut to the chase “I’m not a prostitute.” They asked, “Have you ever been arrested?” I attempted to be cooperative, but wanted to get to my meeting. Eventually I told them about getting harassed all the time and offered to show my student ID and asked if I could leave. He just waved me off. Sorry, but at least in Sarasota (besides being the meanest city for the homeless) cops definitely don’t give a shit about woman getting harnessed. I have no idea what the justification is, but I would never expect a cop to be remotely helpful in this area if they even saw some guy bothering me.

I was biking in a different area, and this truck started following me. He’d go around the block and drive by real slow, again, and again, and again. At first I thought I was confused. Then I thought, maybe he just wants directions. Nope. It was one of the first times I realized how unsafe I was, because I was (no looked) female. I eventually was able to duck behind a building and hide out for a bit, but asked a friend to come pick me up just in case. I was practically in tears.

The only other time (I recall) having to hide was under similar circumstances. I was visiting a friend and went for a run through their neighborhood, when a man in a blue truck started following me (yelling the usual crap). Luckily there was a fire station near by, I noticeably walked in the next time he came around. The firefighters there were furious and offered to give me a ride home and wanted to know what he looked like.

I was really grateful those guys were there, but I think they didn’t understand that I don’t want to be protected, I want to be free. Easily the majority of the men who harass me are middle-aged white males, and yet one of the fire fighters was surprised. Unfortunately racism still persists in how the problem is even perceived, and exactly the group that is the problem is the group that feels the need to “protect” woman and offers completely ignorant advice about safety.

– R

Location: Sarasota, Florida

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


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