Verbal Harassment in Public - and what to do about it
C.W: Stalking, Harassment (I know this might make people feel uncomfortable)
Feel free to take this down if it's inappropriate. I just feel like it is a common thing and that so many people don't speak up about it, and I wanted to share my experience and advice.
Hey. I've been super inactive as of late even though this is one of my favourite places to go, but an incident happened to me that I'm sure happens to a lot of people and I wanted to share it. I also wanted to share what I did about it.
I was harassed one morning while walking through town at 6am earlier this week (it's winter where I am so it's dark). Someone tried to follow me around in a car and tried to gesture me over. He was saying very flirtatious things and he was someone in his mid fifties (I'm 20). He got out of his car and tried crossing the road to get to me and I walked quickly down the street to avoid him. While I waited for my bus at another street he kept driving around the block and area until he found me again. He was being quite rude but was also very mentally unstable. I'm not going to disclose everything he did as I publicly reported this incident.
I have been harassed in the past where I was stalked by a man on a regular basis and he was much more forward and took things to a very disturbing level. I wish I took action on this (it lasted for years), but I didn't. I decided to take action this time because I was tired of all this harassment from people just because I was going for a walk somewhere.
Please remember, that if you are harassed in any way, you are not alone, and there are people who care about you. There are also support groups everywhere (even on social media) that may seem scary on the outside, but they remind you that we're all human, and that our experiences are valid and should be taken seriously.
Anyway this is what I did, I hope it helps if you are too afraid of speaking out or doing anything about your situation.
1. I posted about it
Posting about this kind of harassment (for me, verbal) is very important, if you're uncomfortable with that, it's good to confide with a friend. If you feel the one harassing you is mentally ill and needs help, it's good to mention that you don't want them harassed and you want them to get support. I eventually posted about the incident in my local community group and received a lot of background on this person and I knew of others that were harassed. I was also met with comments and messages stating the guy is harmless and won't do anything, but the fact of the matter is that harassment is harassment. I want to feel safe when walking the streets! So I mentioned that and received a lot of support. I was also pushed to call the police, even though - to me at least - they seemed like they would do nothing to help me.
2. I talked to my friends about it
Friends will have your back even if posting about it isn't for you. I had so many people ask if I was okay and they gave me tips on what to do if the incident happens again (Apparently some of the newer iPhones have alarms if you mash a button on them). I had classmates give me their numbers in case something like this happened again and although I felt kind of humiliated to post about something like this. I felt so loved and supported and I don't regret posting about it anymore - I received so much help.
3. I called the police
I finally decided to call the police about it. They wrote a lot of stuff down about it and got my details, my local police have some kind of file on him and I felt comfortable talking about it. I also brought up my past experience and they encouraged me to call about it too. They also told me that I should call the emergency number if I am in a situation like this again. I just couldn't believe that they care so much about verbal harassment. It is such a weight off to know that your experience is seen as something more than just 'harmless', but you're treated like an adult about it and you're given some useful advice.
I hope this is helpful. I know it seems kinda obvious, but as an anxious person I found that these little things actually mean so much. If you also have any advice you'd like to share, that would be great! I hope this doesn't come across as gender bias - harassment can happen to anyone, from anyone.
Also please let me know if anything I did was wrong! I am learning every day and if there's a better/safer alternative to what I did it would be really great if you could share it. Thank you.