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I recently moved to San Francisco for a summer internship. In the 10 days that I’ve been here, I’ve experienced catcalling and other forms of verbal street harassment (from strangers intentionally blocking my way as I’m walking and creepily saying “hello” to making ominously threatening comments about me) on 5 different occasions. That’s every other day. Each time, it triggers memories of my prior experiences with sexual violence and reminds me that I am constantly at risk of experiencing such violence again.
Just today, I began to notice all of the subconscious ways I’ve been responding to this harassment. I look down to avoid all eye contact with passersby (hoping to go unnoticed), remind myself to walk and stand in aggressive ways (in attempts to appear strong), stand near the exit on public transportation (so I can easily escape if I need to) – and that’s just during the day. If the sun has set and I’m alone, I stay in my apartment. Period.
The way that street harassment polices the bodies, actions, and lives of women and many other marginalized populations is unacceptable. I shouldn’t have to feel scared, tense, or anxious about walking out my front door. These are my streets too.
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