Diane’s Story: “That was definitely a red flag for me”

As a study abroad student in Angers, France I experienced quite a bit of street harassment, however, one incident stuck with me more than the others…probably due to how much it scared me.

I was walking down the street by myself going back to my bike to head home (probably not a good call at night, but I thought since it was the street the university was off of it would be fairly safe…). I suddenly had one of the people who I did not know, and had maybe said “hello” to when my friends and I were out because he asked me my name but didn’t have much of a conversation with otherwise, run up to me from down the street trying to convince me to go with him (where exactly wasn’t stated).

When I refused and said I really needed to go he tried to convince me to just “talk” with him in the alley. That was definitely a red flag for me so I kept walking. After that, I turned back to see a huge group of about 10 guys (I came to realize they were his friends when I saw him running to meet up with them) all yelling at me to come with them. I just started walking quickly away, getting more and more nervous seeing as, despite my lack of response to all their calls, they were continuing to follow me and getting closer and closer.

I started to panic and run, and luckily ran into this bar whose owner had been one of the people I had had an extended conversation with already in the town, and came to understand that his bar was where most of the foreign exchange students would come on weekends. Being able to speak French pretty well, I explained my situation. He looked out the door and, after having seen the rowdy, intoxicated group of guys calling out at me, said in a concerned voice “stay here, my sister will come and take you home, this isn’t safe.” His sister (with a baby carriage in the back of her car, which seemed promising) then came and picked me up from the bar where I had been waiting safely. I was so happy for the kindness of a family I had just barely met, and also so grateful I had escaped this situation in which I was VASTLY outnumbered.

I came to learn that this street wasn’t known for being safe at all, despite its extremely close proximity to the school, that that’s no excuse for harassment being allowed to take place.

I said “no.” That should have been the end of that conversation. When that wasn’t respected, it was clear to me that they didn’t care about my opinion on the matter, even thought it was ME they were trying to get to come with them. Not okay.