Street Harassment: It was a beautiful…

It was a beautiful evening at the beginning of summer two years ago when I was studying in Clermont. That evening I had a date with my boyfriend and as every time I went to his place, I had to take the tram for about 40 minutes.

It was very hot outside and I made myself beautiful to go and see him. I’ve always been the kind of girl who embrace my body. I like to look good and dress for myself, to feel good and have self-confidence, but that night I was also getting ready for my boyfriend. So I put on a black suit: with straps and the length stopped at the level of the legs like a rather long pair of shorts. And shoes with heels. I take the time to describe the details as if to justify myself, but clothes don’t justify the disgusting or degrading comments a man says or does.

So I took the tram that night. I was almost at the “May 1st” stop but 3 or 4 stops before, a bunch of guys got on the tram and stood in front of me. During the last 3 stops, I was asked “what’s your name”, “you’re gorgeous”, “where are you going”.

I answered them with a false name and told them I wanted them to stop talking to me. I also sent a text message to my boyfriend telling him to come and pick me up at the stop and that it was urgent because I didn’t feel safe.

Arriving at the May 1st stop, I got off. Soon I noticed that they got off too so I started walking faster. But I saw that they were following me and kept shouting at me to ask where I was going. I walk past a kebab and they ask me if I want them to pay me one, I tell them “no thanks goodbye” and I keep walking fast. I didn’t feel able to be more assertive and stand up to them, which I regret now. But the street was dark, it was night time. There was no one on the street who could have been a witness or could have helped me. After 10 minutes, which lasted hours for me, I spotted my boyfriend who had come to meet me and they stopped following me and turned back at that point. Seeing his face was so comforting that I needed that feeling of protection.

After that, a similar situation happened to me walking home from the hairdresser. In the middle of the day a guy started following me and I realized it. After a while he started calling me and asking me my first name and where I was going. It was a different context since we were in a main street with heavy traffic and in daylight. I turned around and said “sorry but I’m in a relationship, I have a boyfriend and I’m not interested, goodbye”. He continued to follow me a little bit, insisting and I took out my phone to call my boyfriend and stay with him all the way home. The guy stopped following me when he saw me talking on the phone.

Now I never go home alone without being on the phone. And I always check my surroundings. I avoid going out alone at night unless it’s impossible to do otherwise. But I always dress for me. Because the only people responsible for the interaction in this situation were these men. They voluntarily chose to follow me and shouted at me when I made it clear to them that I was not interested in talking and that I was walking fast out of fear. Even when I gave an answer, they continued to do this without any control, all because they didn’t like my refusal. No means no. Two years later I still feel bad when I go out alone in the street at night and I can’t go back to that same neighbourhood at night because it puts me back in an atmosphere of insecurity that I don’t want to relive. I know that many other people have much worse and dehumanizing experiences, but never forget that it’s not your fault, and that you are never alone!