I was waiting at a bus stop with headphones on, and a man standing near me stared intently at me. He started talking to me and didn’t stop until I removed my headphones. He asked increasingly personal questions about me (where I go to school, what’s my name, where do I live, etc.) while ignoring my refusal to answer most of them, then started asking me to get a drink with him. He continued to ask, despite multiple refusals, until the bus came.
Once on the bus, he stood close to me and stared until I got to my stop. I got off and ran home, hoping he wasn’t following me, but feeling as if I had overreacted. The next day, I walked to a bus stop in a completely different part of the city. I heard my first name and felt someone grab my arm. It was the same man from the night before. He started pulling me towards him, saying that this was fate and we had to get a drink now, and kept a tight grip on my arm. I was pulling and asking him to leave me alone, all while dozens of pedestrians walked right past us, ignoring the scene.
I was finally able to free my arm from his grasp and ran across the street, dodging traffic, and jumped onto a bus going the wrong direction just to get away. I had never felt so violated and alone. I had no control over the situation and it felt like no one was willing to help me. I was shaking and continuously checking that he hadn’t made it on to the bus as well.
An elderly woman gave me a kind smile and patted my arm without saying anything. That gesture did so much to comfort me and helped me know that I’m not invisible.
Optional: What’s one way you think we can make public places safer for everyone?
The most important action we can take to make public places safer is teaching everyone, boys especially, that any form of harassment is unacceptable. We should teach our children (and adults, because clearly they still need to learn) that forcing your presence on someone is never okay. We cannot let this behavior continue to be normalized. As women and allies, we must not continue to turn a blind eye if we see any harassment
Location: Rome, Italy
Need support? Call the toll-free National Street Harassment hotline: 855-897-5910Share on Facebook