Harassed in SE10 – “I wish everyone could walk to or from home each day feeling carefree and strong”

New submission from Anon

I have been suffering from a huge amount of anxiety since moving to London. Most of the triggers of my panic attacks nowadays tend to be related to the street harassment I have to deal with. For the last year I have been leaving the house wearing baggy or less attractive clothing in order to draw the least attention to myself, but I would still be looked up and down or have men shouting at me from their vans or on the street.

I have been followed home on two separate occasions. The first of which was when I was walking home from Greenwich Park. It was sunny, warm and there were people around, but that didn’t stop the 3 men I noticed staring at me from following me along the road back home. They muttered to each other for a while and then started speaking up, shouting “oi”. I felt threatened and did not turn around or respond in case it exacerbated the situation, so one of them said to the other “Mate, what a stuck up bitch. She’s ignoring you!”. My heart was beating through my ears as a full-on panic attack started and I walked even faster to get home. Luckily, this time, when I turned the corner, they had given up.

The second time was only last week. Since the last encounter, I had decided to start going to the gym every day I could, to help with my anxiety but also to help me feel physically and mentally strong in order to be able to deal with these types of situations. It was going well and I was tending to leave the gym feeling good about myself – strong, happy and calm. Sometimes, this disappears the minute I leave the gym as some men may comment or look me up and down on my way home.

Last week was one of my worst encounters. I was walking up Vanbrugh Hill, feeling physically exhausted from my session and on the normally empty bench off the pavement was a man drinking beer with a threatening smile on his face, intently watching my legs. My whole body suddenly went into some kind of survival mode the moment I saw him stand up and start walking behind me, so I picked up my pace as quickly as I possibly could. He said nothing and did nothing but continued to follow me as I turned left onto a road leading to mine. Luckily, my time at the gym in the last few months had paid off, as I was able to put a good amount of distance between us and by the time I walked up my road, he was quite far behind. The moment I had shut my front door behind me, I burst into tears and spent the rest of the night in shock and terrified of leaving the house again.

I haven’t let it stop me from leaving the house or going to the gym, but if I’m totally honest, I could not be more sick and in some cases ashamed of the fact that one man, with either his eyes or some stupid, yet sickening words, can make me feel so violated and powerless. I deeply wish this would change and that everyone could walk to or from home each day feeling care-free and strong in themselves.