“Men do not own our bodies” – harassment, exposure and rape threat

My story took place nearly 4 years ago, but still shakes me to the core this day.

I’m originally from the US and prior to moving to the UK hadn’t really experienced any form of street harrassment except for the occasional honking from men in passing cars. When I moved to London, I was floored by how frequently men made comments or wolf whistled at me. Every time it happened, I was stunned but it also made my blood boil and I usually screamed “f*** you” back or gave them the finger.

One day, I walked from my boyfriend’s (bf) flat to a Tesco literally less than a minute away. My bf was at work so I went to grab some food. To get there, I had to cut through a small side street that led to the main high street where Tesco was. On my way back there was a man standing against the wall, dick out and urinating. I tried to walk past as quickly as possible without him noticing but he saw me, swung around with his dick still out and said “hey girl do you want a taste of this?” Gesturing towards his penis. I said something to the extent of “f*** you creep I’ll kick you in the dick” and that’s when things escalated. He followed me down the street saying things, at first really inappropriate, then quickly progressing to things so obscene I don’t even want to write them here it upsets me too much – but basically it got to the point where he was threatening to rape me. At this point I was nearly hysterical and so crippled with fear all I could do was scream F***¬†YOU I WILL CALL THE POLICE. But I didn’t have my phone on me. He just laughed and said “do it, see what happens”. I was shaking and nearly running now towards my bf’s house. I couldn’t get the key in the door fast enough, the thought crossed my mind that now he knows where I live but I just had to get away. I made it inside, slammed the door and sunk to the floor, overcome with panic and tears.

The worst part? My bf’s roommate was home and had heard me yelling. He had been looking out the kitchen window wondering what the noise was and who I was talking to. He came into the hallway and said “did you know that man?” And I was utterly speechless. I finally muttered something to the extent of “no julien, I did not know that man threatening to rape me. And thanks a lot for coming to help me.”

To this day I wear headphones when I go out, even if it’s just to walk a few minutes down the road. It helps to drown out the harassment for the most part. We don’t live in the same flat anymore but we still live in the same area and I often think about that day and what I did wrong or could have done differently. But I know I did nothing wrong and can’t blame myself for what happened. Some people in this world are just really vile. It hasn’t stopped me from standing up to anyone who harasses me and I also make a point of standing up for anyone else I see being harassed – everyone should do this. Men do not own our bodies and it’s crucial that everyone – including men – drives this message home.