I remember it vividly: feeling terrified, shocked, stuck, scared, and simply uncomfortable. A story about the first time I was ever followed by a man. The first time happened, when my cousin, her dog, and I went for a walk, on a public trail, near her house. About five minutes into starting on this trail, we noticed a man who was visibly day-drinking, holding a brown paper bag to cover his choice of drink. We slightly veered off the path, as the dog led us to where he wanted to do his business, between some trees. My cousin fell pretty silent before whispering to me, "That man's watching us." And, when I looked up, he was watching us from the path. Brown paper bag in hand, with zero shame, and with eyes on his prize. I immediately freaked out. My eyes widened, and my jaw probably dropped. Sheer terror must have been on my face, because my cousin noticed. She tried to calm me down, listing reasons not to worry:
- We have a dog .
- He's clearly drinking, so he has to be weak.
- There's three of us, against one of him.
- It's a public trail, so there has to be other people strolling.
- And, who knows—maybe we’re wrong.
I didn't truly believe my cousin, because I continued to freak out, asking questions a mile a minute, and understanding that this man was wrong. He isn't allowed to make us think, "Maybe, we're wrong." We are not wrong. I wanted to confront him. I wanted to tell everyone about him, so he could feel watched the same way he was watching us.
We eventually went ahead of him, to continue our walk on the public path, and when I still wouldn't calm down, my cousin made it a point to make him pass us. "If he's in front, then he can't watch us." When he passed us and was in front, I calmed down a bit, but not for long, because not even 30 seconds had passed before the man made a dead stop under a tree, looked back at us, and then began stretching. He wanted us to be in front, so he could continue exercising his devilish symptoms. We both had enough, and decided to hit the next cat-walk, exiting the trail. We mustered the courage after what felt like forever to walk passed him, to get to the cat-walk. As we did, I refused to look back, and was focused on pacing as fast as possible to safety. My cousin noticed him come up the cat-walk, she'd tell me later, and she grabbed my arm and pulled me towards a lady who was unloading her groceries from her car. We were lucky to catch her outside, because neither of us wanted to knock on someone's door to explain what had just happened. The lady was shocked and concerned for us. She offered us to come inside for some water, but after keeping the lady for about 10 minutes, we left to walk back home. Still shaken, my cousin scared the shit out of me on the way home, joking about him being right behind us again.
I know many females and males can relate to such an experience, because it happens too often. Each story points to a culture that turns a blind eye to a common and tragic symptom born and nurtured in males. The common saying, "Males have it easy," is because they're encouraged to put themselves out there to get what they want, when they want it. Some men are educated enough to understand compliance, and that whoever they're seeking is a human being, just like them. Then, there are men who choose to be ignorant to all of it. They view females as objects, like toys put on Earth for their leisure. It is a culture which over generations has normalized, and allowed men to exercise their predatory actions. They are natural, common urges that need to be worked out in whatever way they can, all things overlooked. These males clearly need help to understand their impulses, and need ways to properly channel them as intelligent human beings. We all have animal tendencies that we do not act on, in order to keep some order in the world we know and live in. We are lucky to rise above such thoughts, to contribute to a bigger meaning, to contribute to our society, to feed ourselves in healthy ways, and to be happy and at peace with ourselves. I hope we continue to talk about it, so males and females who are unable to understand themselves can seek out help. Through seeking, we will grow an institutionalized way of blending it into our culture, instead of normalizing behaviour that is traumatic.
Writing is a great way to deal with personal stories that are hard to speak up about. It is your story. Take it and conquer it, whenever and however you want. If you have inflicted harm on others, it is never too late to try to be better, and if you are a victim, allow the energy in you to be used as superhuman power.