First time fearing what I witnessed.
First time coming into a physical contact with harassment.
First time feeling powerless and scared to do anything.
First time NOT calling the police.
Harassment is nothing new, at least not in the UK where over 60% of womxn have experienced it in some form. Just read the Ideasphere article on human rights to find out more. I have lived in south London for over a year and through mutual discussions with friends who live nearby, I knew that Camberwell streets were not one of the safest. Yet, I never experienced anything bad happening directly to me and so I turned a blind eye on it. At least until recently...
I was walking home at 2am on a Saturday night, dressed in a puffed winter jacket, with messy hair and no make-up. Unfortunately, I was wearing tight jeans and a pair of heels. Whether it was the late hour, the alcohol, my clothing m or all of these combined, once I got off the bus and started walking home, I received a number of inappropriate comments. Although there were multiple girls half naked running across the street, I was the only one walking alone and therefore an easy target. So they took a shot.
It started with: hola, cómo estás? (obviously totally Spanish!) and followed with gorgeous, beautiful and being asked for a cigarette. It peaked when I saw a group of guys walking past an electricity box and one of them punching it. As they came closer, the same guy grabbed my arm and called me a buck bird. No idea what that was but he wouldn’t let go until a girl who was nearby shouted at him to stop.
I was shaking and kept walking at a fast pace until I reached home. The whole time I was focusing purely on getting to a warm house ASAP but my body could still feel the tight grip I experienced moments ago. The thought of calling the police did not even occur to me. Should I? Yes! What would I tell them? A guy on the street took my arm and called me an odd name? Can you identify him? No. Are you harmed? No. Bye. Although the government UK is running a Hate Crime campaign, you need evidence to file for harassment and that is hard to get if you’re alone on a dark street.
I am sorry to say that but all of the actions came from a black person. Which is such a shame because on the way back I sat next to a lovely black lady who wished me to ‘take care’ when I left. Trust me, I tried... I want to be fair. I want to have equality but why did no one make any comments whilst I was waiting at the Waterloo station where the majority of people was white? But what does a skin tone matter? It does not! It’s just what happened to me that Saturday night makes me never wanna walk down the street I live in alone at night again. Go and hate me but I am pro-gentrification.
I am scared. I am disappointed. By the people who get drunk and act aggressively on a Saturday night. By the fact that I did not take action to ensure that what happened to me will not happen to anyone else. Lastly, by my ignorance of this issue which I have discussed but never took completely seriously up until I experienced it first-hand. I am not the first nor the last victim of this behaviour but we must all try and contribute to making this rarer. Harassment is a criminal offence!