I am afraid to enter my own building.
It’s not a very long walk from school to my house, but it feels like one. Under the glares and stares and smirks of men ranging from ages 15 to what looks like 60, I feel like I’m walking a million miles every time I depart my school.
Everyone is frightening. I live under the constant fear of being followed. Men walking past me and muttering mouth-drying obscenities. Having to stop at different corners of the sidewalk to make sure that the man trudging on behind me is not a sexual predator but just another busybody, maybe on his way home too, just like me.
I walk slowly, but I am always out of breath because of the fear that fully consumes my body whenever I walk alone. The fear makes me breathless.
The worst part is entering my building, especially when there’s no electricity and the entrance is completely pitch-black dark and I know that if I walk in, I could be completely cornered by any creepy pervert who was walking on the streets and spotted me, following me to the door of my building. I know that I could be entirely unaware of a predator until I am inside the darkness completely alone, with no escape but the stairs leading up to nowhere, and no one to save or protect me – alone having to face the dreadful fate that awaits me if someone particularly sly had been unnoticed by my large and agitated eyes while I was fast-walking home, and sneaked up behind me to the entrance of what is supposed to be a place where I feel secure.
But I don’t feel secure. I don’t feel secure anywhere, because I have heard the stories about the girls who got assaulted here and there and by this and that person – most of the time by people they thought they trusted. Because if someone you trust and know could betray and abuse you in such a way, then what about those hundreds of millions that you don’t know and don’t trust? What about those? Who knows what anyone in the world can do? The fact that I once walked the streets with complete confidence and trust that no one in the road could have motive to hurt me astounds me. It seems like it was a million years ago that I did not live with the haunting fear and the constant instinct to run away. I have to walk around my neighborhood and the city that I call home with my mind persistently on alert, because it is not just winks and catcalls and rude or shocking remarks that I am susceptible to.
Studies say that 1 in 3 girls could be victims of sexual assault in their lives, and there are too many girls in my life that could be one of those girls, who might already have been one of those girls. I sit in classes counting the number of girls in the room and dividing it by three, to see how many of us would undergo sexual assault – according to the statistics. I had no idea how much of an effect that study had on me until I realized that I became completely used to doing so: it became normal for me, when in fact it isn’t normal – it’s sick.
Fearing for your life while walking home from school? Counting the number of girls that will have to undergo sexual assault in your history class? Feeling unsafe and in complete danger while entering your own home? Being so paranoid that you mistake your own shadow for a stalking predator? Is any of this normal?
It shouldn’t be called normal, but it is normality for girls. Girls have experienced and/or will experience street harassment. Girls feel at least a tiny spark of fear while walking outside after the sun has set, or even before, or when they realize that the only people on the street they are walking on are her and a small huddle of men. Girls walk home and have seen the disgusting looks on men’s faces and heard their disgusting remarks and felt disgusting. This becomes life, this becomes normal, this becomes routine. But it never stops being wrong. And that is what we must remember, but quite frequently forget – even me.
Because there does not seem to be a solution for this problem. It seems way too huge and whole for me to ever find a solution for street harassment, and the continuous objectification and sexualization of womyn’s bodies that is one of the countless reasons for the astounding rate of assault committed against them. Here I am: sickened and driven almost crazy with this problem, yet I am unable to fix it, I am unable to even continue trying to come up with ways of fixing it because I have seen and learned too many awful things to leave room for hope that the world is not entirely bad and full of sick people who like causing pain and destruction. And the fact that I am plagued by this overriding fear is proof of that.