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Women share stories of strangers stepping in to help them when they were followed by creepy men

Countless women shared instances of strangers pretending to know them just to scare away stalkers, in vulnerable situations.

Image source: Twitter/loud_witch | gleefulthoughts
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Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 21, 2021. It has since been updated.

Trigger warning: This story contains themes of sexual harassment that some readers may find disturbing.


Having a stranger follow you while you are on your own can be harrowing and scary. Women experience this with alarming frequency and it's quite paralyzing. A survey by Gallup showed that 45% of women in the U.S. do not feel safe walking alone at night compared with 27% of men feeling the same. The issue came to the fore when Sarah Everard, a British woman, was killed while walking home from a friend’s flat in London on March 3, 2021. There were widespread protests in the U.K. in the wake of her death over gender minorities feeling unsafe in public spaces. A YouGov poll revealed that 86% of women aged between 18 and 24 have been the victim of sexual harassment, reported The Guardian.

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Image Source: Getty Images/ A terrified young woman in an underground parking garage being followed by a sinister man

 

A Twitter thread revealed how women went out of their way to look out for each other when potentially followed or stalked by men. Many opened up about personal incidents where women looked out for them and guided them during dangerous situations. The thread started after a woman pointed out how people could help a woman in such situations. “If a girl suddenly acts as if she knows you in public and acts like you are friends, go along with it, she could be in danger.” This admission was followed by many women sharing their personal experiences of being stalked, saved and protecting others who they found in vulnerable positions.

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“This is a human rights crisis. It’s just not enough for us to keep saying ‘this is too difficult a problem for us to solve’ – it needs addressing now,” said Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK. “We are looking at a situation where younger women are constantly modifying their behavior in an attempt to avoid being objectified or attacked, and older women are reporting serious concerns about personal safety if they ever leave the house in the dark – even during the daytime in winter.” 

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Image Source: Getty Images/ Scared young woman with blonde hair looking back over her shoulder at a stranger in a black trench coat that is following behind her downtown in an urban city.

 



 

 



 

 



 

 

Ultimately, it's men's behavior that has to change for women to feel space in public spaces. One of the major talking points in the wake of Everard's death was to hold men accountable for their actions. In a society that's quick to shift blame onto women for every instance of assault, women are raising their voices to remind everyone that there are never any expectations on men to not rape, assault, or murder women. While women are constantly told to take precautions and listed the many ways in which they can avoid death and rape, men are never instructed on how to just be basic human beings. Police faced a severe backlash after telling women in Clapham to not go out alone in the wake of Everard's death. They were accused of once again shifting the responsibility of attacks on women away from men. 

 



 

 

Another important thread asked for suggestions on what men can do to make women feel safer. "I live less than five minutes from where Sarah Everard went missing. Everyone is on high alert. Aside from giving as much space as possible on quieter streets and keeping face visible, is there anything else men can reasonably do to reduce the anxiety/spook factor?" asked Stuart Edwards. Women responded by telling them the many ways in which men could be helpful in such situations.

 



 

 



 

 



 

 



 

 



 

 

Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, said one of the primary issues was that women had no faith in an “utterly broken” system and the normalization of such behavior. She added that many men still continue to view women as pubic property. “At the root of all this is the normalization of the idea that a woman’s body in a public place is simply a public property and young women just have to put up with it. We have to shatter that normalization through policy and in the press if we want to change the picture,” Bates added.

If you are being subjected to sexual assault, or know of anyone who is, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673)

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