“Hey! She has a nice butt! How old is she?”
I was walking to i-Tea with three other girls when a grown man yelled that at us as we crossed the street. He even started to follow us until one of us turned around and saw him doing so. We disgustingly came to the conclusion that he was talking about me as the others were wearing longer and looser outfits.
I was in eighth grade, 13 years old.
There’s nothing as terrifying as being a girl and walking down the street alone or even with the company of other girls.
After hearing the recent news of Sarah Everard being kidnapped and murdered while walking home, I was in horror but also terror-stricken as I remembered that could be something that happens to me. As anti-Asian hate crimes have risen by 145 percent, I have never been more fearful and paranoid when I walk by myself, including a simple five-minute journey to my dance studio in the neighborhood I grew up in.
It’s not just paranoia but true, genuine fear.
When I walk home I have to think about how I’m going to defend myself. I have my keys gripped between my knuckles, my Hydro Flask ready to swing, and my phone ready in case I need to call someone. I constantly look over my shoulders, I’m self conscious of my outfit, and at most, I can only wear one earbud on low volume. I’m looking at self-defense kits specifically made for girls to keep myself safe when I go to college. If someone is ever walking behind me, I already get nervous whether it’s been 30 seconds or two minutes.
There have been too many incidents where women are kidnapped, harassed, assaulted, murdered, and raped when they walk alone. We have expressed our fear and trepidation. We have statistics and evidence. We watch videos and have weapons to defend ourselves. We create and share tips and tricks. And yet, despite all this effort we have put into getting our voices heard and understood, we are still being talked over, pushed aside, and silenced.
We are still being told it was “our fault,” or “she was asking for it,” and “well she shouldn’t have gotten drunk.” Why is that it’s always the women’s fault? Why are we continuing to victim blame when in any other circumstance, it would be the perpetrators’ fault? What more do we have to scream at the top of our lungs for there to be change in how the world reacts? How many more women does it take for the world to take action? You’ve already harassed, assaulted, and/or raped most of us: that’s all of us too many.
This isn’t something girls can control, and it is out of our hands. This is a men’s issue; men are the people harassing us, men are the people staying quiet, and men are the people gaslighting and dismissing our experiences. No, it is not all men, but it is almost all women. So, boys I need you to speak up for your female friends. I need you to call out all of your friends for their actions and words. I need you to hold yourselves to a higher standard.