Men start to say things to me on the street, sometimes loudly enough that everyone around us can hear, but not always. Sometimes they mutter quietly, so that I’m the only one who knows. So that if I react, I’ll seem like I’m blowing things out of proportion or flat-out making them up. These whispers make me feel complicit in something, although I don’t quite know what.
I feel like I deserve it. I feel like I am asking for it. I feel dirty and ashamed.
I want to stand up for myself and tell these men to leave me alone, but I am afraid. Once I try telling a man to leave me alone; I keep my voice steady, unemotional. He grabs my wrist and calls me a fucking bitch.
After that I don’t talk back anymore. Instead I just smile weakly; sometimes I duck my head and whisper thank you. Then I quicken my steps and hurry away until one time a man yells don’t you fucking run away and starts to follow me.
After that I always try to keep my pace even, my breath slow. Like how they tell you that if you ever see a bear you shouldn’t run, you should just slowly back away until he can’t see you.