concerned woman looking over her shoulder while on phone

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

One Twitter user sparked a discussion after the following post. “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”. Many women responded to this thread. They shared their experiences with harassment by creepy men or helping others in the same position.  Unfortunately, these stories aren’t rare. 45% of women in the U.S. do not feel safe walking alone at night, as opposed to 27% of men. [1] Similarly, according to a survey for UN Women UK, more than four-fifth of women in the UK experience sexual harassment.

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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.[2]

This sentiment of fear — whether through modifying behavior or avoiding walking at night, or constantly looking out for creepy men — is apparent in this Twitter thread. While many have happy endings where women look out for each other, there’s an awful underlying reality within every anecdote.

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Women Shares Stories of Evading Creepy Men

“Or YOU could,” commented Twitter user altadena, referring to how some people might pretend to know someone being stalked or harassed. “One time. [A] woman walked up to me and hugged me and asked how my mom was and then after a couple of minutes, she whispered she had noticed a man watching/following me and wanted to scare him off. She then walked me to my destination. I was only 14.”  

I was walking home from school & I stopped to use my phone in the middle of the sidewalk. A lady pulled next to me and started asking me if I was okay and if I needed a way home because some man was following me for a min & I wasn’t looking. She waited with me until someone came,” said Twitter user crissy.

response from Twitter user Crisssy
Image Credit: Crisssy | Twitter

I was getting harassed in the bus, literally no one f***ing batted an eyelash. I was literally shaking, it was super dark I couldn’t even get out of the bus until this older woman (the only other lady other than me on the bus) came and sat in front of me and pretended like she knew me,” said Adara.

“…Was walking to school once when I was 13 and a couple of creepy dudes were following me and talking some nasty s***,” said Alistair. “I was freaking out & this absolute angel of a girl from my school walked up behind them, heard them, and walked past two huge men to grab me and take me to a stranger’s car pretending she knew him. Wasn’t until the dudes moved along that I realized they didn’t know each other & she was just operating on pure panic as well, I’m still blown away.”

response from Twitter user Alistair
Image Credit: Alistair | Twitter

These were some among many experiences with creepy men, and among the many unreported ones. [3]

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Read: Woman Creates Gender-Neutral Playing Cards To Replace King, Queen, And Jack

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How to Help Public Harassment

Of course, the onus of sexual assault and harassment falls on the perpetrators. However, bystanders could make a huge difference in de-escalating such a situation. Don’t get caught up in “bystander apathy,” which is when people don’t help when there are many people around. Everyone assumes that someone else will do something.

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Every situation is different, and sometimes stepping in only makes things worse. But remember, the main priority isn’t to “stick it” to the perpetrators, whether it’s some creepy men, abusive women, or any stalker in general; it’s to support the victim and make sure they don’t feel alone. [4]

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“It’s not advisable to go wading in like Prince Charming, you could end up exacerbating the situation and putting yourself at risk,” said Julia Gray from Hollaback London. “Offering to wait with someone at the bus stop, calling them a cab, or calling the police if need be is a good start. Providing affirmation that it’s not OK and you’re on the victim’s side is a powerful way to support them and help them to recover.[5]

Keep Reading: Women Are Sharing Their ‘I’m The Client, Not My Husband’ Stories And To Say I’m Fuming Would Be An Understatement

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Sources:

  1. “In U.S., 37% Do Not Feel Safe Walking at Night Near Home.Gallup. Andrew Dugan. November 24, 2014
  2. “Four-fifths of young women in the UK have been sexually harassed, survey finds.” The Guardian. Alexandra Topping. March 10, 2021
  3. “Women Share Times They Were Being Followed And A Stranger Stepped In To Help Them.” Bored Panda. Liucija Adomaite and Ilona Baliūnaitė.
  4. “What You Should Do if You See Someone Being Sexually Harassed.Global Citizen. Aileen Elsner, Imogen Calderwood. April 27, 2018
  5. “Should you intervene if you witness a sexual assault?The Guardian. Siobhan Fenton. January 14, 2015
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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