I had just spent a couple hours sitting in the Starbucks at the library, drinking my venti dirty chai and studying for a test I had the next day – so, basically a typical night for me. I looked up from my studies and saw that it was getting dark, even though it was only around 7:30. My mom’s voice immediately popped into my head saying “don’t walk home alone at night” – advice she has given me on multiple occasions. Usually I ignore this piece of advice because in my head I’m a badass independent woman who knows jiu-jitsu (no lie) and it grinds my gears to think that I have to rely on someone – especially that I should have to rely on someone to walk me back to my own apartment. But for some reason, this night, I listened to the voice. I packed up my mostly finished homework, threw away my garbage and began my quick two block trek home to King Street.
Not even realizing what I was doing (because it’s second nature by now) I take out my keys and hold them between the fingers of my fist, ready to stab at the first sign of attack, while I hold my phone in the other so it’s accessible for a quick call whether to the police or a friend for help. I don’t wear headphones. I don’t talk on the phone. I watch my surroundings and the people that pass me like a hawk. I speed walk. I’m speed-walking in part because it’s cold and all I’m wearing is a flannel but we all know the real reason why I picked up the pace – it’s dark, I’m alone and I’m a female. During the day I avoid the spotlight, but at night I command it – walking under streetlights and taking the busier and more populated route so I’ll be seen by bystanders. I’m doing everything “right” and following all the rules and advice that have been passed down to me over the years. I’m halfway home by this point and I’ve made it to the most well-known and busiest street of Charleston – King Street. I’m so close to reaching my home-sweet-home, craving my cozy bed and an episode of “The Office.” But then the walk took a shocking, yet sadly expected, turn.
As I’m passing an alley on the last block home I hear voices so, naturally, I look down the small, dark path to see who or what is making the noise. I can’t see faces because there are no street lights but I see five figures – male figures – walking towards me. I’m already speed walking but now, somehow, I’m able to quicken my pace even more without it being qualified as full out running. The men are laughing and talking loud to each other and then I hear it.
“Yeah you better run, girl! I’m gonna getcha!”
They turn right down King Street. Following me.
The men laugh as one mocks me and says, “Look how fast she’s walking!”
There are others on the street, but no one says anything. No one tells the men to stop or even asks me if I’m okay. No one either noticed or no one cared, but I’m almost home regardless.
“Where do you think you’re going, honey. Get back here!”
I quickly turn into my doorway, unlock the door with shaking hands and exhale because I’m safe. I’m home. But, I also consider Charleston my home and I didn’t feel safe just moments before I shut the door – when will I ever feel safe? When will all women ever feel safe?
I am not the only female that has fallen victim to harassment. I’m not the only female that has been harassed while everyone stands by and lets it happen. I’m not the only female to be catcalled on the streets or just catcalled in general. I’m not the only female that never feels safe and is in a constant state of fear and anxiety. I’m not the only female that was gifted with assholes that choose to target a girl walking alone. I am not the only female that has felt completely alone and powerless because of men.
I made it home safely, yes, but if you want to qualify that as a “happy ending” to this story then you’re wrong. Countless girls don’t make it home safe and countless girls get harassed everyday. This is not a happy ending, this is a call to action.