Trigger Warning: Violence Against Women
I love to go outside and go for a walk. I have my music blaring, I am with my dog and the sun is shining. I’m at my happiest. During lockdown, going for walks was one of the only things that kept me grounded and sane. It became a part of my everyday routine, and it was something that I would look forward to after a long and boring day. However, this is not a story about how much I love to walk and all of the positive health benefits it can have. Instead, it’s a story about how a girl whose love for going on walks was stripped away from her.
On October 30, 2021, I was stalked and harassed by a man on my morning walk. At the time, I was 19 years old, but I always felt I was quite self-dependent. My parents would often ask me, “aren’t you scared to be walking by yourself?”, but I never saw it as something that I should be afraid of. Why should I not do something because of the ‘what if?’. After this incident, I wish I had listened to my parents. I felt angry and betrayed that something I loved to do was taken away from me because of one mans actions. I guess I should have known better, right? Women aren’t meant to walk the streets alone. But I was doing all the ‘right things’. I walked on main streets, it was during the day, I wasn’t wearing headphones and I was familiar with my surroundings. Except guess what? None of that even mattered. This man still continued to follow me and harass me on my walk.
For a little while I was afraid to talk about this. Not because I was ashamed or fearful but because I was scared that people wouldn’t believe me or that I might
have just been overreacting about to the situation. I also started to make excuses for this man. Maybe he was lonely and wanted someone to talk to? Maybe he wanted to ask me a genuine question? Maybe he was under the influence of an illicit substance? Or maybe was it because of what I was wearing? In the end, there is no excuse for these actions.
As females we have been conditioned to make excuses for these actions. I know personally, I have been described as a ‘people pleaser’, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with being kind. I guess kindness doesn’t always get you so far. For so long I blamed myself for the incident. Was it because I gave him a friendly smile? No. It's not. I would walk past many people within my neighbourhood, and I never once felt like I betrayed myself because I gave a friendly smile. “You’re just being silly now Maddy”, is what I often say to myself.
In the end, I am one of the lucky ones. I made it home safely and I was able to call someone to help. However, there are so many other young women who aren’t as lucky as I was. Eliza Fletcher, a young and prosperous woman, who dedicated her life to teaching young people was abducted and murdered on her morning run on the 7th of September 2022. Instead of empathy and support for Eliza and her family she was instead scorned and judged for her actions. A news reporter from the United States claimed that “Eliza violated the rules” by going out at certain hours in America. She was blamed for her death, not the man who abducted and murdered her, but her. Eliza, like so many other women, face backlash for ‘not following the rules’ in society. It is seen as our fault if something happens to us. This should never be the case!
Women’s safety is such an important issue, and I will continue to fight for it for as long as I live. If you don’t see it as a problem, you need just ask the people around you. I am sure you can ask any female you know, and they will be able to name at least 3 experiences where they have been made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe by a male.
I am not here to blame men or say it is all men, because it’s not. However, an issue like this needs to be spoken about every day. To everyone. I can only hope and pray that no woman, or any person as a matter of fact has to feel the fear that I felt that morning. That I still feel every day. So what can be done? Let’s talk more. Let’s be open to being educated, to hearing these stories and experiences and most importantly, let’s be open to change. Women have been fighting for many years just to share the same rights as men do. We will continue to fight for our safety. If it’s not only for ourselves, it’s for the young people in the coming generations that we will continue to fight and walk for.
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning and all I wanted to do was go for a walk.