To the Editor:
Recently a friend of mine was walking down Stimson Avenue in Athens when she realized someone was very close behind her. She thought nothing of it and scooted over to let him pass. He passed but stayed very close to her and turned to face her while making a rude sexual gesture, which I will leave to your imagination. Naturally, she was shocked and unsure of what to do. She crossed the street and headed toward KFC. He disappeared for a minute, only to reappear when she resumed her walk home. He continued to follow her for several minutes until she finally yelled at him "What do you want?!" Then he left for good.
Please be on the lookout for this creep and others like him. If you are being followed, or even suspect you are being followed, the best thing to do is to turn and face the stalker. Have a strong body posture, hold your hands out in front of you to create a barrier, and loudly command "Stop following me!" Be prepared for them to laugh or call you a name. They are not going to admit they were following you or targeting you for an attack. If they really weren't following you, at least you have taught them a valuable lesson about how their presence might make someone feel frightened, and hopefully, they will be more considerate about leaving a comfortable distance between themselves and other pedestrians in the future.
Another excellent idea is to take out your phone and snap the creep's picture. When you get home, upload it to Hollaback!'s wall of shame. You can enter the address where the harassment happened and tell your story. This is an amazing way to get support from others and also to warn one another about certain people or places where problems occur.
If anything like this happens to you, from catcalling to yelling to following to groping, whether you are male or female or somewhere in between, know that you are not alone. Street harassment is the most common form of sexual violence and Hollaback! is working to end it. We offer many free workshops, including self-defense, bystander intervention, healthy masculinity, and more. Join us to make the streets safer for everyone! Like us on Facebook to get updates about events and workshops.
Devin Aeh Canary