Another example of something that happens to women all the time, but men don’t really hear about

Early in the morning on Sunday 2nd April, I was walking back home from a chippy after a night out. I was on Cambridge Heath Road in east London at about 4am.

I was listening to music, so didn’t really acknowledge a white blonde man, about 6ft, until he started walking alongside and staring at me.

It was the second time I’d been approached that night. Earlier, on the night bus N243 back from Manor House, a man had sat on the seats next to mine and had started to ask me a lot of questions. Did I do drugs? How old was I? What my plans were for the rest of the night? He was twitchy and made me feel very nervous.

He didn’t seem to take the hint when I gave one word and stilted answers, didn’t ask any questions in return, and generally tried to shut down the conversation.

That was one of the reasons I’d chosen to go to the chippy anyway. It would mean I would get off the bus at an earlier stop, so this man didn’t know where I lived. It was the reason I had chosen to walk about a mile home.

On this new occasion, the white blonde man also asked me a question:

“What are you thinking?” he asked.

“What?!”

“What are you thinking?” he repeated.

“I’m just walking.” I said indignantly.

“Want to know what I’m thinking?”

He glanced down at his groin. And then I saw a white, erect penis sticking out from his trousers. I stopped in my tracks. I was immediately conscious of how close he was to me. How many other people there were on the street. How the situation could escalate.

Luckily, he just walked on. But it was in the same direction that I wanted to go to get home. I crossed the street. Tried to analyse whether the group of men on that side of the road were friendly or a potential threat. I tried not to watch him walk away, as the shame of the encounter was starting to get to me. When I looked up again, he was gone. That made me even more nervous.

After about 5 minutes, I decided that I should go to the police. You often hear that men who do relatively ‘harmless’ things like this end up attacking women with more force. So, I took the short detour to Bethnal Green police station, waited for a policeman to see me, gave an unofficial statement and my mobile number and I left.

He told me that I’d done “exactly the right thing”.

It’s hard to describe how something like this makes you feel as a woman. It reminds me of how much weaker I am. How much effort it would take to fight someone off. It reminds me that if anyone wanted to pick me up and take me somewhere, then they probably could. These aren’t thoughts that I have all the time, but I have been in physically intimidating situations before, and it brings out a certain hysteria in me. And being hysterical is not an emotion I particularly like.

It also made me annoyed. As a result of the actions of those two men, I got home over an hour after I would have done. I didn’t sleep at all well. I wasn’t able to work as much as I wanted to today. What’s more, I’m annoyed that I’ve used the word ‘lucky’. It was ‘lucky’ that nothing more happened. Why should I feel ‘lucky’ at all?

I’m glad I went to the police. When other women find themselves in this situation then please do the same.