Out After Dark
The other night I went for a run after dark. It was prime commuting time, but the sun still set early those days, so nighttime had begun. Being cautious about safety, I wore bright clothing, a reflective vest, left my headphones at home, and stuck my phone in my pocket. After all, I’m a female in the city out after dark.
The first couple miles were uneventful. One foot in front of the other, cautious of traffic and intersections, keeping an eye out for cyclists, and always paying close attention to my surroundings. It was a gorgeous evening and there were plenty of others out and about. The dark and shadowy part of the Charles River bike path didn’t seem as scary with so many people around. Usually it’s the section of my route that I try to avoid when running by myself. After all, I’m a female in the city out after dark.
About 2.5 miles into my run, a cyclist almost hit me with his bike while I was paused at an intersection. I jumped out of the way and he laughed at my reaction, not apologizing for getting so close. At that point, the lights changed and I started up again. For the next .75 miles, on the busy streets of Boston, this man followed me. He commented on my fitness, my body, and said things like “wow” and “look at you” while riding his bike close behind me. It made me uncomfortable. It made me fearful. It made me run faster in an effort to get away. After all, I’m a female in the city out after dark.
For the next .75 miles, on the busy streets of Boston, this man followed me.
What did I do in response to his harassment? Nothing. I kept silent, thinking to myself, “ignore him, he’ll go away. Don’t cause a scene.” I let this stranger antagonize me for almost a full mile, silently blaming myself for his actions. How did I let this happen? Didn’t I know better than to put myself in this situation? After all, I’m a female in the city out after dark.
The cyclist finally left when I stopped to join a group of runners stretching in front of a store. I’ll admit, I’m embarrassed about how I handled this encounter. I should have told this man to stop. I should have asked someone for help. I should have said something to the group of runners as I approached them for safety. Yet I remained silent, not wanting to be seen as dramatic or somehow be blamed for his actions. After all, I’m a female in the city out after dark.
I yearn for a day when I don’t have to be constantly on watch, aware of all that is happening around me. Someday, I hope to not be fearful when I hear quick footsteps approach me from behind. I hope to not catch my breath when my eyes play tricks on me while outside in the dusky hours of the day. I hope to be able to exercise in peace, no matter the time of day or location. I hope to not listen to comments or catch stares based on my body or the clothing I wear. I hope that it won’t matter that I am a female, that I am in the city, or that I am out after dark.