It pains me that it’s 2016 and we’ve still got people arguing that catcalling isn’t threatening or dangerous, that it’s just a bit of banter. That we’re all becoming too sensitive and should just take it on the chin.
I’ve had various things yelled at me from moving vehicles as I walk down the street. I’ve had cars pull up for maximum holler effect, and random comments made in passing. But I’ve never, ever had anyone step out of the vehicle until this past week.[tw/cw for mentions of assault]
These sort of topics are sensitive, and I’ve been weighing up whether or not I should even post this, since all situations are different and I’m not writing this in a way that’s HERE’S A LOAD OF ADVICE THAT MAY OR MAY NOT WORK.
Considering if we look at my own experiences in the cities that I’ve lived in, this has been the first time anything has happened where the police have needed to be called – and I was with two other people. I’ve diced with the ‘walking home alone’ thing for almost the full time I was at uni and I’m endlessly lucky that nothing happened to me.
But this: there were three of us, walking back from a uni event, myself, another girl and a lad. We were in an area that was lit – not well but not badly – with CCTV and still, for all intents and purposes, on campus.
A car pulled up, someone inside made the comment, I brushed it off, the lad stuck up for us, and the next thing we know someone from inside the car is now outside the car, going towards my male friend and then my friend is narrowly avoiding a nasty head injury as a result of hitting a wall.
Car guy is in the middle of the road, hood up, arm raised.
In that sort of situation fight or flight kicks in.
And the first two things to do are:
1) Yell ‘call the police’. Loudly. Doesn’t matter if three people go to call them at once, make sure someone hears.
2) Get the registration/licence plate of the car. As fast as you can. Relay that to the police. Even if it’s the first thing you ask them to write down.
At that point for us, two of the other men in the car had come out to calm the first one down. I was walking over to see if my friend was ok – we had two people on the phone to the police and a witness suggesting we report it to the uni since we were still technically on campus.
I said thanks, but police would do a better job, hopefully – and then went to go and see if our lad was ok. In the interim, the two guys who had come to calm their third down had moved back towards their car, the one who’d initially got out had pulled his hood back down, and then spun round again as if he’d seen or heard something he didn’t like, put his hood back up and arm raised and started coming towards us again.
Thankfully he stopped in the road before getting too close to us, turned and ran off to get back into the car that was now driving away.
|I don’t train as much as I used to, but I keep active and strong with light weights and a workout routine that uses elements of martial arts|
But it wasn’t until everything had calmed down later, police spoken to and we were back at my friends’ flat that I realised that my thought process and my female friends thought process in that second instance were really different. She was there thinking ‘what can I do’, and I was stood thinking ‘if he comes closer my foot will be connecting with his head’.
And that’s not because I’m inherently ‘more violent’ or reflexive or optimistic of my own abilities, but because I hold a black belt in martial arts; I have muscle memory and years of being taught how to read opponents that are taller, stronger and less predictable. I also have it on pretty solid grading and competition authority that I have a mean kick.
The difference here is, is that I know walking back late at night, while it’s still scary for me (there’s always that initial moment of ‘oh fuck’ that gives your attacker a gap of time to overpower, as well as the uncertainty of weapons), I know that if it comes down to it, my muscle memory will kick in and I’ll give as good as I can to get out of the situation. Because when you strike with intent it shocks people.
But I also know that for me to have that (no matter if it was born out of me being helpless in a situation and my dad agreeing that it was a fab idea, to be honest) – the same way that Gigi Hadid had her muscle memory and reflexes from boxercise to fend off her attacker – is an inherently privileged position to be in.
And it pains me to be in 2016 and recommending to my friends to get themselves into self defence classes, or krav maga, or muay thai, or anything that will give them some sort of confidence to take charge in situations like the one I was in on Saturday night. And the fact that I’ve even had them is a privilege, as the cost and time and dedication is something that not everyone can afford or even have access to.
It also pains me to be in 2016 and for people to not realise that allowing or passing catcalling as banter or ‘a bit of fun’, instead of saying that no it’s not OK under any circumstances, is effectively condoning the violent undertones. Because if you’re not checking people on their behaviour, the minute that someone does, the minute someone challenges, you can end up in situations like I was on Saturday, or worse.
You may disagree with me, but if you don’t call out that sort of behaviour, you’re part of the problem.