Catcalls made me question what I had done wrong - and that’s the problem right there

Carly Roberts writes about her experiences with catcalling and how one incident left her feeling uncomfortable to walk down a road she regularly used

Street harassment is a regular experience for women living across the UK (Photo: Shutterstock)

Both times I was catcalled this year, I was wearing my favourite sunglasses. Purple-tinted aviators with tortoise shell frames.

Was that the reason why I was yelled at? Maybe it was the route I walked. Or, was it that I was just a young woman walking by herself?

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And that’s the issue right there, isn’t it? Attributing blame to something we haven’t done wrong.

Women are fed up with being degraded and abused on the pavement.

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It was on my lunch break a month ago when the first incident happened - I was exiting the Co-op in my village with a pint of milk and a newspaper when I was beeped at by a Transit van. For the most part, I can let that one slide.

Then, the next day, I was on the road adjacent to the first incident when a passenger in a white van wound down his window and called me ‘pretty’.

Again, I don’t have a major issue with the word he used. I’m fully aware women have been called far more atrocious things.

What I do have a problem with is how he continued to stare at me while he slowly crawled side-by-side to approach the roundabout - eagerly wanting me to reply with his head stuck out of the window like a dog.

At the time I was walking by myself, after work, trying to get some fresh air.

I continued to act as though I didn’t hear his first comment - because what are you meant to say back?

What is the standard reply to someone you don’t want to engage with, you’ve never met and hurls unsolicited comments at you that make you feel deeply awkward?

I ignored him and kept my head down - all the while he was still in slow moving traffic leaving me with nowhere to go as he kept his eye contact up.

Thankfully, I had my headphones in but I could tell what he hurled at me next wasn’t another compliment - more an insult because his ego was bruised and his demeanor changed in an instant.

Before he got in his van he was standing outside a shop and was watching me like a hawk walk round the corner.

Now, I try to avoid that busy route that takes me round the outskirts of my Northamptonshire village and onto the main road where it happened - that road is now a really uncomfortable place for me to walk.

I know I’m not alone. A friend of mine was reduced to tears after breaking down on the motorway in heavy traffic.

She had to stay on the phone to her mum - while waiting for four hours for a recovery truck to help her.

Men were shouting, beeping and harassing her, yelling for her number. While others joked if she ‘wanted to get in’ their cars.

Another time, a middle-aged man followed her to where she was parked in a supermarket and asked her how her legs ‘looked like that’.

This is an every day reality for women being denied their freedom in public spaces.