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

Street harassment is a regular experience for women living across the UK (Photo: Shutterstock)Street harassment is a regular experience for women living across the UK (Photo: Shutterstock)
Street harassment is a regular experience for women living across the UK (Photo: Shutterstock)
Carly Roberts writes about her experiences with catcalling and how one incident left her feeling uncomfortable to walk down a road she regularly used

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’.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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