My Thoughts on Being Followed Home*

Holy toot.

I have to be honest, I was wholly overwhelmed by the response to my last post… so much so that it’s taken me a few days to digest all that’s come my way since I wrote it eight days ago. I’ve received multiple emails and phone calls, and I’ve lost count of the number of messages I’ve received through facebook and my blog. People I never expected to read my blog briefly stepped out of the shadows to express concern over my being followed home last week.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind–I never expected such a… strong reaction to what I wrote. For me, writing down the events in detail was my way of walking through it again and processing what happened. I needed to relive it to remind myself that I was okay, and that it could have potentially been much, much worse. I needed to write it down so I could get it out and move past it, instead of pretending like nothing happened. I just needed to vent.

As your responses began pouring in I was so… overwhelmed by it all. I suddenly felt like what I had thought was a bad afternoon was an absolute disaster, and truthfully, I felt even less safe as the “what if”‘s poured into my inbox. You see, I already have the biggest imagination there is… another reason I put it all down is so I wouldn’t go there–I am a champion at the WHAT IF?! game and I thought that if I wrote it down I could stop myself from playing that game. I really don’t need to imagine the rest of that scenario if even just one thing had turned out differently.

In the responses I received many of you expressed concern for my safety, expressed gratitude that I was okay, offered advice and made judgments on what happened and the choices I made that day.

So, I just wanted to clear up a few things as I’ve since had a chance to reflect on things and what all of you have said.

The most recurrent theme through all the responses I had was about why I chose not to call the police. To that I can only answer: I don’t know. A friend of mine and I were talking about it last weekend and she said something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about all week. She put me on the spot and asked me about why I didn’t call the police, but before she let me answer she caught herself and said something to the effect of, “You know, it’s really so easy to analyze / judge a situation when you’re not the one in it.”

As so many of you have pointed out, I should’ve called the police. I know that. I also could have made a report afterward, but I chose not to. Whether or not it was the right choice, it was the one I made for myself. While the whole incident was happening it was just so… surreal. It honestly felt like a series of coincidences that I kept “bumping” into those guys, and while I knew something was wrong, my mind didn’t allow me to consider that I was being followed by three men until the last incident, after I was already home watching what was happening out my front window. Should I have called the police then? Probably. I just… I don’t know. I guess deep down I was afraid that calling the police would make the whole thing… real. And I know, I know, it was real and I should have accepted that at the grocery store but I didn’t. Would / will I do things differently if there is a next time? Yes. Have I learned from the experience? Yes.

I’ve also been strongly chided about my decision to leave the grocery store after being harassed for the second time. The only answer I have is that I honestly believed it was over. It’s not exactly an upscale store and I’ve been hit on in the store before, and every. single. time it ended at the door. While yes, I felt these men were more aggressive in their “pick-up” attempt and it made me uncomfortable, I had no qualms about leaving the store because I thought it had ended. Should I have told the manager about what had happened and stayed in the store? Absolutely. But I am foolish and pride myself on my independence.

All I can say is that when it happened all I could do was rationalize what was going on. I kept thinking, “they also must have needed groceries“, or “it’s just some young guys trying to have fun” or, “they just happened to pull out of the store and see me on the corner“. It was just how I responded to the situation and I realize that it was, well, stupid for me to think that way. But it is so hard to judge a situation unless you’re in it… I am a small town girl and while I hide it well, I’m afraid of everyone. I guess I just didn’t want to be that girl who overreacts to nothing. I know now that I should trust my gut when I feel something isn’t right.

Lastly, many of you commented on my statement that “nothing really happened”. I know that something happened, but I also know that it could have been so much worse, and that for many women, it has been. While I wanted to vent and get out what happened to me, I also didn’t want to write a huge “oh, poor me…” post and potentially offend someone who has been in a situation much worse than mine. I was scared, not hurt. That’s all I meant.

It’s been 10 days since it happened, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t seen them again. I’ve been especially cautious–I was driven wherever I needed to go for the first few days after it happened (the teacher I volunteer for even drove me home so I wouldn’t have to walk). I’ve been wearing different coats all week and if I am walking somewhere I never take the same route. I keep my phone in my hand at all times, and I let the Hubster know when I am arriving / leaving from any location. I avoided that plaza completely until yesterday and thankfully they weren’t there.

In some ways I’m sort of glad that it happened. It was a big wake up call, and I feel so… alert when I’m out now. It’s also been a huge learning experience for me, and I appreciate all the advice I’ve been given.

I’ve really never felt more loved and… well, humbled at the same time.

To those of you who expressed concern, I promise–I’m fine. :)

To those of you who offered advice– thank you. I went out and bought Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear today and I’m already hooked. I’ll write a proper review once I’m finished.

To those of you who pointed out where I went wrong that day– I know. All I can say is, hind sight is 20 /20. Next time will be different.

To those of you who called and yelled at me– I love you too. :)

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10 Comments

  • Sarahbration

    I told my boyfriend about what happened to you and his instant reaction was to tell me all the reasons you should have called the police or talked to a manager or security person in the plaza or something.

    And while I agreed that having read the whole story, it would seem like the thing to do, I can totally, completely understand why in the moment, you didn’t do it. I absolutely get that internal conflict of feeling uncertain of your safety but not wanting to cause a fuss over nothing. I’ve been similarly uncertain in the past about calling the police regarding a neighbour’s domestic dispute.

    It just makes me so angry and frustrated that these creeps not only harrassed you for an hour or so, but made you feel like you can’t even walk around in your neighbourhood or wear the same jacket.

    I’m so glad you’re all right and that you’re looking at this at a learning experience. It’s an admirable thing to be able to put a positive spin on an incident like that!

  • Faith

    I’ve never been followed, but I’ve been harassed and creeped out, and I know that in the moment the last thing I want to do is create confrontation. I feel like I must be overreacting.. like I’m the one who will look stupid if I say something. I feel like if I just ignore the situation long enough, it’ll go away and I’ll be fine. I also know that that’s kind of stupid, but I can’t help feeling that way. Your situation has taught you a lot about how to deal with stuff like this, and I feel like I’m also learning, thankfully without having to actually go through it. So thank you so much for sharing it, even if it brought down a whirlwind of reaction!

  • Curiousillusion

    We just worry and care about you. That’s all. I am SURE I would have no idea what I would’ve done if I would’ve been in your (super fabulous) shoes.

    Glad to hear you’re taking care! :)

  • Cammy

    I am just glad you are safe! As you friend said, it is always easy to look at something objectively when it isn’t happening to you or when it’s over. I am positive that if (God forbid) anything ever happened like this again, you’d be much more prepared and know what was the right decision for you. SO happy to hear that those guys haven’t showed up again!

  • Karen

    I could add my own chastisement of what you should have done, but that’s been done enough by others and it does no good to dwell on what could or should have been any more than it helps to ask What if?

    Just take this experience and really learn from it. Not just as far as these guys go, but anyone that makes you feel uneasy. Even if it’s a woman that seems as harmless as a rag doll. Sadly, you never what people can or will do. But remember, there’s a big difference between paranoid and cautious. Nothing good comes from paranoia. It’s paralyzing and destructive. Live your life, but be mindful of your surroundings.

  • Jewels Diva

    You mentioned playing the ”what if” game. Although some people say don’t play that game, I find it’s actually helpful to consider what to do, for example –

    what if a guy follows me – I can confront him, call someone, scream, fight, turn around and walk past him.

    what if a guy grabs me – I can yell, kick, scream, scratch.

    what if a guy sticks a knife at me – I can kick him in the nuts, scream, run.

    playing the ”what if” game can help you sort out what you would do in each circumstance. The thing is, you have to follow through.

    Maybe take some self defence classes if they’re in your town, at least then, you’d have some knowledge on how to defend yourself.

    One guy can be fought off, but three guys have the power and strength to take you and do what they want with you. You have to be prepared, even if it never happens again, at least you know what to do if it does.

  • Lilu

    Awww. I love that last line. So true.

    This is a good reminder for me… I always think a suspicion I might have is “just in my head,” and, um, I live in D.C. Not in the nicest part of D.C., even. I should definitely be more careful.

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