“Just take it as a compliment, will you?” he shouted after me as I rushed through a shadowy tunnel to make my way home. But he’d somehow caught up with me, and at that moment, I realised I was alone with a persistent stranger. I wanted to scream at him, ask him why he thought women would be flattered by unwanted attention. All these thoughts raced through my mind. But realising how vulnerable I currently was, standing in a deserted area with no one else around, I didn’t want to say anything that would incense this man.
Instead, understanding my dangerous situation, I very forcefully replied, “thank you, but I’m not interested.” Sickened by the thought that I’d been pressured into providing gratitude towards someone who had followed me home, I reminded myself that if I had replied how I’d initially wanted to, the consequences could have been worse for me. This is a feeling that many women know all too well — being forced to silence or censor yourself to remain as safe as possible and avoid the potential assailant’s anger. Women will never perceive sexual harassment “as a compliment.” And men shouldn’t either.
Words by Shannon Cook