It was my first week of university and I was queuing for the student hub to get some documents. It’s important to note I was alone and foreign (I’m Romanian, not British), so feeling particularly vulnerable and anxious. I probably looked it, too. The man in front of me, a big, muscly, scary-looking guy, turned around and started playing with the lanyard around my neck and saying my name over and over in a sexual tone, while also licking his lips. He asked where I was from and where I was living. I lied because his facial expressions and gestures petrified me. He wouldn’t let go of my lanyard. He asked if I would go out with him. I refused. He insisted. I said I had a boyfriend.
I thought it was over and that he’d given up. But he’d been waiting for me to leave the student hub and followed me to my accommodation building. I was paralysed with fear. I went in and out of several buildings to trick him. He was being very subtle, so no one noticed anything was wrong. I tried calling my boyfriend but he was in a class. When I eventually found the courage to go to my room and slumped in my chair, I was shaking and couldn’t breathe. I don’t know if I managed to trick him or if he’d just given up. It was broad daylight. I was on campus. He approached me in what I thought was a safe space. He was living and studying on the same campus. That experience haunted my first year of uni. Every time I’d get out of the flat, I’d look for him. Anyone who looked remotely like him made me freeze in fear whenever I was outside alone.
It doesn’t have to be aggressive, it doesn’t have to be dark, it doesn’t have to be sexual, and it doesn’t matter you’re in a guarded, safe place. The sheer psychological trauma this person made me live for months just by following me on campus and playing with my lanyard was enough.
Words by Eliza Lita