Seems simple- you run like Scooby-Doo never ran before. This is 631876387x scarier for women because scary situations scare everyone but the probability of it coming true is more likely for women.
You may ask why on Earth am I writing this. I see your point, and I raise you this anecdote. The setting is pre-COVID times. I know ~ sunshine and food and laughter memories incoming~ right? Well, not really. The city I’m living in was reeling under rising cases of sexual harassment and rape, primarily against women.
It was all we were talking about. My workplace was providing transport for its employees, and I got off at 8 pm, but that day was unusually late, so I reached my drop location at 9 pm. Weirdly enough, I was alone- my cab mate didn’t come or was sick or just vanished off the face of the Earth. I got out of the cab and thought of picking up some groceries. Note that my phone was in my hand.
Bending over a tree branch, I got that suspicious tingle that women get, and Spiderman profited off from, that someone was following me. Naturally, I screamed my lungs out, and the poor guy just stopped, raised his hands, and was like, ”Ma’am, it’s me,” and it was my driver who came to return my ID badge, which I had dropped in the cab. There was nothing to say, really. He understood why I screamed. I understood why I screamed. It was the feeling of hopelessness that made me scream out. The sense that I am completely dependent on the self-control of men around me.
So for all the men out there who acknowledge this and agree that this is the reality for many of us – here are some action items you can follow:
Please walk as loudly as possible and try to make as much noise as you can because there’s nothing scarier for a woman than a man walking behind slowly and quietly. It is extremely anxiety-inducing, and if you can help prevent that, please do.
Fake phone call
Try having a phone conversation with somebody- preferably female and let it be obvious that you’re talking to a woman. Keep it light and loud.
Cross the street or turn the corner
Actively make an effort to put distance between you. Act as if you both have contagious diseases[just kidding] and put that 7 feet between you. We will definitely appreciate you for it.
Walk slower so she can put more distance between you two
Or let us put the distance between us. Walk really slow- turtle crawl if you have to. Improv an old man, whatever slows you down. Let us safely walk away. The breath of relief we take at the end is definitely worth it.
Try not to take it personally if a girl does seem anxious or looks over her shoulder or walks a little faster or has a generally nervous demeanor.
It’s nothing about you personally. We really can’t help that paranoia, because every girl knows someone, or has heard of someone, or experienced a situation herself that caused that fear. It literally takes just one bad encounter to transform how you react to men walking behind you at night and men walking behind you at night is something we definitely notice.
Also not really related but look out for girls walking alone at night. It’s way too scary for us at times.
To know more of what you should do as a bystander witnessing harassment, read this.
Clara has put into words the chilling, insidious paranoia that we face.