The neighbourhood I've lived in for the past 3.5 - 4 years is a pretty safe one. When you're a female living alone in Toronto, the question of safety is usually the first thing people bring up in conversation. But this area has been good to me. For the most part.
As you know I walk Daisy a lot, but we don't always stick to the trails in High Park. I like walking around the neighbourhood streets, because the houses are lovely and some of my neighbours are great. But there's one street in particular I would walk down every single morning without problems, until a couple of years ago. A guy (I won't call him a man, and he's not a boy) started yelling aggressively inappropriate things at me every time I passed by. It became a problem. And he did this to other women as well.
Now, this guy appeared to be slightly mentally challenged in some way. Not severely so, but it was evident at times. Because of this, I didn't know how to deal with his behaviour. So even though he harassed me every single time he saw me, I ignored it. Then one day last year he left the comfort of his front porch and followed me as I walked, yelling "nice ass!" over and over, waiting for a reaction from me. He followed me all the way home.
Honestly, it scared me. So I stopped walking down that street completely. This stupid fear gripped me every time I walked the dog, knowing that I couldn't go my usual route because I was now scared of this guy who lacked normal boundaries. Eventually my inner pep talks did their job (I told myself not to let some creep keep me from going where I wanted; it gave the jerk power he didn't deserve), and every day I started walking further down that street, each step becoming some kind of personal victory over my fear of an asshole. Then one day, I passed his house and beyond. And no one bothered me.
Success! ...but short-lived. As I continued walking my old route down that street again, he started showing up outside. Only now he would sometimes switch up his sexual harassment with a very strange "Good morning, Miss. I like your dog." every once in awhile.
This switch confused me. Are people THAT capable of change?
Nope. They are not. Because the harassment continued, he just hid it behind those odd morning greetings. So, the other day, I heard someone mutter "shake your ass bitch, you're my bitch" at me. The familiar anxiety crept in, and then I heard a loud "Good morning, Miss!". So I said a quick "Morning.", thinking I had somehow misheard the first part. But when I turned to continue walking the dog, he yelled "I love you". And repeated it, over and over, louder and louder.
Well... after years of this shit, and with only a couple of weeks before I move from this area, I'd had enough. So I turned back to him and yelled, loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear, "If you say one more goddamn word to me, I'm charging you with harassment - do you understand me?! This bullshit has to stop right now!!"
No reply. Quiet.
I was literally shaking after this, which is silly. Usually I have no trouble telling someone off if they're harassing me or one of my friends. Or harassing anyone, for that matter. But I gave this jerk so much power by ignoring it, avoiding it, and hoping it would just go away. I should have threatened to press charges years ago.
No matter who is saying the inappropriate words or making others uncomfortable, harassment is harassment is harassment. And it is never ok. If there was any point to this overly long-winded tale, let it be that these situations can't be ignored or they fester and worsen.
I'll be honest - I haven't gone back down that street since my outburst. So maybe I've failed myself in a way. But I have started bringing my phone on my walks again - if anything happens, whether from him or someone else who enjoys harassing women, I will call the police now. Because people like this need to learn that we will fight back. It's the only way there's any chance for improvement.