What to do When You See Women Getting Harassed in Public

Ruth Burrowes
4 min readSep 19
Photo by RDNE Stock project: https://www.pexels.com/photo/couple-having-a-misunderstanding-5617718/

Next week I will begin ageing out of the male gaze in earnest. Yes, that’s right — I’m celebrating my 30th birthday. And while I appreciate the assurances of several men in my life that my beauty is timeless, I am actually looking forward to it.

The main reason: I’m hoping it’ll mean I stop getting harassed in public.

Take yesterday, for example.

It had been a long and stressful day. I went for a walk (in broad daylight) to clear my head.

My face was sober, downcast. Bitch-like, in its restful state.

I happened to accidentally lock eyes with a passerby, his face looking every bit as weary as mine. I offered a meek smile (in case he thought I was glaring at him.) A sort of two-strangers-briefly-acknowledging-each-other’s-suffering-so-that-for-an-instant- they-both-feel-less-alone kind of smile.

Unfortunately, he misinterpreted it as a sign of interest.

He then proceeded to change directions and follow me for 6 blocks badgering me to let him buy me a drink, tell him where I lived, and give out my personal contact information.

The more I resisted, the more he persisted.

While this man was not overly threatening, it was a little disconcerting to be followed. Not to mention annoying and inconvenient.

Luckily, another passerby overheard me repeatedly tell this man “No, thank you,” and “I’m going to go now.” And while he didn’t directly intervene, I wanted to write about what he did and why it meant a lot.

No, you don’t have to cause a scene

Initially, this second passerby brushed past me and the stranger in a hurry. But he must have caught the plea in my voice because I saw his head swivel.

He made eye contact for the briefest of seconds and as he did, I saw his pace change. He was now walking slightly ahead of us, but I could see him looking back, concerned.

His pace slowed considerably, so he stayed within earshot. I’m not sure if this was his intention, but something about the way he hung back made me feel validated, like what was happening in that moment wasn’t okay. Everyone…

Ruth Burrowes

Sharing adventures and advice in dating, love, & relationships.