Disclaimer; I love Paris. It’s a magical place to live and I definitely recommend it to everyone and anyone. This is just one part of life here that I want to chat about. I wrote this months and months ago but never posted it because I didn’t want to freak out my family. But you can’t keep quiet about issues like this, especially if this could help someone out.
It’s only just dawned on me how different Paris is to to anywhere else I’ve visited or lived. I Skype my friend almost every day and I’ve just realised most days I have a story to tell him about being harassed on the street. An incident on Saturday night was the worst so far and it’s made me want to say something. I don’t know if this is any use to young girls hoping to move to Paris as au pairs or on Erasmus years or anyone visiting the city.
Firstly, I’d consider myself to be pretty street smart, and secondly, I only make a fuss when I’ve been really pissed off. In Cape Town I couldn’t walk down my own street for 5 minutes without getting catcalled from a car or being directly approached by a man on the street asking where I lived or for my number. Bearing in mind this was in winter when I would be wearing jeans and a coat (not that it should make any difference). In England it’s not as bad but I think all girls can say they’ve been wolf-whistled at before and in most cases been harassed in some way.
But Paris is just on another level. On my first night here I was leaving the metro in my suburban town and was approached by a man walking beside me telling me he loved me. Next thing I know I see another guy tell the first man to leave me alone because I was his. He looked like he was holding a gun. I just turned away and walked off as quickly as I could without making out I was shit scared (excuse my French). It could’ve been a fake gun but it could of quite easily been a real gun.
The other week I was walking through a busy area at about 9pm and a homeless man yelled at me and reached for my bag. I screamed and turned away and he carried on and chased me until I literally ran away. I was surrounded by people at not a single person even batted an eyelid.
On Saturday I got off my night bus in my town and had a 10 minute walk to get home; it was about 3am so it was very quiet. After walking for a few minutes I noticed a man that had been on my bus was following me. I’m so freaking naive so assumed he was lost and wanted to ask me for directions; he was about 35 years old, really tall and looked eastern european. After offering to help him he insisted he was fine and wanted to walk me home, still naive about the situation I told him I was fine but thanks for offering. After minutes of ‘no, honestly I’m fine’s’ I was getting a bit annoyed. I didn’t feel unsafe I was just bored and wanted to get home without him following me. He then turned to me and said he’d only leave if I kissed him. That’s when it got weird. I tried walking away, he’d follow. I told him I had a boyfriend waiting for me at home, he still followed. It wasn’t until I got my phone out and pretended to call the police that he ran off in the opposite direction.
I blanked it out for a few hours because I was almost in shock but then looking back it’s so messed up, what a huge creep. I should’ve punched him and actually called the police.
Thank God I left safely but what if he hadn’t left when I’d got my phone out and dialled for the police? What if he’d been armed? What if I hadn’t thought as quickly? Questions that aren’t worth thinking about. Should I be more careful when walking home at night? I never think twice about walking to or from a party on my own because I’ve been doing it since I was 14 and wouldn’t dream of paying for taxis for 10 minute journeys. I’ve been to some of the most dangerous areas in the world and found lovely people who want to help you out, so I see most places with extreme rose tinted glasses. But I’m also not dumb, I know there are dangerous people around and places to avoid. But then again if you tell me not to go somewhere it’s more likely than not that I’ll want to go. Just to prove a point.
I’m bored of being told I shouldn’t be walking the streets alone at night because I’m a woman. Maybe guys should be told not to follow young girls home and harass them.