Did you know that I was eleven the first time I encountered you? I was downtown in leggings and a sweatshirt from the local high school. I came home and cried because I didn’t know what had happened.
The second time was a few months later. I was walking downtown to watch the fireworks on the steps of the Old Capitol building, with two friends and my older sister. Two of you pulled up behind us in a car and yelled. I don’t remember what you said, but the four of us started running away. We were twelve and fifteen — we didn’t know what to do. We were just terrified.
Throughout the past three years, I’ve been catcalled more times that I can count, and I have been so afraid every single time. I have heard of the women and girls who have been murdered and raped after rejecting a men who had catcalled them. I never wanted anything like that to happen to me.
In eighth grade, I started learning about feminism. About rape culture, about defending yourself. Did you know that over 65% of women have been verbally assaulted by you? That 27% have been raped as a result of your catcalling. At the age of thirteen, I was scared to go outside of my house after 7:00. I was afraid of people like you.
Two weeks ago, I was walking downtown. I had to do homework — it was the last day of Spring Break, and I hadn’t done any of my assignments. The whole way there, I kept my eyes on the ground. Well, except for looking behind me every three minutes, just to make sure one of you wasn’t following me. I sat down at a coffee house, the most popular one in town. I did my homework. French, then history, then English. But I just couldn’t concentrate. Sitting on that couch, I was so scared about who was going to sit down, and what they would say to me — or what they would do to me.
“But, I was fine. I started walking home, and my guard was down. I was two blocks away from the coffee shop, and it happened. I walked past a group of college boys, and all four of them stared at me. I just walked past them with my eyes down.
That’s when they said it.
“Sweetie, can I get a smile?”
I looked around. There were two middle aged women across the street. A couple of cars driving on the street right next to me. I decided I was safe, and then turned around. I did what I had been scared to do since the age of eleven. I looked at them, and thought of all of you who had catcalled me over the past years.
“Leave. Me. Alone.”
I turned back around, and kept walking. The women across the street laughed and clapped. That was the first time I had stood up to any of you. As I finished the walk home, I looked over my shoulder every 30 seconds to make sure no one was following me. I made it home and looked my mom dead in the eye.
“I stood up to a catcaller, and I didn’t get murdered. Go, me.”
I couldn’t stop feeling a mixture of fear and pride. But I knew I might not be as lucky next time. I looked up everything I could to stay safe, in every way.
“Respond calmly, if you feel you’re safe enough.”
“Download an app and report it.”
I downloaded the app. I kept reading. I was determined to keep you in line, as best as I could.
After that, I got stronger, I gained the knowledge of how to survive, the best I can, in case anything ever happens.
So, I guess, thank you, catcallers. Because you targeted me at a young age, because you target hundreds of girls at young ages, I have learned. I have grown. And now, I know how to keep myself from being harmed by you anymore.
But really, no thanks. No thanks for trying to intimidate me, even make me fear for my life. No thanks for making me scared to wear anything that shows my shoulders. No thanks for limiting me.
No longer your victim,