It was the second time it had happened that night.
I was walking from my Glebe sublet to Babylon, a popular Bank Street bar, for a Friday night out with friends. Nearing midnight, I felt relatively safe, like I always did on Bank, since it was one of the more crowded nightspots in Ottawa.
A man I’d never seen before slowed his car to a stop beside me and asked if I wanted a ride, as, like I said, another man had already done mere minutes before.
“No thank you,” I probably said, though it may have been something less polite and definitely came with a side of my meanest glare.
Unlike the man before him, this man did not say “okay,” and drive off. He slowly crept to the next stop sign and waited for me there.
“You sure you don’t want a ride?” he loudly insisted. I quickened my pace.
He must’ve barely had his foot on the gas pedal as he continued sliding by me, stopping again at the next block and waiting there for me to reach him. He asked again. I sped up again.
This continued at least two or three more times. He waited for me. I tried to pass him. He slowed down. I sped up. His tone grew angrier. So did mine.
When we were both fully frustrated by his failed technique, he tried something new. He slowed down so much that this time his car was behind me, and while I was crossing the next block, sped up and turned right in front of me. He slammed on his brakes about two or three feet in front of my body, blocking my path.
“GET. IN.” he shouted.
I ran. I ran for a few blocks and called my friend who was waiting for me at the bar, who came outside to meet me. I told him briefly what had happened, but brushed it off as just another creepy dude creepin’.
Women are used to strangers sharing their desires and opinions with them on Bank Street. That route was one I took regularly when I lived in Ottawa, multiple times a week walking to work and going out on weekends. I’d grown accustomed to guys honking, whistling, moaning, shouting, swearing, and calling me names on a regular basis. The labels men rushed to ascribe to me on that street alone ranged from “slut” to “princess”—but mostly “slut” (and its sister slurs, “bitch” and “whore”). I don’t think a stranger has ever called me a “cunt,” and among my friends that makes me one of the most fortunate.
The offending skort.
It took me a full year to realize how scary that man on Bank Street had really been. I can’t precisely remember when it sunk in—it was either when I read about a similar situation that was being reported as an attempted kidnapping, or when a friend messaged me and the rest of our girls to warn us about a man who’d tried to physically force her into his car a few blocks away on Bronson Avenue.
Either way, it took me, a proudly proclaimed feminist since the age of about four, a full fucking year to realize that that experience wasn’t just another harmless holler (although clearly, they’re never really harmless). That was something I could’ve reported to the police.
But I didn’t call the cops, I didn’t report it to Hollaback, I didn’t even warn my best girlfriends. I continued with my night out, because a man interrupting my life is the status quo. Oh and I decided not to wear that gold lace skort I’d had on ever again. It was super cute but rode up at the back, so that was probably why two men tried to get me into their car with them that night, right? It didn’t occur to me what could’ve happened if he’d found me on a quieter street or at a different time of night. I didn’t consider what he’d done to other women before me, or what he’s done since.
Had I ended up in either one of their cars, by force or naïveté, it wouldn’t have mattered what I was wearing. What happened next wouldn’t have been up to me.
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