I was followed by a stranger this week and I liked it. I started a new account on Pinterest—an online bulletin board. Within a few hours of setting up the account and posting a few items that interested me, I was notified that I had a follower. A woman who liked something I posted had chosen to “follow” me and see what else I might post. I had a little happy moment.
It reminded me, though, of a time when I was followed by a stranger and was very, very scared.
When I was about nineteen, I missed the last bus home from a college dance. I remember the “Oh, shit” feeling when I realized that I had missed the bus by only a minute or two. Also having that same feeling was another girl, and so we decided to walk together to the suburb in which we were both staying. I had not known her before we met at the bus stop .
It was a long walk, but I can’t remember exactly how long. Certainly it was over an hour. It was nice to have someone to chat with along the way. When we got to the suburb it was late and dark, and there was no traffic on the streets. We saw the white van go by, but we didn’t think much of it. When it went by a second time, we paid attention. The third time, we didn’t see it come up behind us. Two men got out of the van, grabbed us from behind and started dragging us towards the van.
I was absolutely useless; shocked into complete silence. My new friend, though, was loud. Very loud. She screamed so loudly and for so long that lights started to go on in the houses near us. The men decided better of their plan and ran away. We were shaken up and still scared, so we decided to knock on the nearest door. We woke up the elderly couple who lived there and they took us in.
They called the police and, as we sat in the front room of those bewildered people, one of the police officers asked us what we were doing walking about at that time of night. We were both dressed in miniskirts, as was appropriate for our age and the times. The policemen, though, seemed to think we were agents provocateur, not victims of sexual assault. I don’t think the police ever looked for the white van, but they did take us home.
Since that time I have been wary of being followed by strangers. I walk a lot in cities, suburbs, and parks, and I try to be aware of my surroundings all the time, but I never walk at night.