28.05.2015

Okay, so you’ve seen my face splashed across all sorts of news related rags today. It may come as some what of a surprise to you, but I never intended for this to happen. I took some civilised and logical action against an ongoing issue that had bothered me. I reacted with thought out complaints and contacting the appropriate people in order to just have a bit of advice and support in resolving the issue in a generally easy manner for all of those involved (After all, the Police are there to protect and mediate). I did what I thought was right. It was a long and thought out process and another fact you may not be aware of is that, I did not contact the local paper to cover the story. I contacted them to see if they knew who the building company were, so that I could contact them direct to see if they’d ask them to stop. A reasonable enough thing to ask. This behaviour had been ongoing for a month. A whole month. Every working day and it became somewhat of a pain. I hope that it was actually out of sheer ignorance that they behaved that way and once it was brought to their attention, they might have actually had some sort of realisation. We can only live in hope…

The paper asked if they could use my case to highlight that street harassment is still an issue. I agreed. Originally I asked to remain anonymous but apparently you kind of need a name and an identity behind a story like this. So I, rather hesitantly, agreed, but on one condition. No photo. They said that was fine, I said my little bit to them, again I thought long and hard about what I said and made a reasonable argument. At this point I thought, okay this will be one of those little articles somewhere inside the paper, it’ll be in peoples kitty litter trays the next day and no-one will probably even notice it. I was wrong. About two weeks go by, bigger news stories, overall much more important things are happening and I assume the story will probably never be published (wrong). I thought to myself, I’m okay with that, since the police asked the builders to stop, I hadn’t even seen them, so I was happy. So Sunday evening, I take a look at the Worcester News Facebook page. I see my story. It’s going to be front page on Monday. Has nothing really happened this weekend in Worcester? I think, okay, there’s gonna be some (loads) of negative comments. Lets just not bother after the first three and ignore it. It’ll be gone tomorrow when someone robs a corner shop or something slightly more interesting happens. So theres something else I was wrong about. Never assume. Oh the power of the internet. Monday morning, my Linked In, Twitter and Facebook are inundated with messages. Throughout the day I have national papers contacting me asking to speak to me, all the time trying to go about my normal daily stuff. I have a load of work to do and this is just getting in the way. I make everything private and get on with it. The same day, theres a massive earthquake in Nepal. That’s news. That’s awful. And now I’m gonna be that person who appears to think they’re worse off than all those Nepalese people. So I’ll tell you really briefly a bit about me, because honestly, you have no idea who I am or what I’m about. I’m somewhat of an introvert. I don’t like unwanted attention and hence that’s why I wanted those builders to stop. I also suffer with anxiety. I’ve been through some stuff and all that, we all have. It’s just a fact of life and it can’t be helped, I guess. But it’s something that affects my day to day life. So I keep to myself, I go to work, I sometimes go on a night out with my mates. I game a lot. You probably didn’t know that. Yes, I’d rather stay in and play on the Xbox (which I’ll probably be doing a lot more over the next few weeks) and eat pizza and watch movies. Although I’m gluten intolerant so pizza generally makes me ill, but gluten is in all the good stuff right?! I’m not actually that big on going out. I have a lovely home, which I pay for. All me, just me. No parental help. I like to spend time at home. I read a lot and I’ve always enjoyed learning about new things (this has been a big learning experience). I also love to go running and do yoga, this helps me deal with my anxiety issues, its a really good outlet. I’ve also supported myself since I was 16 years old. So the last 7 years. I’ve paid my own rent, bills, expenses etc. I’ve worked as much as possible whilst also attending full time college and university. So I did all this, on my own. I’m pretty proud of myself. It wasn’t easy and I have a fantastic relationship with my Mom. So that is no reflection on her in any way shape or form. I have a great support system from my Mom, stepdad and other close family and friends. A few years back, I became a bit more of a recluse, there were less photos of me from nights out on Facebook, I just got on with my work, kept my head down and worked all the hours I physically could over summer to save up for anything I might want to buy or do. So that’s a little about me. I’m also not a man hater or a ‘feminazi’ as some people so eloquently put it. I have nothing against men, thats absurd. I have lots of male friends as well as female and I definitely don’t tar everyone of the same gender with the same brush. Just to clear that up. I didn’t ever want to become so visible. So this all blew up. I was contacted by loads of people and spoke to a few. I let them take a few photos of me because I didn’t like having my Facebook photos just taken and used, that was something I could control. So I took control. I spoke to some nice people at the BBC and gave them an interview over the phone to be used on the radio. It allowed me to speak about my reactions, on a platform that I felt was relatively neutral. I did this in a quick 15 minutes during which time I was also hosting a university study group at my house. I kept to the facts. I didn’t slate anyone else as they had slated me. I just reacted and kept calm. So today is Tuesday. I’ve, again, been bombarded by offers of TV and interviews etc. I’ve been offered money. I’ve declined all of these. I nearly didn’t come into work today because I didn’t sleep. It’s stressful. The only people I spoke to was a lady from the BBC to do an interview so I could, essentially, draw a line under this whole experience and get on with my life. I only agreed to do this because of mutual connections through a colleague who gave me some very useful advice and said it may be good to put out a final word. We needed to take control, have my final say and that’s it. I don’t want to be a public figure, it’s just not me. However, I stand by my original argument. Whoever you are. You don’t have to take crap from anyone. If someone is harassing you, you are well within your rights to do something about it. I’d had enough after a month and I’d invite you all to imagine how you would feel being shouted and whistled at, every single day for a month. You’d probably get annoyed. You may choose to lash out and swear at them. Again. This isn’t me. But if that’s you. Fine. If you don’t mind being catcalled or whistled at. That’s fine. Each to their own and I don’t judge you for that – despite how many of you have judged me. As a closing statement I’d like to make a comparison that maybe will make the situation more clear: I wouldn’t put up with harassment in my workplace – I’d tell my boss. I wouldn’t put up with someone on the other side of a restaurant shouting over at me whilst I was trying to have some food with my family, I’d ask the staff to ask them stop. So why should I put up with it in the street every day?

Be good to each other, peace.

Poppy Smart

@wretchedpops

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