*The following article contains discussion of sexual assault.
It’s an unfortunate truth that many of us have to be extra careful when we go out in public alone, especially women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
But some people see more value in public niceties than public safety, cringed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor brisketbirb was recently followed in her mother’s suburban neighborhood by a man from the community who was claiming he only wanted to introduce himself.
When her mother accused her of being rude to the man who creeped her out, the Original Poster (OP) was shocked.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for ignoring someone who was trying to get my attention in my mom’s suburban neighborhood, and instead faking a phone call to say I was sharing my location?”
The OP recently went to stay with her mother after surgery.
“I used to live in a city where if a stranger was following you around trying to talk, it was pretty certain they were either trying to run a scam, beg money off you, sexually harass you, or some combination.”
“So my habit is to not engage at all, not even make eye contact. Literally, just walk on.”
“And even if they do try and start some trouble, don’t engage directly. Just grab your phone and start calling a friend.”
“So I moved back with my family for a few months to take care of my mom who had surgery. And she lives in a suburban area.”
The OP was then creeped out during a walk through the neighborhood.
“I was gonna go to the library and decided to walk because it was only 20 minutes.”
“In this neighborhood, not many people walk, so I guess people find that (walking to a destination) weird?”
“I was walking down a street and someone was calling, ‘Miss? Hello, Miss? Excuse me, ma’am,’ and I kept walking.”
“He was standing in the front yard, and I was walking in the street.”
“But when I walked by the whole yard, he started following me, too.”
The OP decided to do something to protect herself.
“I took out my phone and called my best friend. I only got her voicemail, but I talked like she picked up, saying:”
“‘Hi, I’m on the corner of (street and street), I just shared my live location with you. Someone’s following me. Denny and Frank are with you, yeah? Ok good and they have the truck there? Ok good.'”
“I continued, ‘Yeah, a white man, I think he lives at 200 (Street) Street. Short brown hair, about 6 foot tall, 180 pounds. Yeah, I’ll stay on the phone with you till y’all get to me. Yeah, I’ve got that on me, always do.'”
“The guy stopped following me.”
The OP’s mother called her out for her behavior.
“When I got home, my mom showed me a Facebook post from her neighborhood group.”
“It was a picture of me from a distance taken by a doorbell camera.”
“The post said there was a ‘suspicious’ person that the guy, a resident, tried to ‘greet’ and who totally ignored him and then got on the phone, describing where he lives, what he looks like, and was talking about having a bunch of guys in a truck come by.”
“I laughed and told my mom my side of the story, thinking she’d think it was funny.”
“But she didn’t. She said, ‘Around here, you can’t just ignore your neighbors like that. People get to know and trust each other, and he was trying to see if you were from around here and just looking out for the neighborhood.'”
“Apparently, she’s a friend of his.”
The OP didn’t understand her mother’s priorities.
“I was like, ‘Mom, do you really want to be teaching your daughter to be talking with strangers who follow her down the street? Like okay, this was a misunderstanding, but most of the time, it’s bad news, and I ain’t doing that.'”
“She said I acted really hostile and inappropriate and that I was gonna be making her look bad with her neighbors.”
“I said that her neighbor who thinks it’s chill to f**king follow a girl who isn’t trying to talk is the one looking real bad.”
“She said it wasn’t like that here.”
“I said that it’s like that everywhere, people are people, and I’m not f**king talking to someone who is acting like that.”
“She’s upset with me and I’m upset with her.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some pointed out that the suburbs are not inherently safe spaces.
“You are absolutely correct to be freaked out by someone following you when you did nothing wrong (in fact, what you did was very street smart!).”
“I have a name for you to consider: Ahmaud Arbery [shot during a racially-motivated hate crime].”
“Just because your mom views your neighborhood as a safe place doesn’t mean it actually is. Plenty of predatory people are rich enough to live in the suburbs. (Lori Vallow-Daybell and Chad Daybell lived in suburbs or rural areas, right?)”
“You don’t have to greet a total stranger if you don’t want to. Yes, some people will view that as rude, but they don’t get to dictate your actions.”
“I’m very similar in avoiding in-person conversations with men I don’t know. I don’t give a f**k how rude they think it is, they’ll get over it.” – jammy193
“Creeps and criminals can live in the suburbs too. It comes from a place of privilege or a false sense of security to just ‘trust the neighbors.'”
“If the guy had a problem with you, he should have just called the police. Technically what he did was unsafe too.” – thatchesirecat
“I live in a very safe suburban neighborhood. There are two sex offenders within a quart mile of me, seven sex offenders within a half-mile, and 37 within a mile.”
“While a mile isn’t my immediate neighborhood, a 20-minute walk is farther than a mile.”
“I carry a firearm to the mailbox and I do not talk to men I do not know.” – Alert-Potato
“Not all sex offenders live where they register. They may register at a family member’s house when they get out of jail, and then move and ‘forget’ to update the address. Or they may spend one or many nights a week at a girl/boyfriend’s house.”
“You have absolutely no idea who might be a sex offender in your neighborhood.” – krankykitty
“After all, the neighbors are always saying, ‘I don’t understand, he was always the quiet one.’ There are way too many predators out there to assume it is safe, good on OP for being careful.”
“NTA.” – myglasswasbigger
Others said the mother should inform the neighbors of her daughter’s visit, not the OP.
“Women especially but all humans, do not owe anyone our attention.”
“If OP’s mom is so dialed into the ‘neighborhood watch,’ why didn’t she inform them OP would be arriving for an extended period?”
“No one has to stop, talk to, or share identification with any nosey Parker neighbors.” – No_Appointment_7232
“Ask your mom why she didn’t mention you? Is she embarrassed by you? Does she not see you as a person?”
“Because if she was as good a friend with the guy as she said, he would have known you, his friend’s daughter, was coming.”
“If he knew this, he would say something like, ‘Hey miss, how are you?’ and with no response from OP, he might ask, ‘Are you so-and-so’s daughter? She said you would be around?” – salvageyardmex
“Your mom should be pointing out to the Facebook group that ANY girl or woman should rightly be nervous of a man she doesn’t know trying to talk to her and actually following her.”
“Would they think it was OK if it were their daughter? Their mom? Or even their teenage son?”
“If someone doesn’t ‘greet’ you, then you should assume they didn’t see you or don’t want to engage. Most women, especially young women, don’t want to engage with some random man out on the street. Because it usually ends badly.” – Pencils_
“It’s interesting to me that even in Greeter Dude’s version of the story, he had no valid reason to try and get her attention. He just went out and cold-approached a total stranger and then publicly shamed her for being creeped out.”
“His behavior was creepy, and it’s weird to me that everyone in the Facebook group was on his side.” – sevenumbrellas
“The guy didn’t mention (in the Facebook group) the fact that she said he was following her at all. Just phrased it like this person was creeping on HIM.” – suchahotmess
A few recommended employing mottos from their favorite podcasts.
“There’s a podcast called ‘Crime Junkie,’ and their whole thing is, ‘be weird, be rude, stay alive.’ Like, don’t go talking to strangers. Maybe not everyone is bad news, but it’s not like they’ll tell you if they are.” – hmarie176
“‘F**k Politeness’ is from the ‘My Favorite Murder’ podcast.”
“True crime devotees have SO MANY options!”
“‘MFM’ also says, ‘Get a job, buy your own stuff, stay out of the forest.'”
“Anyways, we can spread the message and normalize that individually we all get to decide who we interact with, and that manners and etiquette don’t factor in, YAY!” – No_Appointment_7232
The subReddit agreed on this one, it’s all well and good to be kind to those around us, but when it comes to saving someone’s life, sometimes there isn’t time for pleasantries, especially when it means protecting your own.
As some Redditors quoted from the Crime Junkie podcast, “Be weird. Be rude. Be safe.”
If we’re prioritizing being alive or being polite, obviously living should come first.
If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault, help is out there.
You can reach the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline by calling 1-800-656-4673, use their Live Chat tool: https://www.rainn.org/get-help, or visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
In Canada, help is available through the Ending Violence Association of Canada website.
International resources can be found through the Rape Crisis Network Europe website.