Lindsay Mitchell blogs on the advice Scottish Police have given out to men, to help women feel more secure when alone in the evenings:
“Resist chatting to a woman who is waiting, for example, at an isolated bus stop. She won’t know that you mean her no harm. Remember that a woman may also feel threatened by what you think are admiring looks.”
The leaflet reiterates previous advice that men who find themselves walking in the same direction as a woman should cross the street to reassure her that she is not being followed.
Now it goes without saying that casting “admiring looks” at a woman alone at night is not a good thing to do, beyond the normal smile or visual recognition of each other.
It also goes without saying that crossing the street just because there is a woman on your side is somewhat of an overkill. Not to say that one shouldn’t be sensitive about the nervousness of being followed. I sometimes get nervous when I can hear or see the shadow of someone behind me. Likewise I often go out of my way not to stay behind someone when walking along, by walking at a different pace to them.
What is interesting is the issue of chatting at bus stops etc. I’d be interested to hear from women especially on whether they find it worrisome or a relief if someone strikes up a conversation at a bus stop. Part of me thinks that one might prefer someone who is friendly (not sleazy) and comments on the book they are reading or other such banial stuff. It sort of humanises them as less likely to then drag you around the corner. Personally I’m not a bus stop chatter, and believe the best stranger is a silent one. But others might disagree?