When Lily Evans set out to walk her dog, she had no idea the story of that walk would later go viral on the internet.
When she took to Twitter to recount her experience, she opened with a simple question, one that many men have probably wondered for a long time — though women already know the answer.
(Before you click through to the thread itself, note that Lily’s Twitter account is expressly for adults and may be NSFW.)
The walk started off normal enough. Until she ran into a seemingly friendly stranger.
A man eating on a nearby bench offered her dog, Echo, a treat.
He eventually asked her if she lived in the area — which could be considered slightly intrusive — but all in all, it was just small talk.
But then she ran into him again shortly after.
Evans says his friendly banter — maybe innocent, but more likely not — was making her incredibly uncomfortable.
And yet he continued to linger.
Then he invaded her physical space with an out-of-nowhere hug.
“I was terrified,” she wrote.
Evans hurried home, petrified the man would follow her.
He didn’t. But the experience left her shaken and upset. Worst of all, she says, she has been through this many, many times before.
Her story went viral in a hurry, with over 44,000 retweets, 68,000 likes, and thousands of comments.
“The response from other women has been pretty heartbreaking,” Evans writes in a Twitter exchange with Upworthy. “Many, many women have used this as an opportunity to share their stories of harassment, assault, or even just being very frightened.”
The replies to Evans’ tweet thread is littered with similar stories — seemingly “nice” guys on the street or public transportation who push small talk far past its acceptable boundaries.
Though she’s glad her story made other women feel more comfortable coming forward with their own experiences, Evans hopes it also leaves an impression on men who read it.
“I had several guys ask me how they can be more non-threatening, and that’s exactly what I was aiming for.”
“I got a lot of replies from men saying, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry that happened, but we aren’t all like that! Some of us are nice guys,'” she says. “And while that’s true, my point was that strangers cannot know what your intentions are until it’s too late.
She hits on an important point: It’s not inherently wrong or creepy to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but women truly never know when a simple “hi” is going to turn into them being followed and harassed.
“I had several guys ask me how they can be more non-threatening, and that’s exactly what I was aiming for,” she says. “I just want men to be more self-aware and understand that when a woman they don’t know is skittish, it’s nothing personal. We’re just trying to be safe.”