Tina Starkey with her seven-month-old puppy Sugar on the E&N Trail in Esquimalt. Starkey now carries a small personal alarm device, her thumb on the button. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

Tina Starkey with her seven-month-old puppy Sugar on the E&N Trail in Esquimalt. Starkey now carries a small personal alarm device, her thumb on the button. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

Random encounters leave B.C. woman concerned for her safety, and she’s not alone

Sharing her growing fear of walking in public opens a floodgate of advice and similar concerns

She just wants to walk her puppy in peace but incidents over the last few months are making Tina Starkey feel anxious about leaving her home alone.

The first incident happened this winter when the Victoria resident took her three-month-old puppy Sugar for a walk, and a man crossed the street to pet the dog. When Starkey kept walking, the man followed.

“I ignored him but he kept trying to get my attention. ‘Hey lady!’ and ‘Hold on.’ I started taking small little streets, turning to see if he was following me, and sure enough he was. I finally got home and he left, but I was totally shaken,” Starkey, 50, said.

Then again in March, Starkey and Sugar were at an Esquimalt shopping plaza and a man in a car called out to her to come for a ride. No, she answered and kept walking. He drove slowly beside her calling to her as she walked, saying, ‘Come on, it’s a nice day.’

Starkey took a pedestrian route that he couldn’t follow and got home safely, but shaken and now, bewildered.

“I mean, I don’t really look like a hot mama here, I’m out here wearing shorts and my hair’s a mess. I’m just walking my dog in my purple crocs. What’s going on?”

Even if she was dolled up strutting around in heels or whatever, it’s not an invitation, she added.

When a third incident happened in April — a cyclist charged at her yelling ‘I don’t care!’ on the E&N Trail, and as he was about to hit her, turned abruptly saying, ‘But, I love you’ — Starkey was fed up.

She wrote a post on Facebook asking for self-defence advice with a brief summary of her experiences. Within hours she had over a hundred responses.

“I’ve had guys offering to walk with me if I don’t want to go alone, I’ve been sent videos on how to take down a 400-pound man, I’ve been invited to mixed martial arts classes, to join Brazilian jiu jitsu, I’ve been offered weapons,” Starkey said.

People recommend bear spray, pepper spray, knives, air horns, personal alarms — one even suggested making pterodactyl noises. (“No joke, I’ve scared men away by acting crazier or creepier than them.”)

But more powerful than the hundreds of comments — it was over 300 within 24 hours — are the loads of private messages from women who have had harrowing experiences they didn’t want to share publicly.

Starkey’s voice wavered when she brought it up.

“So many women are having things happen but they’re not speaking up. They’re too scared to come up and say ‘Look, I’ve been raped, I’ve been attacked,’ because they’re feeling ashamed or whatever. And that’s wrong, that shouldn’t be happening.”

She hasn’t reported any of her incidents to police, saying that since nothing ended up happening in each case police probably woudn’t be overly concerned.

That’s the opposite of what Victoria Police Department’s Const. Cam MacIntyre wants people to think.

“If you feel like you’re being followed, don’t minimize that. Some people don’t feel what’s happening to them deserves a 911 call, but oftentimes it does. We would consider that a crime in progress and we would send someone out right away,” he told Black Press Media.

And even if an incident, whether a full-blown assault or something less, is reported days later, it still helps police. If there are increased reports of harassment, potential stalking, or even strange behaviour, they might allocate more officers to those neighbourhoods. Reports might even correlate with known high-risk offenders who police are following.

“The number one thing is to know that we’re here to make sure you’re safe,” MacIntyre said.

Starkey is looking into taking a Brazilian jiu jitsu class once COVID-19 restrictions allow it, and in the meantime she carries a personal alarm device that screeches when pressed. Her right hand is on the device while her left hand holds Sugar’s leash.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

READ ALSO: 15-year-old choked in Beacon Hill tent, Victoria police assaulted while intervening

READ ALSO: Many Victoria residents falsely believe crime has increased, here’s why


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CrimeGreater VictoriaVicPD

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

FILE – Residents of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory southwest of Montreal continue to monitor a blockade leading to blocked railroad tracks that pass through their community as they protest in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on Sunday, March 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe
B.C. Supreme Court rejects Wet’suwet’en bid to toss LNG pipeline certificate

Opposition last year by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs set off Canada-wide rail blockades

B.C.’s public health restrictions on non-essential travel are reinforced by orders effective April 23, 2021 to stay within your own regional health authority except for essential travel such as work and medical appointmens. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 non-essential travel ban takes effect, $575 fines approved

Checks on highways, ferries between Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Interior

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read