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

Just Posted

(PQB News file photo)
Oceanside RCMP on the hunt for reported Rathtrevor flasher

Two separate incidents noted at provincial park on April 30 and May 14

A fledgling white raven was spotted near the end of Winchester Road in Coombs. (Mike Yip photo)
Legend continues as iconic white raven spotted once again in Coombs

Sightings rare everywhere in world except for central Vancouver Island location

Emergency service workers at the collision scene along Highway 4 in Hilliers on Sunday, May 16. (Collin C photo)
UPDATE: Motorcyclist dies from injuries sustained in highway collision near Hilliers

BC Highway Patrol says impairment not a contributing factor in crash

Checking through social media feeds can be an interesting exercise. (Black Press Media file photo)
WOLF: Mr. Rogers would be proud of this friendly day in the neighbourhood

COLUMN: Residents quick to offer assistance for person coming off surgery

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

More “strings of lights” were seen on May 15, 2021, in night sky over Vancouver Island. (File photo)
Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Nathan Zuk had left his mother’s residence in Whaletown on Cortes Island in mid-December 2020 in a 14’ skiff rowboat and headed to an unknown location near the Pryce Channel, Deer passage, or Toba Inlet. Photo courtesy RCMP
RCMP need help finding man who set off from Cortes Island in 14-foot rowboat

Nathan Zuk left in December, may have been last seen in Toba Inlet approximately three weeks ago

Discarded construction materials make up nearly 40 per cent of all materials sent to the landfill from sources in the city of Victoria. (Zero Waste Victoria)
Victoria looks to curb waste by turning demolitions into deconstructions

Community drafting bylaw forcing developers to be better at salvage and recycling

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

Most Read