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

These Douglas fir logs were recently found poached on Stoney Hill in North Cowichan’s forest reserve. (Larry Pynn/sixmountains.ca)
OPINION: Cowichan Valley’s Six Mountains Forest: War or Peace—The Choice is Ours

Icel Dobel writes in favour of protecting Cowichan Valley forests

North Cedar Volunteer Fire Department crews at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Barnes Road near Holden Corso Road in Cedar. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Jeep rolls over on wet afternoon in Cedar, occupants OK

Incident happened Monday, May 17, on Barnes Road

The former St. Joseph’s School converted to the St. Joseph’s Art Studios in 2019. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Former Chemainus St. Joseph’s School site sold to addictions recovery group

Diocese stresses the importance of a community outreach option in its decision

The bow-legged bear was seen roaming 2nd Avenue on Friday, May 7 and again in Brown Drive Park on May 13. (Submitted photo)
Bow-legged Ladysmith bear euthanized after vet examination

CO Stuart Bates said the bear had obvious health issues

The Arts Council of Ladysmith and District is working with several Vancouver Island art councils on the Digitial Innovation Group to improve digital skills for Island artists. (Submitted photo)
Digital Innovation Group supports digital literacy for Island artists

The goal is to leverage digital skills to promote Vancouver Island as an ‘arts powerhouse’

North Cedar Volunteer Fire Department crews at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Barnes Road near Holden Corso Road in Cedar. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Jeep rolls over on wet afternoon in Cedar, occupants OK

Incident happened Monday, May 17, on Barnes Road

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

Emergency service workers at the collision scene along Highway 4 in Hilliers on Sunday, May 16. A motorcyclist was airlifted to hospital by BC Air Ambulance and later died. (Collin C photo)
UPDATE: Motorcyclist dies from injuries sustained in Mid-Island highway collision

BC Highway Patrol says impairment not a contributing factor in crash

Most Read