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

Quinn, left, and Adrian Van de Mosselaer are going through UBCO’s nursing program together after Quinn encouraged his brother to go back to school. (UBC Okanagan/Contributed)
UBC Okanagan student transitions from professional hockey to nursing

Adrian Van de Mosselaer credits his younger brother for the push to get him back to learning

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media file)
More than 40% of Central Okanagan residents have received 1st vaccine dose

Local clinics have administered 81,247 first doses to Central Okanagan residents

A GoFundMe page has been launched to alleviate the financial burden for “Captain” Kelly, a former Peachland School District bus driver who was recently diagnosed with stage three lung and lymphatic cancer. (GoFundMe.com)
Fundraiser launched for former Peachland school bus driver diagnosed with cancer

“Captain” Kelly was recently diagnosed with stage three lung and lymphatic cancer

Brenda Ware. (RCMP)
Murder charge laid against man in Kootenay National Park homicide

Philip Toner was located in Lake Country on May 11

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Vernon’s Tanya Wick, human resources VP at Tolko Industries Ltd., has been named the 2021 HR Professional of the Year by the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon. (CPHR BC & Yukon photo)
Okanagan resident gets top provincial award for HR excellence

Tolko’s Tanya Wick has earned the title of 2021 HR Professional of the Year

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The City of Vernon is taking a close look at six high-priority Okanagan Lake access points, including three sites along Tronson Road (pictured above) in May 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon council looking closely at Okanagan Lake access points

Six access points have been identified as ideal for recreation

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Police working to identify the two bodies found in South Okanagan

The area will see higher police presence ahead of a forensic examination

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Most Read