Last night a man asked me for a dollar as I left the subway on my way home. I gave him one.
He then proceeded to start talking to me and followed me for ten minutes as I tried to walk home. He ignored my repeated attempts to part ways and made comments about my body, his body and allude to us having sex. He asked personal questions about my life. He asked if I was married. I told him that I had a boyfriend, not because I owed him any answer, but my past experience has shown that these type of men, when hearing you are ‘taken’ often will leave you alone out of respect, not for you of course, but for the man who already ‘has’ you.
He walked all the way to the block I lived, talking away, moving closer to my side while I clutched my keys, splayed out between my fingers in one pocket and my cell phone in the other, mind frantically going over my options to get out of this situation. How to get away from this man without angering him. How to get into my apartment without him seeing where I lived.
When I turned the corner of my block I saw that the bodega was open. I told him I had to go to the store and said, again, good night. He followed me into the store, where with witnesses and the store owner who knows my face I had to courage to tell him to stop following me. That I didn’t want him to know where I lived. To go away.
He called me a bitch.
The store owner made him stay in the store long enough for me to dart across the street, duck into my apartment, and lock the door behind me.
I’ve spent most of today going over in my head what I did wrong to get into this situation.
I was stupid to give him a dollar. To speak to him after. To let him walk with me so far. To be so concerned with being polite.
But what that really boils down to is that I, my entire life, have been told that being a woman in public is asking for attention, and once received it is my fault in some way.
I don’t owe anybody conversation, my number, my time. It’s not a complement.
The truly insidious thing about harassment is that in the moment, the potential violence, quiet, persistent and vague threat combine with a world of people telling you that if something bad happens to you it’s YOUR fault. The conditioning women receive to be ‘nice’, be polite, smile for goodness sake (lest, horrors of all horrors we become that horrendous monster, a bitch). All this is why we accept being uncomfortable, being afraid, why we consider how our keys could be used as a weapon.
The man called me a bitch, and my biggest regret today is that I wasn’t a bigger one.
A friend posted this on Facebook yesterday. Personally, I am so sick of rape culture and what it’s doing to us. (via thearetical)
I’m going to add a comment on this with tips for women who find themselves in a similar situation in the future. This is not to imply it is our fault we are harassed or it should be our responsibility to stop it, just that it unfortunately happens to most of us and I want to share the tips I’m learned in self-defense classes so that you all have these options in your head.
- Like the author, going into an open business, preferably one with multiple people or a security guard. It’s best to actually speak directly to the store owner and ask them for help. They may let you stay inside until your harasser leaves, call the police, kick the harasser out, or even let you hide in a back room.
- It’s best to avoid leading them back to your home. If there is a business (or public building like library, police station, etc) nearby your home, you can go there so that you’re close to your safe zone without your harasser knowing exactly where you live.
- If you are being followed or harassed and need to confront the person, the best technique is to put your hands up in a defensive position, palms facing away from you, and loudly but non-aggressively say “LEAVE. ME. ALONE” or “GO.AWAY”. Repeat those words over and over without engaging in whatever the harasser is saying or doing. If there are people around, you can also point out what the harasser is doing and wearing to get attention on him which may scare him away, i.e. “This man has been following me for 6 blocks! He’s wearing a red shirt and black sweatpants!”
- Don’t be afraid to make a scene and get people’s attention in order to get a harasser off your back. Most stalkers/harassers rely on women’s embarrassment, shame and guilt at being harassed that causes us to try and solve these kinds of issues quietly. Yell and scream and get all the attention on yourself if you have to. Your safety is more important than any residual embarrassment, and anyone who shames you for “making a scene” is a harassment apologist who should get their head stuck in a hornet’s nest.
- If the person gets within two feet of you or quickly invades your personal space, you can physically defend yourself by kneeing or slapping their groin as hard as possible. You can also grab a handful of their genitals, squeeze, and twist as hard as possible. Aim for the lower (testies) rather than front (penis) as that is a more sensitive and painful area to strike. Don’t be afraid to hurt them. It’s important that in any kind of physical strike you make in self-defense, you use your full strength to cause maximum damage and so that they don’t perceive you as weak and easily overpowered. Use full force to hurt them before they can hurt you.
- If you think you’re being followed in your car, a good trick to figure out if you are is to make a full circle around a block, AKA make 4 right turns to see if the same car continues following you. If they are, you can drive to the nearest open business, park there, go inside, and stay inside until the person leaves or until you can get some kind of law enforcement to prevent them from following you.
Also, it’s okay to get involved if you see someone else being harassed. Read their body language and don’t be afraid to step in or call police for someone you don’t know, you could be saving a life.