Time: Friday, 5/31, at approximately 11:15pm.
Wearing: slightly big leather jacket (not form-fitting), business pants and low heels. No makeup, ponytail, earrings.
I wasn’t even halfway down the block from a sports/billiards bar (had just stepped into a slightly more shadowed part of the street) when I encountered three men. One was just starting up his food cart while talking to two others who were against the wall. These two will be Guy 1 and Guy 2. Just as I passed the food cart to get to the road:
Guy 1 pushes off the wall and stands in front of me. Guy 2 stands to my left. Food cart guy is presumedly busy with his food cart.
Guy 1: Whoa whoa not so fast. It’s my birthday. Give me a hug. Holds his arms out.
Me: Sorry, no thanks. Tries to keep walking
Guy 1: Raises his arms, sidesteps and blocks me. Nah don’t be like that. Give me a hug. It’s my birthday!
Guy 2: Wow I’m so sorry haha. He’s only like that because it’s his birthday…Just give him a hug and he’ll leave you alone.
Me: Really, no. I don’t hug. I need to go. Tries to keep walking.
Guy 1: Raises arms, sidesteps and blocks me again
Guy 2: No seriously you won’t hug him? We’ll call the police if you don’t hug him.
Me: Oh okay you’ll call the police?
Guy 2: No no no we won’t but c’mon just give him a hug and—
Me: I DON’T GIVE HUGS. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. GOODBYE.
Guy 1: Oh all right all right….I bow down to you. Bends over facing away from me.
Guy 1 squeezes and feels up my calf as I walk by.
I had never felt so physically defenseless in my entire life.
This was the shortened version. What absolutely kills me is that down to the last line, I had to say this all in a somewhat friendly tone. Why? I didn’t want to sound threatening because I didn’t want to provoke them into 1. Thinking I was being “feisty” and persisting, 2. Producing a weapon, and/or 3. Exerting force to get that hug.
Do you know what else kills me?
- I wore exactly what I had worn to work that day. I was not dressed to attract guys. I was dressed to be professional.
- Both guys were in their upper 20’s or 30’s and outweighed me. They would more appropriately be described as men, but I don’t assign to them the sense of responsibility and maturity that often distinguishes men from boys/guys.
- Even when I wanted nothing more than to curb stomp them in the nuts, I couldn’t because: I was outnumbered, they were bigger, they might’ve had a weapon and I only had an umbrella.
- Food cart guy never intervened. I couldn’t tell if he was blocking the way behind me or just watching (or not paying attention at all). There were also bouncers for the bar less than halfway down the block. I’m not blaming them, but I AM wondering why no one on this street saw it happen (or if they did, said nothing).
- Due to the various reasons and potential of weapons listed above, I couldn’t even scream.
It’s taken me over a week to write about this because I found myself shaking and feeling sick to my stomach every time I thought about it. It’s sickening that sexual harassment not only has its immediate impact, but that it also imparts psychological ramifications that last well beyond the time of occurrence.
It’s also taken me this long because I’ve been asking myself whether I’m overreacting. Praise God that he only stroked my calf. It could’ve been so much worse, and unfortunately, other girls definitely endure worse. But the fact that the norm of safety has degenerated to this level is so unbelievably wrong.
There’s a chance that some readers, male and female alike, will ridicule me for blowing up something of such “triviality.”Call me overly cynical, but the sad reality is that the mounting conversation regarding #yesallwomen, rape culture, the Isla Vista shootings, feminism and all things related can often be dismissed as the screeching of over-sensitive women, or an unrelenting complaint that’s heard but not answered.
To me, this entire mess (and I’m not excluding the harassment and stigma against males) is a particularly dangerous and far-reaching manifestation of sin. And since sin is the ultimate root, I don’t believe this particular issue will ever be completely resolved in our lifetime—until the day Jesus comes. (Ask me if you want to know why)
However, this isn’t to say that we should resign ourselves to the unchangeable. I didn’t write this post for pity. On the contrary, I’m asking you to actively strive for change. I don’t know exactly what that looks like for you, or even for me. But please don’t just read this or the #yesallwomen account and walk away with sympathy and nothing else.
To guys and girls alike, I urge you to pray for the victims and the perpetrators. Pray for those who are enduring worse, and pray for the safety of those who will. (If you don’t pray, feel free to ask me why I think this is something worth doing.)
What else? Guys, you can educate the bros who practice this behavior on why it’s wrong. You can walk a girl home even if it’s only starting to get dark and it’s inconvenient. You can change the conversational landscape in which you/other guys view, talk about, respond to or expect from girls. Thanks to those who already do these things, and there are plenty other methods out there, but we really appreciate it.
Girls: until fundamental change occurs, maybe we can be more cautious with ourselves and each other. Continue to educate those unaware on why this is an issue and why it matters. But also, act on offense using defense: walk in groups; dress modestly (not because it’s our fault, but because it could alleviate or prevent temptation—though obviously, may not work in all situations); support each other; learn karate, etc.
It feels ridiculous, but I’m buying pepper spray because the thought of walking down the street alone after 10pm makes my stomach churn. Until Jesus comes again, I hope we can make our way to a reality in which we don’t have to buy our safety just because we’re girls.
I didn’t mean for this to be so long, but thanks for reading.