A smile does NOT invite harassment

This happened when I was 16 and in Montreal for the Just for Laughs Festival. It was crowded on the streets, more crowded than any concert I’ve ever been to. We all seemed to be migrating to the same place. I thought it was sort of funny and some older guy behind me was laughing about it. I turned around and smiled since it was nice we both found the humour in it. He had olive skin, was probably 25 years older than me, dark hair, a few inches shorter than me (I’m about 6ft). When I was facing forward I felt his hands feeling my ass, tickling, trying to get up my skirt. I was in such shock that all I could think to do was tell my twin sister who was directly in front of me. She turned her head around, glared, and told him to stop it. He stopped and acted put off like it was some innocent misunderstanding. I’m so thankful my sister was there, it made me stronger.

I’m proud to say I was raised by very strong female figures and men who respected women. Even with that, though, I still questioned what I did to get that unwanted attention. Was I wrong to be in a good mood, to smile at a stranger, did I invite the behaviour? I dismissed these ideas but it made me cautious of who I gave any sort of attention.

Even now, as a 25 yr old living alone downtown in Edmonton, I purposely avoid eye contact, listen to my iPod where ever I walk alone, wear sunglasses as long as it’s sunny enough. I think it’s smart to be aware of ones surroundings, not make yourself a target for unwanted interactions and behaviour but it’s sad that I have to be so on guard at all hours of the day. It speaks volumes of the society women live in.

Submitted by Chantelle

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