Amber’s Story: Harassed in the grocery store

Last fall was my first semester at college. On a weekend trip home, my mom and I went grocery shopping together. We’d split up in the store, and I was just sort of wandering around on my own. I kept noticing this group of three or four young men. They kept looking at me and talking among themselves, and it made me uncomfortable. I was standing in an empty part of the store, looking at something on a shelf when one of them appeared a few feet away from me to my right. He gestured for me to come towards him. Being the nice, accommodating girl that I am, I did. I was standing a few feet in front of him. He started questioning me.

“You got a man?”

“No.”

“How old are you?”

“18.”

“What you doin’?”

“Look, man, I don’t even live in Columbia…”

“Where you live, then?”

“Rock Hill.”

At that point, his friends came up. Now, I was blocked in. There was one guy in front of me with another behind him, one to my right, and a shelf on my left. Alarm bells started going off in my head. They were all about a foot taller than me with muscular builds, and there was no one else around.

One of the other men asked me if I had a man. I said, “No,” and started to walk away. Over my shoulder, I tossed back, “And I don’t want one either!”

I’ve been followed around in stores before. I’ve been approached by random guys a few times who asked for my number without even a proper introduction (I forgive them for that because they’re young and stupid). But I never felt threatened by anyone in public until that day. I carry pepper spray with me everywhere I go these days, and I don’t ever make eye contact with strange men in grocery stores. The world’s a dangerous place.

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