LJ’s Story: “Come on, bystanders!”

A guy with a leaf-blower was out in front of this building – it’s not a church, but it has a steeple. I was just going for a nice morning walk, and noticed that he was walking alongside of me for a little while, a few feet away. I looked over at him, and he gave me a really creepy smile. A cop car drove by, and I told him to leave me alone. I started walking faster, and he did too, but then eventually turned and started leaf-blowing again. I can only imagine he was on the job. What was even more infuriating was that there was a nice-looking guy presumably walking to an office nearby, and I looked at him with a look of frustration trying to say with my eyes ‘can you believe how awful he’s being?!’, and that guy just gave an ‘it’s none of my business’ grin and walked away. Come on, bystanders!

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2 Responses

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  1. PJ says:

    I would intervene if I saw a woman being harassed (I have done). And it is not the fault of the victim, whatever happens. However, and this in no way excuses the man or blames you, we’re humans – we can’t read your eyes. A person seeing any kind of sadness in your eyes could think of loads of possible reasons. To be able to help you, we NEED TO KNOW YOU NEED HELP – that’s not an excuse not to help; as I’ve said, I have intervened previously – but we can’t help you if we don’t know you need help.

    • SL says:

      Hi PJ,

      I’d like to respond to your statement that “We need to know you need help.” I believe that one of the reasons we’re bringing awareness and visibility to the issue of street harassment is so that more people can KNOW when someone is being harassed, and therefore know when it would be appropriate to attempt intervening. When you are being harassed, you aren’t necessarily in a position to yell to someone, “Help me”…nor should that be necessary. While I agree you may be right, perhaps some people need obvious signs that someone is in distress, that isn’t something the victim can always be expected to offer bystanders. We need awareness and understanding, so that even subtle signs like LJ pleading for help with her expression, can be heard. It is all of our responsibility to be aware of street harassment, so that we can read the (albeit sometimes subtle) signs for help. Furthermore–and I know you probably didn’t mean to do this, PJ–your tone could be read as a little accusatory. If LJ is sharing a story in a safe space, telling her what she “needs to do” next time is perhaps not a productive conversation to engage in. She wanted help, she couldn’t get it–that is the point of the story, not how she could better ask for help next time.

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