R’s Story: Not alone

It’s May of 2010. I and a group of my classmates, primarily female, have just finished our last final of the semester. For many of us, it is our last final of our college careers; we’ll be walking across the stage to claim our diplomas in only a couple of weeks. We’re jubilant. We’re exhausted. We’re ready to celebrate.

We gather at a bar a few blocks from the edge of campus. In the early evening it’s quiet, a bar/restaurant that doesn’t mind us shoving together enough tables to accommodate more than a dozen people. As the night wears on, the downstairs area becomes a nightclub and the crowd in the bar becomes thicker. Around midnight, most of our group trickles outside and we prepare to go our separate ways.

Two of my classmates had gone downstairs to dance maybe half an hour earlier, and we’re not willing to leave without at least telling them we’re going and making sure they have a way to get home. I elect to go back inside and collect them. There’s a man holding open the door and grabbing at girls as they walk in and out, a buddy of his watching idly from a few feet away. I dodge left and slide inside, irritated but more intent on my goal than on dealing with him.

I find my classmates a few feet inside the door, gathering their things and already on the way to join us outside. They go out the door and I follow, and as I’m stepping by the man he grabs for me again. His fingers snag on the skirt of my dress before I step away. He says something to me, more-or-less inaudible over the noise coming out of the bar but pretty obviously a come-on of the “hey baby, why are you so cold?” variety.

I blow him off with an “oh, *hell* no,” and take a few steps toward my friends, where they’re chatting in a circle a little ways away from the door.

He’s annoyed now. He accuses me of failing to find his advances charming because we come from different ethnic backgrounds. Except he doesn’t say that; what he says is, “Why not, bitch? Is it because you’re a racist?”

I fire off a response without really thinking about it: “No. It’s because you have fucking grabby hands.”

His buddy is laughing now, and that seems to push him from “annoyed” right into “pissed off.” He steps toward me. I step back, placing myself squarely between two of my friends. They both happen to be former Navy. One of them taught women’s self defense for a while. Neither of them is inattentive after noticing what’s going on. He steps back, because he’s a little less willing to harass — or assault — a woman when he realizes that she’s not alone, that there are people watching.

I don’t like to think about what he might have done if we *had* been alone. That, for me, is part of why Hollaback! is so important. It makes sure that people are always watching, and that this kind of harassment doesn’t go unnoticed or undocumented.

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