Renée’s Story: “Everybody saw this happen, but nobody did a thing about it”

This happened to me while I was traveling alone in Spain, which I guess in our patriarchal and rape culture society means that by virtue of being female and alone, I was “asking for it”.

I was sitting at Plaza Mayor, just enjoying the sites and people watching while I enjoyed some down time for my feet after a full day of walking. An old man, and I don’t mean an older man, I mean a senior who was old enough to be my grandfather, sat next to me. I didn’t think anything of it, I didn’t see any kind of threat from somebody who is the age of my grandfather. He started speaking to me in Spanish, and I should have pretended that I didn’t speak Spanish, but it was an opportunity for me to practice. So I took it. The conversation continued and he kept asking me to go get coffee with me, and eventually tried to tickle me several times and slid his hand down my back to grab my ass.

I immediately stood up and told him that I had to leave, and he put on this simpering face and voice “don’t you want to go for coffee with me?!”. Absolutely horrified and feeling violated, I left the plaza citing that I had to go meet a friend. The amazing thing is that the plaza was full of people and everybody saw this happen, but nobody did a thing about it. Sadly, this was not the only incident of harassment that I had on this trip.

These combined experiences put me off so much that the next time I traveled alone, I cut my hair short so that I would look less feminine and the sad thing is that that actually worked and I was not harassed. Goes to show just how much we objectify women and those who do not fit a certain normative ideal of beauty…then we’re left alone. But we shouldn’t have to change the way we look and the way we want to look to avoid being harassed.

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