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We’re all taught that we should at least feel safe at home. If we buy a home or rent a house, that property should be our haven, a place to live and relax.
Yesterday, I was taking advantage of that. As I was transferring seedlings into pots, a guy who was new to the neighborhood passed by, and we exchanged hellos.
Later, while I was reading in the sunshine, the same guy came around again, struck up a conversation. He was very polite, up until the point he grabbed my rear end.
I stepped back, said, “NOPE. OFF.” and pointed towards the sidewalk.
I think that reaction startled him, because he initially stepped back in a hurry. Apologizing profusely, he shuffled off, looking back at me as if he wanted to try continuing the conversation.
My glare told him just how likely that was going to be.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me, and it’s not the worst thing, either. However, it still left me feeling violated, angry and helpless.
After about an hour of stewing, I called the non-emergency phone number for the police. He wasn’t in sight anymore, and I only felt threatened by the uncertainty of “What if he comes back? What if he decides to try something else?”
I gave his description, told the operator what had happened and where the guy had told me he lives. Because I wanted to file a formal complaint, they sent a pair of officers over.
Since it wasn’t an emergency, it took a few hours for the cops to get here. That’s fine. Far worse things happen every day in this city. The two who showed up were a pair of young men.
Most police have a reputation of not taking sexual crimes seriously, and since this one was comparatively minor, I didn’t expect anything more than I got.
After I told my story, the one officer said with a laugh, “And you expect this guy to become a serial grabber?”
Straight faced, I replied, “No, but you know as well as I do that this type of behavior can escalate.”
At another point, he told me that other guys would have stayed and argued. To that, I let him know that, yes. I know that, too. It’s happened to me before, but I never made a report, because I didn’t think anything would happen.
His last try at minimizing the situation was, “Well, at least he knew what he was doing was wrong.”
If anything, that’s worse. If he knew it was wrong, why did he feel confident enough to do it? As a human being, didn’t that seem like a bad thing to him? How would he feel if it happened to a woman he cared about? How would he feel if it happened to him?
When they finally decided to take me seriously, they asked if I wanted a restraining order, which really, is all they could offer at this point.
I declined, since that was the first, and hopefully last, time I’ve ever interacted with that particular guy. If he does try giving me trouble, I will get one and I will keep a record of what he does. They told me that the fact they showed up would help my case if I have to take further action.
I felt a little foolish calling the cops on such a minor event, at first. The worst that’s happening on a personal level is a little more paranoia and anger on my part. I wasn’t physically hurt, and I haven’t seen the guy again since then.
The more I think about it, though, the better I feel about getting this on file. Harassment, whether that entails groping or anything else, is part of why things like rape and other forms of assault are so under reported.
Our culture has normalized that behavior to the point where victims are just expected to stand helplessly by.
I, personally, am sick of it. No, I’m not going to call the authorities every time some jerk whistles at me from the street or flirts lewdly with me in passing. If I did, I’d be on the phone almost every time I left the house.
What I am going to do is share my stories with anyone who wants to listen. When someone tries to get physical with me against my will again, I will make another report, and do whatever’s needed to get out of that situation.
Sadly, I say “when,” because there’s no “if” about it.
Moral of the story?
Don’t be afraid to say no, and if you can, report the incident to the authorities. Even if nothing happens in the long term, there will be a written record of the event and it will add up. Hopefully, that will amount to some change for the better.
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