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What do you do when a friend harasses you?
I have faced a great deal of harassment – verbal and physical – from strangers, while walking down the street, traveling in buses and trains, at college and at work, in Mumbai and Bangalore. When a stranger is involved, it is easy to fight back; and the incident, while not forgotten, doesn’t matter quite as much after some time. But when someone you consider a friend, someone you trust, treats you like a piece of meat, it becomes really difficult to deal with.
I was on a short holiday with a mixed group of nature-enthusiast friends at a wildlife reserve some months ago. While intently watching and trying to identify some butterflies at one point, I felt someone touch my butt. It could only have been the person standing behind me – a man almost 18 years younger, who was a regular member of our group trips. At age 43, I really thought that I was done with stuff like this – and that too by a person I knew and trusted? I did not react, as I couldn’t believe what had happened – I tried to rationalize the incident, wondering if it could have been an accident, a mistake, anything! But the next day, it happened again – just at the moment when all of us were watching an exciting bird! I had been careful to stay away from him, but at that moment, all of us converged on the same point to look at this bird – he happened to be behind me again, and in an instant, touched me on the butt again. Now, I did not have any doubt about the act, or that it was purposefully executed.
But I still could not bring myself to confront him, or to tell anyone else about it. This is the worst thing about being harassed by someone one knows – one feels greater embarrassment at the prospect of being disbelieved, than at the act itself. Maybe this was the mistake I made. I continued to behave normally till we got back home, and mulled over how to tackle the issue.
I decided to confide in the female members of my group, and also a few other friends. While some unhesitatingly believed me, some of those who were good friends with him, did not. Not only that, I was told that I should have confronted him there and then. While that is very easy to say, only someone who has faced harassment from a known person will be able to understand my state of mind. I also found out that I was not his only victim, someone else had also faced this problem, but refused to identify herself and speak up openly about it. Some of my friends confronted him with my accusation, and he, of course, denied it vehemently. And they found no reason to disbelieve him. I don’t understand this at all – why believe him over me? After all, women are supposed to stick together and support one another, right?
As it stands now, many of my friends continue to socialize with him in spite of my having told them about this incident. I am the one who has to take the trouble to find out where I may run into him, and avoid such events. Also, I can feel a definite cooling off in some of my friends’ behaviour towards me. In the end, I am not only the victim, I am also paying the price for talking about the incident.
So, my question is, what does one do if harassed by a ‘friend’?
Submitted by Uma
I was taking my first ride on a London double decker bus. I was pretty happy and excited.
I was alone on the top of the bus as it wasn’t that warm outside.
A man came up the stairs and sat down right beside me. My mind did throw up warning flags; why is he sitting right next to me, there are plenty of seats? But I wasn’t prepared to hate/distrust him immediately, I was young and I had been raised to be polite. I’m older now, if this happened to me today I would immediately rise and walk to a seat behind/next to the driver.
Anyway, the man was talking to me about London and then said; “Oh, I like your necklace (I was wearing a pendant)and reaching out he grabbed, not my necklace, but my breast. I was speachless, but now I did get up out of my seat and walked downstairs. I was shaken up though and instead of my planned trip to the Victoria and Albert Mueum I got off of the bus and hailed a taxi back to my friend’s home.
Submitted by Karen.
This happened a long time ago, but I remember it vividly because it was the very first time I hollaed back.
I was 18 and living in Paris at the time, and as all Parisians, used the subway to get pretty much anywhere. I was coming back from a long cramming session at the university library, mid-terms were coming up and I was studying non stop. It was around 23h30, when a bulky bald man sat next me. I smiled quickly and went back to my book. A few minutes later, I felt something against my leg; I was wearing a skirt and tights. When I looked down at my thigh, I saw a finger circling a certain spot on my leg. I was confused for a few seconds, I looked at the man’s face and he was looking forwards as if nothing was happening. The subway wasn’t crowded, the guy wasn’t even worried about getting caught.
I stood up and ordered him to keep his filthy paws to himself, and told him I was going to contact security as soon as we reached the next stop. I was speaking loudly, making it a point of others hearing, although I don’t do that often. I was just so angry and disgusted. I told him I might have been barely eighteen but I was big to enough to stand up for myself and to know that there was no justification for his behavior. At that point he tried to get off the subway, and another passenger stepped in and told the guy he had already pressed the emergency button and security would be there in a few minutes. That same guy offered to escort me to my stop, I quote “but I’m pretty sure you don’t need it, I wish more women did what you did”.
Since that day I always answer back. Why is it that we are made to believe that answering back is rude or a sign of lack of class, and don’t even consider the behavior that prompted such reaction in the first place?
There is nothing rude about reminding a jerk that you are not an inflatable doll with no brain or willpower. Holla back every single time!
Submitted by Patricia Camelo
My friend and I had gotten on the wrong COTA bus to go to the local movie theater. Instead, we ended up downtown after business hours. The area was completely deserted except an older drunk man who proceeded to sit right next to me. When he started to talk to me, I didn’t want to be rude so we had a short exchange. But when he asked “is your hair real?,” and then started to touch my hair, I knew things weren’t going in the right direction. He wrapped his arm around me and started kissing me on the side of the face, and all I could do was quietly mumble, “I don’t know you, this is so awkward, I don’t know you.” When he began yelling at me to take out my septum piercing and verbally insulting my friend (telling her to “do more situps”,) I was terrified. I didn’t even know what to do. I was afraid to even walk away in case he would try to hurt me because he was very, very drunk and belligerent. After minutes of excruciating groping, a series of COTA buses rolled up and he just wandered away. I don’t think he was even taking a bus. He just stopped over to sexually harass me.
Right after, all my friend and I could do was laugh about the weirdness of the situation, but I was secretly uncomfortable and afraid. I still feel uncomfortable now when I am alone at night, and I am always afraid that I am the type of person that is too afraid to stand up for myself.
Submitted by Kathryn
Today at school I was walking to Geometry with my friend, when from behind I heard a guy say, “Watch this.” He then proceeded to take his hand and tickle the underside of my butt. I immediately turned and hit him with my lunch bag, but he laughed it off, and no one tried to help me. I wish I had kicked him in the nuts. I now feel just as bad as I did last spring when some eighth grade boys wouldn’t leave me alone.
Submitted by Austin Girl
My girlfriend and I went to a japanese style massage parlor (fully clothed & open tables) to get full body massages. I have been to the place previously & had a great experience so I thought I would try it again with a friend. Little did I know that my masseuse would push himself up against me. At first I wasn’t sure but after I repositioned myself away from him he tried again. I finally had to tell him that I didn’t need that area massaged. Weirdo!
I couldn’t believe this a***hole. I felt so furious, awkward & embarrassed. I didn’t want to ruin my girlfriends time so I didn’t say anything!
Submitted by violated
I have experienced so much verbal abuse over the years that now it doesn’t even appear on my radar, but this night it was different.
I was on the phone to a friend outside of a pub, tucked into a corner so I wasn’t in the way of pedestrians or those sucking the last drags out of their cigarettes on the way to the bin. Minding my own business, this group of middle aged couples came up to me and one of them lifted my dress up and commented on my not so flattering underwear. Then they walked off before I could so much as process what was happening. So there I was, stood outside Northern Monkey with my knickers on display to a busy street stammering down the phone to my friend.
Submitted by Steph
When I was around fourteen or fifteen I went with my Latin class to Italy, and we took a day trip to Pisa to see the tower and cathedral there. From the train station you have to take a bus to get to the more touristy attractions, and it was on that bus on the way back when I noticed a man standing a little too close to me from behind.
Every time the bus lurched he would press into me, and I could feel his erection – he was wearing baggy sweatpants of a thin material. I kept inching away from him but the bus was crowded and I couldn’t move much. I was completely petrified – although I was already used to men making comments about me (which seemed to happen especially frequently in Italy, although I was living in a small town at the time where I was kind of an “alternative” kid and didn’t “fit in” so maybe it’s an unfair contrast) no one had ever touched me like this before. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, one of my friends’ mothers was a chaperone on the trip, and she caught on to what was happening and offered to switch places with me.
I have been lucky enough to have traveled extensively, but almost everywhere I’ve been it seems like someone is going to harass me – including the time, during my second trip to Italy, a young man told me he “loved my boobs” – while I was walking with my mother.
I’m now attending college in New York City, which isn’t really a reduction in the harassment. I love New York but I’d really like to be able to go a day without a wolf whistle or a comment.
Submitted by Li
I am harassed on a daily basis, no matter what I wear or how I look. I take the bus to work everyday and I can’t remember a single time when I was not stared at. Most of the time it’s lewd staring but sometimes men will hiss, make kissing noises, approach me to ask for my number, yell at me from their car window, honk at me when they drive by. I’ve also been groped.
For the longest time I felt embarrassed to talk about how much this bothered me. When I talk about it to male friends, they think I should get used to it. But I don’t think I ever will. It’s not up to me to get used to it, it’s up to them to stop disrespecting me.
I’ve lived in 2 different countries and the same harassment happens in both countries.
It’s very sad that a woman should feel unsafe and uncomfortable every single day on her commute to work.
I feel scared to retaliate because I’m on my own.
Submitted by Sham
I don’t even know how to classify this assault type.
When I was 18 I went to Rio for a job interview and I was going to meet a friend afterward to catch a movie in the Odeon cinema. The interview was postponed last minute and my friend was busy so I decided to go ahead to the cinema and watch one of the previous movies from an animation festival going on. It would be finished just in time for her to arrive. The screening room was quite full and I sat in a seat I managed to find and left the aisle seat spare. I regret this so much now…
As the room got dark and the lights dimmed a middle aged man — around 40-50 years or so sat next to me. I was very interested in the movie but in the corner of my eye I could see movement in his groin area. I was too afraid to look directly or do anything but in could tell his cock was out and he was masturbating right there! His hand was on his thigh and he would extend his pinky to touch my leg and I would move away. It felt so gross. A million things went through my head, I was afraid to get up and walk past him, I was afraid he might follow me, I was afraid he would start touching me more, for some reason I was embarrassed to ask for help from the person next to me… I was just stumped and scared. The whole time I wanted to punch the guy and stomp on his balls or do something to cause him physical pain but instead I stared at the screen and moved away from his gross stretching finger.
At the end of the movie as the lights went on I did something! I yelled PERVERT at him and as he walked away and blended into the crowd people asked me what happened, if i was ok etc… I wish I had done it AS SOON AS he pulled it out… word of advice: HOLLABACK! the sooner the better!
Submitted by Lissa