17 and BRAVE.

I am 17-year-old girl living in the Midwestern United States. I was out walking my dog at dusk on January 2; my family lives in a pretty friendly neighborhood and my sisters and I have always felt comfortable with hanging out after dark around our area. As I was coming back from my hour-long walk, I registered that my dog was starting to bristle about a car that was cruising along very slowly behind us. It was now very dark and I began to feel seriously nervous. I’d had my iPod earphones in, but now I removed them in order to feel more alert.

We (all three of us) finally reached the front of my house. Relieved, I tentatively went to cross in front of the car. But before I could, the driver leaned out of the rolled-down window and started speaking softly to me. I flinched all over. You know that sick surge of adrenaline where your heart lurches into overdrive and you feel like it’s trying to tear out of your chest? My pulse was pounding in my eardrums- he’s too close, run, he’s too close, run, wrong, wrong, wrong! The sound of it literally deafened me, and it wasn’t until a few beats later that I could tell what he was saying.

Get in the car, honey. Right now. I want you to suck my cock, bitch.

There was more. I think I blocked out the rest of it. It was the eyes that scared me the most, far more than the words. He looked hungry and unfocused, and I wanted to throw up, or scream, or both. I made myself memorize his face: white, bearded, middle-aged, big.

He laughed. Then he slowly cruised away. I forced myself to take in a mental photograph of his license plate. I chanted the sequence aloud, softly, a mantra, and sprinted across the street. Somewhere in the 100-yard dash across my lawn and to my garage, my choking fear disappeared and replaced itself with a sheer and burning rage. I marched into my house and went straight for the phone. My family, gathered for dinner, watched as I dialed the number for non-emergency police calls.

After taking my initial statement and making sure that no one in the house was in imminent danger, the officer told me to stay inside my house while he ran the plate number that I rattled off to him, and that he’d be over in about twenty minutes. Sure enough, he and his partner arrived and took a formal statement from me. They had brought a photo of my harasser and I was able to identify him beyond any doubt. He was already in their records; for what, they couldn’t say but they seemed very pleased that I was a minor because the consequences would definitely be harsher.

They shook my mother’s hand. They did not shake mine. They said I was a very brave girl. They said I should be more careful.

My anger at the man carried me through for several more hours. That night in the shower, though, I broke down completely. My fear was remembered and it caught me again, mercilessly and totally.

I now grasp what my sister and mother say about this: We live in a rape culture. On the phone with my boyfriend that night (sensitive and wonderful and sweet though he is) he couldn’t understand why this was so frightening to me. He couldn’t even begin. Why should he understand? This is something that will NEVER happen to him. We as women learn how to be afraid.

Submitted by sophiecolette

3 responses to “17 and BRAVE.

  1. You are definitely brave for reporting your perverted harasser. And that makes for one less pervert off the street! Awesome.

    I’m sorry about your boyfriend’s reaction, though. He doesn’t know what it feels like to worry about always being a target simply for being a woman. It’s male privilege speaking to him.

  2. Wow, I’m impressed. I don’t think I would have been that together at your age, so definitely kudos to you.

    I have to ask, what do the police think you could have done to be more careful? Never go out at night, ever? Not even in your own neighborhood, not even to *walk your freaking dog*? This is such a normal part of suburban behavior that I can’t imagine anyone saying it should be off-limits. Isn’t the whole point that you *should* be able to walk your dog in the evenings *without* getting harassed? I don’t know, that just sounds like it’s getting into victim-blaming territory…

    1. @cb:

      exactly!! that’s what pissed me off about the encounter with the cops. They treated me like some good little girl/victim who had done the right thing and deserved a cookie, but that was all. i am six months away from being a legal adult. I mean, wtf?? And this is so not about ME. this is about the right of every woman, man and child to feel safe from this shit. Always. Isn’t that the goal? nothing about this incident was my fault. NOTHING. and yet i was made to feel strangely, uncomfortably responsible for at least some of the incident; i “should have been more careful.”

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