Ali’s story: CODE ORANGE
I was late for school, really late, but what’s new? I was stressing over a paper and test in my English class and needed some caffeine to take the edge off. I stopped at a local 7-11 on my way to get my fix, and walked up to the cash register to pay for my purchase.
A man, average height, late 40’s, entered the store as I was waiting in line to pay. I have a habit of surveying everyone around me because of a prior experience with rape, and as per usual, I checked his threat level. I labeled him orange – which, in my terms, means he probably will whistle or perform a “NON-THREATENING” act of crude behavior. (As a side note, I find it ridiculous that I have to do this, regardless of where I am, but it’s an obsession of mine that will not dissipate until our culture changes its view on rape and violence against women.)
He stood behind me and proceeded to hiss in my ear. I could feel his breath on my neck, that’s how close he was to me. He whistled so loudly, I jumped and turned around. He then proceeded to lick his lips and gyrate his body. It was disturbing, to say the least.
I am incapable of not saying anything these days to the people who harass me. There were about 6 people in the store, so I loudly spoke up, allowing everyone to hear me crystal clear.
“SIR, YOU ARE ACTING LUDE AND DISGUSTING. DO YOU HAVE DAUGHTERS? IS THIS THE KIND OF BEHAVIOR YOU WOULD WANT THEM TO EXPERIENCE? THIS IS DISTURBING, SIR. I WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU COULD TREAT ME LIKE A HUMAN BEING, INSTEAD OF A PIECE OF MEAT THAT IS DANGLING IN FRONT OF A PACK OF WILD DOGS. I AM A WOMAN. I AM NOT SUBHUMAN, I AM NOT YOUR PLAY THING, AND I AM NOT YOUR OBJECT. CHECK YOURSELF, SIR. NOW APOLOGIZE.”
Needless to say, I embarrassed him beyond belief, and he muttered an “I’m sorry” under his tobacco breath. I paid for my drink, walked out, and got into my car. I sat there for a moment, engine running, and cried.
That is, until a woman came running from the 7-11 and knocked on my window.
“Thank you,” she said, fighting back her own tears. “Thank you for doing that. I was raped when I was 15 by a man I trusted. I never had the courage to speak up to the hundreds of other men who catcall, harass, and threaten me on a monthly basis. You have just given me the strength to stand up for myself. Thank you.”
I was stunned. Ladies, please know you are never alone in this. We are in it together. United we stand.