Denise’s Story: “It felt hostile and frightening”

On an extra hot day, I had decided to wear- albeit hesitating very much- a tank and jean shorts. I felt uncomfortable wearing this outfit, because of the kind of harassment women and minors get in my neighborhood. However, I realized that if I was restricting my outfit that much to avoid any kind of demeaning attention, whether or not the men (and boys) cared if I was an adult or that I just simply didn’t want it, I was giving these people a kind of power over me. I decided to opt for comfort.

My fiance and I went around the area, walking our dog and getting an errand done. I had in fact, half an hour later, almost completely forgotten about the anxiety of the very thought of being approached by a stranger via harassment or assault. On our way back, a group of rowdy men stopped suddenly. I wasn’t sure if it was at a red light, but they immediately spotted me and began to yell from the vehicle. Making very odd, inappropriately dramatic gestures. Grinning, speaking straight in our direction. I felt like they were looking straight at me.

At first, I didn’t understand what had happened. I was in the middle of a conversation with my partner when this moment abruptly interrupted us. But I immediately felt like something bad was happening or something worse could happen. I frowned at them in confusion, perhaps looking displeased.

The driver, with his window down, repeated his remarks and he drove off really fast. A block of walking in silence and we had realized what they were asking was how much my partner had paid for me.

I was being propositioned. And I knew that day I looked young enough to pass for a minor even though I am 23. In either case, it felt hostile and frightening and made me feel disgusting about myself and furious at not having pepper sprayed them immediately.

My mother took my account with an air of tiredness. All she could say was, “Some┬ámen are like that”, and to ignore what had happened.

Sexual/gender based violence (among other serious issues) is very prevalent in my area. And the more I experience this, the more driven I am to do something about it. I’m just not sure how to stop the violence if I see it, and get the community to stand with me without actually getting hurt.