Street Harassment: I always felt like…

I always felt like my experience wasn’t valid because there was no inappropriate touching, and people told me I was exaggerating. No one believed me. I still haven’t told my parents to this day, and to this day I’m scared to say his name.

When I was 18 years old, I was living in Armenia doing an internship program. I had hope that my experience in the house would be good because I would be like the little sister of the house. My experience was the exact opposite. I was ridiculed. My voice was cut down.

Everything was fine until there was a security guard at the house where the interns were quartered. We were all having dessert, and one of the girls suggested I take some for the security guard as a gesture from the house. I didn’t think much of it, so I just went it. I gave him a plate, then as I walked back up, he stopped me. I was 18, so I thought I was being rebellious, and I admittedly liked the attention at first. There was nothing wrong. It was just an innocent conversation about traveling until he made a comment about how women are only made for one thing: babies. I thought he was kidding at the time so I laughed. Then he asked me my name.

A few hours later, after that encounter, I see he found me on Facebook and sent me about 10 or so messages just asking how I am, etc. I thought this was just being nice, so I responded. He then asked for my number. Me thinking I was being rebellious, at 18, gave him my foreign number. I mean, I was never going to use that number again, so I thought why not? I was only there for a couple of weeks anyway. At the time I felt bad for doing this because I thought maybe I WAS the one who led him on, and it’s my fault. But men do this ALL the time. So why do THEY get a free pass? I WAS 18.

He then kept texting me saying hey, how are you, are you up? I was about to go to bed and I said, “really want to go to bed, so sorry I can’t talk.” Or something along those lines. Then he kept texting saying, “you better be asleep and not be lying to me.” Things escalated really quickly. The next day I woke up to maybe 14 or so messages from him begging me to call him back because he has to make sure I’m ok. It started getting really creepy. Keep in mind, I hadn’t responded to ANY of the messages after the “I’m going to bed” message.

He would start FB messaging me at night if I went out. Called me maybe 40 times a day. I never picked up. He’d send me messages like “CALL ME WHEN YOU’RE HOME. WHERE ARE YOU?” I mean, I wasn’t even dating him. It was WEIRD.

I told my friends, and they said I shouldn’t worry about it, that they will take care of it. One of my friends spoke to the security guards unit and asked them to switch him out of the shifts so he doesn’t come to our house. I also messaged him saying something along the lines of how I’m not interested because he’s acting like I’m his gf, is very demanding, etc.

I thought everything was great, until one time we were all leaving the house, and I saw that he was right there at the door. He grabbed my bag, insisting he helps me. I grabbed it from him and said I don’t need your help seriously.

I had someone speak with the security guard unit again bc I was honestly so scared, and they just laughed and said, “it’s just a crush. she’s exaggerating.” I couldn’t believe it. I SERIOUSLY couldn’t. I was fuming. I went to the rest of the house for guidance and even the advisors. NO ONE. I repeat. NO ONE CARED. I was left in the dark. I was frightened that this man was guarding our house while I was asleep, and he could walk into my room anytime and hurt me.

I was really scared to a point where I deleted everything on my phone, his number, everything. I thought by deleting everything, blocking him, it would all go away. He started calling me on another number. I knew it was him bc he would leave voice mails. I had to just live with it for the last few weeks I was there. If the police weren’t going to help me, I couldn’t do anything.

I couldn’t sleep at night, I couldn’t eat. Everywhere I went I looked over my shoulder because I was so frightened. He was harassing me over the phone and text, and even found out where I was interning. I never picked up the phone, ever, yet I got about 40 calls a day or more.

I was basically told to just ignore it. That it will ALL go away.

The rest of the girls in the house said it was my fault for talking to him in the first place.

When I finally flew back home, I felt safe again. I felt like nothing can touch me as long as I stay out of that country. About a few months later, I get an email from the place I interned telling me some guy named “-omitted his name-” walks in and asks if they can provide him with my email, home number, and my address. They emailed me right away telling me about the situation, and I emailed them back telling them not to give any information about me. I had to courage to tell them what happened. They promised they won’t give anything away.

I never told him where I worked. He somehow found out. I don’t know how or why. He was trying to follow me out of the country, to MY home, to harass me again.

I thought I had forgotten about it, but several months later, I opened my computer to see some advertisements for humanitarian work in Romania. Guess what? He was the face of the program.

I know it was years ago, but it scares me to this today to think that there are women and men out there who invalidate other men and women’s stories, whether it’s verbal harassment, sexual harassment, physical harassment, abuse, etc. I’m really lucky nothing ever happened physically, but I’m so scared to go back to Armenia because of it. I’m so frightened to be stalked, followed, and verbally harassed again.