Public Harassment: A group of work friends and I were talking…

A group of work friends and I were talking on the outside patio of a bar, enjoying drinks and a basket of fries talking about books/family/life when the incident happened. It was Tuesday around 6 pm, plenty of daylight left, warm summer breeze. I remember briefly seeing this man with a small backpack across the parking lot. Shortly thereafter, he walked straight towards our table, right up to the 4-foot-high railing between our table and the parking lot. I was seated at the end of the picnic-table style bench next to the railing. He started talking loudly and insistently even before he got to us. Vulgar, sexual, demeaning, and personal comments directed at me (Asian women, what he wanted to do to them) and at the white women (he talked about “thick” women) in our group. Several people in our group asked him to please leave.

I refused to look at him or engage in any way (even though I could feel him just inches away from me behind my back), so he redoubled his efforts and started ranting about Asian women and white men (the male colleague sitting next to me was white). I kept thinking it was going to end soon, but then it didn’t. “You’re lucky you’ve got some Asian pussy, I would too but I don’t want one that’s going to cheat on me with a white man.” There was only one employee behind the bar, inside the building, and he did not intervene. Other patrons at nearby tables also did nothing.

One tall woman in our group finally stood up and said he had to leave, which he finally did. No one was physically assaulted, and our group made sure things didn’t escalate. Still, I felt awful afterwards and (to my embarrassment) started crying in front of everyone. Afterwards, and the next day, I had several meaningful conversations (in person, phone, and text) with my friends/co-workers. This website and their support helped me feel better, tap into the collective anger demanding change.

When I was in college, I was doing laundry in a communal room at an apartment complex when I was cornered by a man who blocked the exit and began to masturbate. I had laundry basket and clothes. Thankfully, someone walked by, and the guy ran off. Although I felt more physically unsafe after that encounter in the laundry room, the emotional and psychological damage from the recent incident at the bar feel much more personal. Suddenly, I was not just another person from work, I was violently reminded that I’m the sole Asian woman and person of color in my group. And the ripple effects due to it being a group of friends from work are complicated. (Did X really say that insensitive thing afterwards, was it a joke?) To all those who have experienced similar harassment, I stand with you, feel with you. We will Persist.