Public Harassment: It’s my anniversary today and my spouse was called out of town…

It’s my anniversary today and my spouse was called out of town. It bummed me out that we couldn’t spend our evening together, so I decided to treat myself to a fancy drink at a local speakeasy. I hoped trying something new would cheer me up. Because the speakeasy is close to my house, I decided to walk there.

On my way (about a ten minute walk), I was hit on twice. One man riding a bike yelled across the street, “Hey shawty, you’re looking beautiful,” and tried to get me to cross the street. I pretended I didn’t hear him and kept walking.

I did the same when a guy man-spreading on a bench in front of a restaurant I passed said, “Hey baby, how you doing?” He started to get up as I walked by. I worried he would try to touch me or follow me. No one else around acknowledged what happened.

The speakeasy didn’t have any tables, and neither did a nearby wine bar, so I decided to walk home. On the way back, two trucks stopped across from me at an intersection. Some guys in one of the trucks yelled, “Hey prostitute!” The others yelled, “Shawty, you’re looking fine!” There was whooping and laughter too. Like with the other guys, I pretended not to hear them and kept walking briskly with my eyes forward.

Each time they made comments, I felt unsafe and regretted going out by myself at night. I also caught myself questioning whether the dress I was wearing was too short (I say caught myself because intellectually, I realize their inappropriate behavior isn’t my fault and my clothing isn’t to blame). In the moment, I worried they would try to follow me, would escalate the situation when they didn’t get a response from me, or would get into my personal space.

I already was having a rough night missing my spouse. This made it so much worse. Getting called a prostitute hurt and the fact four guys catcalled me in the space of half an hour felt unreal and overwhelming—especially after months of isolation due to the pandemic. I’m frustrated, hurt, and angry. In particular, I hate that they made me feel unsafe and powerless.

To anyone who has had a similar experience, I see you and I hear you. You aren’t alone. Keep being brave and stay safe.