Yesterday a man in a queue pressed his crotch against my bottom. At first I thought I was imagining it. It was, after all, very crowded and lots of people were pushing and jostling so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
I moved away anyway, but he followed me and made sure his pelvis stayed in firm contact with my bum all the time, while he breathed heavily down my neck.
After I got home and had a glass of wine I told Charles about the incident. He was full of righteous indignation on my behalf and I could tell he was just bursting to hear what happened next.
“So, what did you do?” he asked almost gleefully, no doubt waiting for a kick-ass ending where I made a massive scene, slapped the guy through the face and reported him to the closest policeman or human rights lawyer. (That’s normally what I do when these type of things happen to other people.)
“What do you mean nothing?” he gaped at me.
“I didn’t do anything. I was freaked out and grossed out and I just walked away. I didn’t even give him a dirty look.”
“But you should have reported him! People can’t get away with stuff like that! What if he does that to someone else?”
“I know.” By this time the cry was sitting in my throat. “But I felt paralysed. I just couldn’t.”
Because what if I was wrong? What if he was a very nice guy and did it by accident? What if people didn’t believe me? What if it was because I was wearing tight jeans and high-heeled boots that made my butt stick out just so?
And if I did make a scene? Would anyone believe me? It would be my word against his. And if they did, will I have to tell this story over and over again? Will I have to answer questions about the stage of erectness of his penis? Will I then become that girl? You know the one you can never make a joke with because she’ll cry sexual harassment?
Etc. Etc. Etc.
By this time, I was crying and poor Charles was stumped. Usually I am brave. I am woman. I am Lili, dammit! But some creep had taken away my power.
Now. Imagine being raped. I am regularly surprised that any woman, ever, reports a rape.
Only two weeks ago I wrote a story condemning our culture of blaming and shaming the victim and making excuses for the perpetrator. It was easy to write because it’s so obvious. Of course a victim shouldn’t feel shame! Of course a victim shouldn’t feel part of the blame! Of course women should speak out and stand together and punish these men that treat us with disrespect and contempt.
Doing the right thing should be easy!
And I thought it was. Until it happened to me.
How many of us have been in situations like these and didn’t know how to handle it? How many of us have felt weird or uncomfortable or complicit in the face of rampant harassment?
Tell me your stories below. Perhaps we can empower each other.
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