on harrassment

I have this thing where I don't like joining in on conversations if it feels like everyone is joining in. I like to keep my mouth shut and my head down and just keep on going. I always so admire the people who can speak out on atrocities because it always seems incredibly brave and it's always something that needs to be said. It's also wonderfully heartwarming to know you're not alone and, while, I'd never assume that my words could do anything I'm incredibly frustrated with remaining silent. So I'm not going to anymore.

I've had my fair share of harassment in this world and as news stories continue to break I get more anxious about what kind of world my child is growing up in. It feels like everyone has a story to share and that's frustrating. Nobody should have a story on sexual harassment. It should never happen. But it does.

As a teenager I remember walking down the street to the train station. A man passed me in a car, honked his horn, yelled at me and continued on his way. I thought nothing of it. And, then, a few minutes later I heard yelling for "sexy" as I walked past and I turned to look at what that other strange noise was and there he was -- in his car, pants and underwear down, masturbating in broad daylight and so delightfully pleased that I had seen. I hurried off, mortified and ridiculously embarrassed.

On my way to high school an older man sat next to me at the bus stop. No big deal. But he edged closer, his legs touching mine and I felt weird because the seat wasn't crowded. I said nothing. The bus came and I got on. He didn't. He walked off. I felt relieved. After that he always seemed to be around me. At bus stops, in the car as I was walking. One day he spotted me as he was driving and got out of the car without bothering to park. I dashed into the train station, so sure he wouldn't follow me there and, yet, there he was, on the same platform. Yet, no matter what bus stops or train stations he followed me to he never did get on. I finally moved suburbs and went a year without seeing him and, then, again, there he was, following me in his car as I walked home from the train station. He never tried anything and I felt so silly for being so scared. But he was always there. Eventually I started taking a bus to and from the train station and even when I hadn't seen him around I'd run into my apartment building, too scared to check the mail. The last time I saw him he'd spotted me coming out of the train station. He'd parked his car and I could see him coming toward me and I ran, hid in a library, shaking and crying for over two hours until Husband got back from the city where he worked so I could go home. I never reported it. I never said anything. Because nothing really happened. 

I sat next to a guy in the doctor's office. He told me I looked beautiful and tried to grab my hand. I moved mine and tried to make polite conversation. I went into the doctor and he was still there when I came out. He asked for my number and I refused. He said he could show me a good time. I said no thanks. And then he got mad, leaned into me and screamed. I was a racist. I was a bitch. A tease. How fucking dare I. Because he was nice to me and I should be grateful. Nobody did anything. I walked off and walked home in tears. I saw the same guy a few years later and he asked if I was still a racist.

I was waiting for a train after University. I stood next to two police officers. The train doors opened, a man got off, looked me up and down, smiled and grabbed both my breasts in his hands. I screamed in shock and did nothing else. The man ran off, seemingly very proud of himself, and I burst into tears and slumped to the ground. The police officers got on the train, the doors closed and the train sped off.

Theses are not all the stories but they're all about the same. Feeling scared all the time. Never feeling safe. And then there's being passed out drunk and waking up to a man putting his penis inside me. Being pushed into having sex with someone and finding out, after the fact, that he never did wear a condom. I realise it's not quite the same thing as what I've said above but, for me, it all boils down to people feeling entitled to take just because they can. I'm sick of that. Sick of feeling like I deserved it or couldn't stand up for myself. Sick of feeling worthless or less than. 

I'm glad that more and more people are coming forward with their stories and I hope that if anyone is scared or feels worthless they won't for much longer.

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