Trigger Warning: Contains stories of harassment. May be triggering for some. Read with caution.
Hello, friends. This morning on Facebook, I stumbled across a post that a good friend of mine had shared. It was a series of screenshots of a thread from Twitter, accounting one woman’s experience with a “creepy” guy.
You can read the entire thread on @LilyEvansMFC’s Twitter.
Basically, she talks about taking her dog for a walk, when a man, who seemed to just be acting friendly toward her, began propping her with personal, inappropriate questions. He mentioned seeing her in the area, asked if she lived alone, etc. He even followed her when she walked away, and hugged her without permission.
I read through the comments (I couldn’t help myself, it’s what I do), and the vast majority were from other women, and a few men, sharing firsthand experiences of harassment, or being a witness. Some even resulting in assault, or violence. I also noticed that several of my friends on Facebook had shared the thread in the past, no doubt because they have also experienced similar instances of harassment.
Then, there were guys like this:
Despite the fact that the comment section was FLOODED with women telling similar stories of horrifying, inappropriate events that happened in their lives, these two shitbags decided that since it doesn’t happen to them, or that it wasn’t convincing enough for them, or that they didn’t like how her story made them feel about themselves, that it must not be true. They are scummy, gross, garbage people.
I can not tell you how many times I have seen people, both men and women, say things like this, especially in today’s political climate, where if something offends you, or upsets you, you are simply a “snowflake“. People don’t want to take responsibility for their behavior, or acknowledge that they are actually part of the problem. People, who either brush these types of stories off as simply false, because they just don’t want to believe it, or blame the victim because she was “too nice” to the stranger, or she was dressed a certain way, or she was out walking after dark, etc. It pisses me off, man. Worse, when they just think the person is seeking attention, or fame. When has anyone ever gotten FAMOUS from sharing a story about harassment, assault, or rape?
It’s possible that the people who just ignore these types of stories have simply never experienced it, so they think that it could never happen to them, or anyone they know… and if you are reading this, and you are thinking, “I don’t believe these stories, because I’ve never known anyone this has happened to!” Well, you know me. I am one of the BILLIONS (yes, billions) of women who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. So, if you have gone through your life, blindly ignoring these stories in the news, because you didn’t know the person, maybe you will listen to my stories, and change your mind.
I won’t get too graphic. I won’t even tell you some of the worst stories of my life, because honestly, they don’t involve strangers. They involve people that I actually knew. People I loved. People who were supposed to love me. But just know, those things happened as well. Some are much less serious than others. Some might not even qualify as harassment to some of you. But the point is, I felt harassed, and I felt uncomfortable. And if you have ever been accused of making someone uncomfortable, or harassment someone, you don’t get to deny it, just because you don’t think you were doing it. You don’t get to tell the victim how YOU made THEM feel. Period.
These are just a few examples in the sea of horror stories shared by women who have experienced harassment.
Most of these stories took place when I was between 19-21 years old, though I have experienced different forms of harassment throughout most of my adolescent and adult life. During these few years, I was living in a poor, rough area in Belleville, Illinois, a little bit outside of East St. Louis. Not a very great area. I was new to the area, and like most young adults, thought I was invincible. I was a nice girl. I talked to everyone. I enjoyed small talk. I was also flirty at times, in the most harmless sense. I walked the streets at all hours of the day and night, often times alone. I worked in fast food, and in retail, and spent a lot of time talking to total strangers, where it was my job to be friendly and accomodating.
Buckle up, grab a cup of tea, and prepare for a long read. There’s no TLDR at the end of this one, because these things need to be heard and acknowledged. If you don’t care enough to hear the truths, then by all means, leave.
Here are just a few of my numerous experiences.
The McDonald’s Creep:
The first real job I ever had was working at McDonalds. I was 19 years old. One day, two men in their late 20s/early 30s came up to my counter. I smiled and asked them what I could get for them. The man standing closest to the counter smiled back at me, and immediately answered with, “Your number would be nice.” I just laughed, and told them that we only serve food here, and asked again what I could get for them. He leaned over the counter and whispered, “You are way too pretty to be working in a place like this. You need to get you a man who will buy you everything you want.” Caught off-guard, I blurted out that I had a boyfriend. The man responded, “Well, I don’t see him here, so he doesn’t have to know, does he? What time do you get off tonight?” For some reason, I felt it necessary to tell him that my boyfriend was actually there, since we worked together, and I pointed to him, just a few feet away. Both men started laughing, and the one said, “You’re kidding, right? Wow, okay. Well, when you feel like getting yourself a real man, here’s my card.” And he slid a business card across the counter. It was a card for his shop, where he was some sort of mechanic or something.
They then placed their order, and kept looking at my boyfriend and laughing. Of course, my boyfriend was the one who filled and delivered their order, and as soon as they left, I told him what had happened. He was psised off, to say the least. An hour later, when I went on break, the two men were sitting outside at the tables, and saw me come outside, and immediately go back in. The one man I had talked to before got up, poked his head inside, and shouted to me, “Hey, baby, the offer is still on the table! Let me know if you want it!” before laughing and walking back outside. Luckily, they left shortly after. I was a bit shaken up, but it could have been so much worse.
I used to live in a large apartment complex, surrounded by other apartment complexes, that were predominantly occupied by low-income and Section 8 tenants. Now, I really hate to generalize people who need government housing and assistance, because it is a cold, hard world out there, but the police were in my neighborhood, often more than once, on a daily basis, and there was a lot of crime. Break-ins, assaults, drug dealing, loud parties, etc. It wasn’t a good area to be living in, and luckily, I didn’t live there for very long, but these next three stories all take place within the one year that I did live there, all with neighbors, or people in the area.
The first story is a short one. My boyfriend and I were getting ready to leave for work one day, and I was waiting for him on our porch steps. During this time, I spent a lot of my time vlogging and uploading videos to YouTube. I whipped out my camera, and just started talking, not really paying attention to people around me. After a few minutes, one of my neighbors from the building next door (a guy who beat his kids, and bred and fought pitbulls, as I later found out), walked outside, and sat on the hood of his car at the bottom of the stairs. I didn’t think much of it, and kept recording. I noticed that he was staring at me, but when you’re sitting in public recording yourself, you kind of get used to it.
Suddenly, he shouted up at me, “Hey, you a model or something?” I stopped recording and responded, “What?” He repeated his question, and I told him I wasn’t, and asked why. He just laughed and said, “You should be.” I politely said “Thanks”, but got up and walked back up to the porch, around the corner. I turned my camera back on, and continued vlogging, out of the man’s sight. I heard footsteps on the stairs, and turned to see him standing right next to me. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him nothing, just goofing around. He then asked me if I wanted to be “an actress or something”, and I told him that it was a video for YouTube. He laughed and said, “I don’t watch that, but if you ever want to make a video with me, I’m game.” And winked at me. I kind of just stood there, while he stared at me. I didn’t want to go inside, because I didn’t want him to know which apartment was mine. So, I told him I had to go, and walked to the other end of the balcony, and down the other steps, to our car. I got in the car, locked the door, and continued waiting for my boyfriend. He then sat back on the hood of his car, which was RIGHT next to ours, and continued staring at me, until we left for work.
This next story is a bit… creepier. And, I’ll just say right now, if someone else were to tell me this story, and it hadn’t happened to me, I might not believe them, because… well, it is just fucking weird. But it did happen, and it is real.
Same apartment, same neighborhood, same year. there was a gas station behind our building, and I could often take a shortcut through this trail behind the buildings, behind a tall fence, to get there. If I walked along the side of the road, which was actually a highway with no sidewalks, it took about three times longer to get there. So, a shortcut made sense, right?
It was about two in the morning, and I was making a snack run during a LAN party that we were having in our apartment. I walked quickly, because I have always been sort of afraid of the dark, and was just focused on getting to the gas station, a whole 3 or 4 minute walk from my front door. As I walked in the back alley by the fence, I heard footsteps behind me. I wasn’t particularly worried, because there were actually a lot of people out and about in the middle of the night in the city. I kept up my quick pace though.
Suddenly, I heard a male voice from right behind me, “Hey, where are you going tonight?” I ignored him and kept walking. He repeated, “Hey, I asked where are you going? I’m not following you on purpose or anything, just trying to talk to you.” I kept ignoring him, thinking that if he really was just being friendly, maybe he might take the hint that it was a little weird, and leave me alone. But no, he just kept talking. “Hey, I’m not gonna rape you or anything, you know, just trying to have a conversation. You could at least answer me. You don’t need to be scared of every black man out here.” My heart started pounding, and my blood turned to ice. Who the FUCK says something like that? I honestly WASN’T thinking that he was going to rape me, but just hearing him say the word gave me the creeps. I hadn’t seen him, or his face, so the last bit was completely irrelevant, and just a weird thing to say.
I just kept walking until I was in the well lit parking lot of the gas station, and hurried inside. The man came in just a few seconds behind me. I avoided looking at him, but he stepped into one of the same aisles as me, and I could see out of the corner of my eye that he was facing me, but saying nothing. I kept my phone in my hand, and started texting my boyfriend random things, and asking questions, so the guy wouldn’t talk to me. I paid for my stuff, and saw that he was still in the aisles with some stuff in his hands, so I took his headstart opportunity to practically sprint back to my apartment. I still don’t know which of my neighbors it was, but it didn’t happen again. I sometimes wonder if it was the same guy from the previous story.
This final story from my neighborhood isn’t that bad, but it was kind of gross and inappropriate. Literally the last day we lived in our apartment, we were moving all of our furniture into a large horse trailer to move. My boyfriend and his sister were outside by the trailer, and I was inside the apartment, getting ready to carry out another load. Suddenly, two men walked right into the apartment, and asked if I was getting rid of stuff. I just kind of stood there, a bit shocked that two complete strangers had just waltzed into my apartment, but I didn’t feel particularly threatened by them, especially since my boyfriend and his sister were right outside. I told them we were moving, and told them that we were throwing some of our old stuff out, including a computer desk, an end table, two floor lamps, and an old sofa. They asked if they could have them, and I said sure, if they wanted to move it themselves, they could have it. My boyfriend and his sister walked in as the men were carrying out the end table and lamps, and I told them they were taking some stuff. It was all good.
I went to take my boxes out alone, and one of the guys was standing by the trailer, looking inside. He saw me, and asked if any of the stuff in there was trash. I told him no, that it was all coming with us, and he asked me where I was moving to. I told him about four hours north. He asked if I was getting an apartment on my own. I said no, I had a boyfriend and a roommate. He just kind of stood there and stared into the trailer, and asked what size our bed was. I told him it was a queen, without thinking much of the question, and he said, “A queen for a queen, huh? I bet you can do a lot with a queen…” Okay, gross. I shrugged it off, put my stuff in the trailer, but waited until my boyfriend’s sister came down to walk away, because the guy was still lingering, eyeing our stuff. He walked away right after I did.
I was telling my boyfriend what he had said, when the guy and his buddy walked in to get the sofa. He looked at me and said, “I hope there’s no suspicious stains on this thing.” My boyfriend said it was clean, and the guy, still staring right at me said, “Well, I mean, not for long anyway.” They took the sofa out, and didn’t come back after. Let me tell you, I was definitely happy to get out of that area.
The Target Stalker
This is one of the crazier experiences involving harassment that I have experienced. I was still living in the same area as the previous stories, but I was working at Target. I loved my job, and I was good at my job. This was sometime during the last few months when I worked at this location, before we moved, and I mostly worked as the Store Operator, meaning that I worked at the fitting rooms, in men’s and women’s clothing, and answered the store phones. My old Target was located in a large shopping center, and a few buildings down was a World Market, where I would often walk to on my lunches.
One day, after buying my lunch at World Market, I was walking across the parking lot, back to Target. There was a man walking behind me, who had been behind me at the register, but I didn’t think anything of it. He followed me into Target, but I went straight to the break room, where he couldn’t follow, and that was that. After I ate, I clocked back in, and went back to the fitting room. Not long after, I had started sorting through a cart of clothes, a man walked up to me and asked me if I could help him find a specific shirt. It was the guy from World Market. He didn’t seem creepy, and he was just asking me to do my job and help him, so I did. He showed me a picture of the shirt on his phone from the Target site, and we eventually found it. We didn’t have his size, so he asked if he could try on the next size up, and if I could tell him how it looked. Once again, that is actually part of my job, so I said sure.
Back at the fitting room, he tried on the shirt, and asked my opinion. I told him that it was actually a perfect fit, and looked nice. He thanked me, and asked what color pants he should wear with it. The shirt was dark red, and I told him he couldn’t go wrong with black pants. He asked me to show him where they were, and I did. He found some he liked, and once again asked me for my opinion. He tried on the whole outfit, and I told him it looked nice. He thanked me for my time, and left.
Not long after, he came back, and asked me if I could help him with something over in Market, at the other end of the store. He said he didn’t see any other employees working, which I thought was odd, since our store was fully staffed. I told him I couldn’t, but I would be more than happy to page someone to help him. He seemed disappointed, and told me nevermind, and left. I thought that was odd, but it didn’t set off any alarms. More time passed, and my friend and coworker walked over just chat with me. We stood at the Operator desk and sorted through all of our reshop, when the phone rang. I answered, and recognized the voice on the other end as the man I had helped. He asked to speak to a manager, so I transferred him. A few minutes later, my manager called out over the walkie that I had a received a great comment from a guest (that’s a big thing at Target, we always give recognition for good comments and whatnot). It made me smile, and I told my coworker about the guy. She, however, thought the whole thing was a little weird, which worried me. But the guy was gone, so no harm done.
The next day, he was back. I was at the fitting room, when he approached me, saying something like, “Hey, I was hoping you would be working today, I wanted to see you again.” Now, the guy was very nice, but he was much older than me, maybe in his mid 30s, and his comment made me a bit uncomfortable. I thanked him for his nice comment yesterday, and asked him if he needed help finding anything. I kept a professional tone with him, which he didn’t like. His face dropped when he saw that I wasn’t returning the same amount of warmth that he had given me with his greeting. He asked me, “What’s wrong?” and I told him nothing was wrong, smiled, and asked what he needed, trying to remind him politely that I was working. He then asked, “Are you mad at me or something?” This set off alarms. I didn’t know this guy. I had only met him once, and that was while working. He was being clingy, and it was making me uncomfortable.
Luckily, the phone rang, and I rushed to answer it. It was a customer asking about a specific item in my department, so I put her on hold, smiled at the guy, and said I would be right back. I found the item for the woman, and brought it back to the phone, where the man was still waiting. She had a lot of questions, which I was more than happy to answer for her. After I hung up, I turned to see the guy still standing there. I asked him again if he needed help finding something, and he just kind of glared at me. He asked, “What, are you avoiding me now?” completely serious, and I felt my stomach knot up. I didn’t know what to say to him. I told him I wasn’t avoiding him, I was trying to see if he needed anything. He then asked me if I wanted to be his date to the wedding he was going to. I smiled, and told him that was nice to him to think of me, but I had a boyfriend. This made him angry, and he said, “You didn’t say that yesterday, why are you just telling me this now?”. At this time, I walked away. When I was in another department, I asked on the walkie for my manager to come over, and filled her in on what was happening. She contacted our AP department, and they talked to the man, who was still at the fitting room, and asked him to leave, which he did.
Until the next day, when he came back. I wasn’t at the fitting room that day, as I was actually covering a shift in Electronics. Suddenly, there he was at my counter, saying, “There you are, I was afraid I wasn’t going to see you today.” I didn’t know what to do. I asked him if he needed something, and he asked me again to be his date to the wedding. There was another customer behind him, waiting to check out, and I told him that if he didn’t need help, he needed to move. He then called me a “bitch”, and walked away. The woman who had been waiting seemed sympathetic, and laughed about guys being jerks. I just smiled at her. Once she was gone, I found my other Electronics team member, and told him I had to go talk to the manager, and left him at the counter alone. I ducked into one of the aisles, and I asked the manager on duty to come back to Electronics over the walkie, but he was busy, and said he would be there soon. Then, there was the guy. Standing next to me in the aisle. He told me that it was really rude of me to get him thrown out yesterday, because he was just trying to “be nice” to me, since I seemed “desperate and lonely”, and even took a stab at my appearance, telling me that my acne made me ugly. I walked away from him, and he said, “Fuck you, you stuck up bitch!”, loud enough that my coworker heard him, and called AP over the walkie.
The police came this time. They talked to me, asked me if I knew the guy outside of work, and asked me if I did anything to make him think I was interested, etc. I told them I didn’t know him, aside from helping him that first day. They took him away, and I never saw him again, thankfully. Luckily, I had a male coworker who drove me home after work every night, so I never had to worry about walking to my car alone, or being followed, but what if I did? This guy clearly had issues, and for whatever reason, became obsessed with me and this forlorned endeavor. He could have been dangerous, but thankfully, I will never know if he was the violent type, as I never saw him again after that day, and moved away shortly after the incident.
However, there are so many women out there who weren’t as lucky as I was. For many women, just being friendly to a stranger ends in violence, even death. Whenever you see a story on social media that seems too crazy to be true, because you would never do something like that, or because something like that has never happened to you, just remember that there are people out there that are like that, and who do these horrible things, for whatever reason. Offer support, instead of criticism. Lift others up, instead of tearing them down.
Listen, and learn from these stories.
Maybe re-evaluate how you talk to people. How you interact. The questions you ask. How you react to rejection.
Thanks for reading, friends.
EDIT: I should also add that these are just a few instances of harassment that I have experienced in real life. I have also been on the internet for a long time as a member of the World of Warcraft and gaming communities, and as a podcaster. I have faced a lot of terrifying bullshit revolving around the internet as well, but those are stories for another time.