“I Wish I Was More Assertive.”

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How many of us can relate to this reader’s incident and after thought? We can.

I get harassed in the street almost every day. Most of it comes in the form of men whispering things or mumbling things as I pass by, or staring at me for long periods. I can easily ignore the whispering, but the staring REALLY angers me.  I have anxiety issues already, and feeling people’s eyes on me constantly doesn’t help.  I’ve always relied on putting on a “don’t mess with me!” face when I’m walking somewhere or taking the bus or train — constantly wearing headphones (even if i’m not listening to any music) also seems to help. But lately, it’s like guys around here are getting more brazen and it doesn’t even matter if I look like I obviously don’t want to talk to anyone. They still bother you!

I go to MC [editor note: Montgomery College] Rockville and I live in Silver Spring, so I take the Q2 bus every day to and from class. The other night I was on campus later than usual and I got on the bus on campus around 11:30 pm.  At Rockville station, a young guy got on and sat next to me. Usually I don’t look too much at guys on the bus who sit next to me because that seems to give them some sort of incentive.

So I have my headphones on and I’m staring out the window and this guy TOUCHES ME ON MY THIGH! I turned and stared at him, and he asks how old I am. I ask him why he wants to know my age and trying to ignore him I turn back around to look out the window. Then he sees my iPod in my hand and actually reaches over to touch my iPod. He tries to turn the screen towards him and asks “Ohhh, what are you listening to?” I pull the iPod away from him and tell him, “No. Don’t touch my iPod.” Obviously not getting the point he says, “What’s your name?” I ask him why he wants to know my name and then he gets indignant. “Oh, I was just trying to talk to you but if you don’t wanna talk that’s all you had to say.” I tell him, “Look, I’m sorry but I’m tired and I don’t feel like talking.” Then he gets up and moves to a different seat, mumbling “That’s all you had to say…”

Now that I look back on it, I wish I hadn’t apologized to him. It’s 11:30 at night, I’m on the bus alone…I don’t KNOW you. Why would I want to talk to you? Seriously? And he had the nerve to touch my leg and my iPod? I’ve had worse encounters than this one before, but something about this guy really rubbed me the wrong way. The way that he tried to make it seem like I was being a bitch for trying to ignore him. I wish I was more assertive. I hate when guys ask me my name in the street because I never quite know what to say. It’s none of their business of course, but I’m always afraid that I’ll flat out ignore the wrong person and end up being physically hurt or worse.

submitted by Anonymous

If you have a story on street harassment and/or picture of the harasser, please email us at dchollaback@gmail.com. We will automatically post them anonymously unless you tell us to use your name or initials.

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5 Responses

  1. MC

    The same thing happened to me. I was on the metro, coming home from work, going in the direction of Glenmont. Mind you, it’s like 6:30pm and sunny outside. This man sits next to me, and even though I looked busy, I was reading over a report from work with my red correction pen, this man decides to strike up a converation. I didn’t feel like talking because I wanted to use my metro time to do some work so I didn’t have to work at home. But I’m a nice person (minus the “don’t talk to me” look that permeated my forehead), so I answered his mindless questions (can’t remember what minutia he talked about). This went on for about 5+ stops when I said “I’m just going to finish my work now.” At that point, I looked down and saw HIS HAND ON MY THIGH. I was mortified. I didn’t know how to respond on this crowded train. Turns out that we had approached my stop so I jumped up and rushed off the train, never defending myself. I got really mad for not saying something, especially because all I wanted to do was yell, but it’s like I couldn’t speak. This horrible deed created a lump in my throat. MEN DO NOT HAVE ANY RIGHT TO TOUCH WOMEN THEY DON’T KNOW. PERIOD!

  2. […] 17, 2009 · No Comments Yesterday, we received a comment under  “I wish I was More Assertive” and we think it deserves it’s very own […]

  3. cathy

    i know what you mean, i think we all come up with the better comeback, the better put-down after the fact. but there’s no wrong or right way to respond to other people’s bullshit, so don’t ever feel bad for underreacting. remember that you’re not their mother, you’re not responsible for their behavior.

  4. […] I wish I was more assertive. […]

  5. Deborrah Cooper

    I must be a truly violent person, but I’m guessing that I’m a lot older than some of you posting here (since I’m in my early 40s). You girls have to speak up and say NO! You have to tell men to stop and you have to tell them to get their f’ing hands off you. Everyone should have 911 to their local city programmed into their phone with a one touch dial – include the area code. Otherwise if you live in an area like California, when you dial 911 from a cell phone the call is taken by the Highway Patrol then re-routed to the local police which is a waste of time. I am normally in two cities where I work and live, so I have one coded with a #8 and the other as a #7.

    The sad part is that women have to put up with this crap and find ways to try to deal with it mentally and emotionally when really, the fault is stupid men that think women are on this planet to please and serve them. GRRRR!!