Since age 13 I have experienced street harassment ranging from what could be perceived as polite suggestions (“a pretty face like yours should smile more!”) to strangers grabbing, pulling, and attempting to initiate sexual acts in public. On a given day the number of comments & physical acts on the street can start at one, or exceed 20 distinct “interactions”.
You could say that I got a tough skin for this kind of talk, like most folks who experience harassment on a regular basis, at an early age. At my slimmest I have weighed 105 lbs as a late teenager, but my experiences have never changed based on weight. This is partially due to the fact that these comments tend to center around my hair color (I’ve been a bright natural red-head since birth). Starting in my mid-teens I learned to walk with purpose and determination to show attackers that even though I may be wee, I am no push-over. Which was exactly how I was behaving while walking in downtown Silver Spring at 9:30am one morning last week. “Redheads are so sexy, baby. Don’t you know all the things I’d do to you if I took you home?” he wryly announced upon walking down the sidewalk following me. “Come on, [insert sexual act here].”
He received my prompted and routine response in a firm and direct voice as I kept walking: “Stop. That is not appreciated and it’s not appropriate.”
The man seemed genuinely taken aback, as though it would not have occurred to him that following a 115 lb. woman down the sidewalk suggesting private acts to her would be threatening or out of place.
“I’m so sorry. Please have a good day. My apologies!” He yelled as I continued to get to my destination.
I’m not suggesting that this is safe for all survivors in all situations, and who knows if he’ll stop his harassment forever, but that’s the first apology I’ve gotten in over a decade.
Submitted by anonymous on 2/9/2011
Location: Fenton St. & Silver Spring Ave.
Time of harassment: Morning Rush Hour (5A-9:30A)
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