“A Kind Man Stopped to Check on Me”: Bystander Help Along Rock Creek Park

Location: 16th St. and Floral St., Washington, D.C.
Time:  Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

On Saturday afternoon, a man attempted to attack me while I was out running. As I passed him, he began to aggressively catcall me, using very derogatory terms. I gave him a dirty glance to show that I did not find his comments amusing and then continued on my way. I heard him yell “fuck you” at me but ignored it. 15 seconds later, I heard footsteps rapidly approaching behind me, and turned to see him sprinting towards me with his hands out like he was trying to grab me. I ducked just in time, yelled for him to get away from me, and luckily there was a break in traffic just long enough that I could shoot across the street and sprint away as fast as possible without him following. A kind man who saw the attack stopped on the side of the road to check on me, and stayed with me while I brought my adrenaline down and heart rate back to normal. This was obviously very frightening for me, but it brings up some facts that I think are important for everyone to think about.

First – this happened at 3 pm, on a very busy 16th Street in a nice neighborhood near Silver Spring. This was not in a dark alley or late at night. As sad as it is, this kind of thing can happen any time. So whether you are a runner or just out walking about, it is important to always be aware of your surroundings. I do not run with headphones. Had I been, I might have not heard this man approaching. So if you do tend to wear headphones while out, please only wear one.

Second – this type of behavior is completely unacceptable. Catcalls can have a very negative and violent undertone, and no one should accept this. Women especially are faced with this kind of verbal abuse far too often, and when we respond negatively, are called “bitches” or other derogatory terms. This is not ok. We should never have to accept verbal abuse because we are afraid of retaliation. Further, I wish people who make catcalls would take the time to think about how upsetting and disrespectful they can be. It does not make anyone feel good to be yelled at or catcalled – at best, it makes people feel uncomfortable. This is not the appropriate way to get anyone’s attention.

Third – if you see something that seems off occurring between two people, do not be afraid to help. I am grateful to the man who stopped to help me, but there were many cars and people out that afternoon, and he was the only one. Do not hesitate to check in and make sure that everything is kosher if you see something weird – the kindness of strangers never goes unappreciated.

Finally, this incident made me think about respect in general. We live in a society where respect should be a priority, but far too often I am faced with the reality that many people do not show it towards others. It is upsetting, and we all need to do our best to change it. I know I am not alone in having experienced something like this, and I encourage others to speak out about it and not accept this type of behavior, so that we can make a real change to how we interact with others in our daily lives.

Submitted 1/13/16 by “R.L.”

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