Humiliated, Silenced, Helpless, and Angry

I was 15 sitting on a single seat when I was surrounded by three guys pressing in around me.  I was reading a book and was really absorbed in it, but I heard them talking about taking out a girl, and didn’t think they were talking about me so I ignored it and kept reading my book even though I felt they were getting too close.  It wasn’t until I realized there were people not as close anymore that I looked up from my book and one of them leered at me as they were getting off the bus and said, “This is your last chance.” I ignored them and kept reading.

Another time I was 19 when some guy sat beside me and kept asking for my number and saying how attractive I was.  I kept ignoring him hoping he’d go away, but he persisted until he got off the stop.  I wanted to get away from him but I couldn’t because he was blocking my way being in the aisle seat, so I was his captive audience until HE had to leave.

I was 24 and almost at my stop when some gross guy kept pressing up behind me as if he was waiting to get off the bus (as I was waiting too).  I did notice that the bus was not that busy and there was no reason for him to be so close.  He was almost pressed against my back when I finally got to my stop and stepped off, and he grabbed the side of breast as I was stepping off the bus.  I didn’t even have the chance to scream or yell as the bus pulled away.  All I felt was humiliated, silenced, helpless, and angry.

Why don’t we yell, get angry, scream, or tell someone off when they’re making us uncomfortable?  All too often we are taught to be polite, to not make waves, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to not embarrass other people or call attention to ourselves lest we are wrong.  So we suffer silently, ignore the wrongdoings of others, don’t call out those who are harassing us, nor call upon others to help. This needs to change.  Women should not be afraid to voice their anger or displeasure at being harassed; bystanders should not stand for it either.  I have been both silent bystander and the one being harassed; the former I felt shame for many many years afterward for having said nothing; the latter I felt the same.  I will not be silent any longer.

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