Street Harassment: My Reaction Was Not an Overreaction

Tori over at Any Time Yoga shared one of her street harassment stories, so I’ve decided to share one of mine.

(Edit: March 18-24 is anti-street harassment week! Check out this video. It’s awesome.)

Tori and I aren’t unique in that street harassment has been a recurring occurrence in our lives. For me, it started when I was nine. This particular incident was one of the more infuriating ones.

One evening in college, I was walking to a nearby gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes. I’d reached the gas station, and was walking between two cars parked on the side of the building, when a man stepped in front of me.

He quickly began trying to convince me to come with him to a party nearby. Needless to say, I wasn’t interested–I just wanted my cigarettes. His car was the one parked to my left, and three of his friends were sitting inside, listening to us. I didn’t feel comfortable telling him to fuck off, so I tried a more subtle approach. Needless to say, he didn’t get the hint. Every reason I gave for not going with him, he came up with a “solution” that would enable me to come with him, which I promptly countered with another excuse.

It went on for so long, that his friends were openly laughing at him. Finally, I lost patience. “Look, get out of my way. I need to get my cigarettes and get back home. My roommate is waiting for me.” He moved, and I went inside. When I came back out, he and his friends were gone. “Thank god,” I muttered, and I lit up a cigarette. After that, I deserved it.

I thought it was over. It wasn’t.

I was almost home. I could see my dorm. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. I spun around, shaking off the hand, and I pulled back my fist, ready to punch the fuck out of whoever thought it was a good idea to sneak up on me in the dark and put their hands on me.

It was him. “Whoa! Whoa!” he said, jumping back and putting his hands up in a placating gesture. “It’s just me!”

“What the FUCK do you think you’re doing?! Following me?! How fucking dare you, sneaking up on me like that! I swear to god–” I screamed. I was pissed. I was tempted to follow through–my fist was still drawn back.

“I didn’t follow you, I promise! The party is over there, see?” He pointed down and across the street. He stayed out of range of my fist. “I just saw you walking by, and I thought I’d see if you–”

“No. For the last fucking time, no. Go back to your fucking party, and don’t you DARE, EVER, sneak up on a woman like that again.” I yelled, pointing down and across the street to that stupid party. I stood there, furious, glaring at him until he left. There was no way I was going to let him see where I lived.

I was so livid, I sat outside my dorm and smoked a couple more cigarettes before I went inside. Over the next couple of days, I told several friends about the incident. Thankfully for my friends, they all agreed that this asshole was out of line, and I’d done everything I should’ve, except maybe I should have actually punched him. I have to admit, I wish I had.

That time, my response was anger, and it served me well. Other times, it’s embarrassed me, or made me feel like I was a piece of shit. None of those are abnormal or wrong. Street harassment comes in a variety of forms, which may or may not involve assault or a harasser following their target around. All of them are equally wrong. Like Tory said, reacting in a way that moved me away from my harasser and to safety is not an overreaction.


About Brittany-Ann
Brittany-Ann is a proud, self-identified feminist with fictional tendencies. She currently writes for and moderates at My Fault I'm Female. She smokes camels, reads Dumas, and navigates a conservative state as "one of them darn liberals."

2 Responses to Street Harassment: My Reaction Was Not an Overreaction

  1. There have been times when I envied friends who were bodybuilders … like the one who, when insulted on the street, literally dropped the guy headfirst into a trash can. I know I’m supposed to be a peacemaker … still … didn’t she create a more peaceful street? ;o)

    • Brittany-Ann says:

      I don’t blame you. There are so few instances of street harassment that we even get the chance to react to, and even fewer where we feel comfortable enough to confront.

      That time, I’ll admit, I didn’t have time to evaluate the situation. My instincts just kicked in, along with my temper. It’s very empowering to confront a harasser–and it was very satisfying to have scared that guy. But I guarantee you that what he felt was nothing compared to how his actions impacted me. I guarantee you he didn’t spend the next week scoping out the people around his residence, making sure I wasn’t there. I guarantee you he didn’t carefully check his surroundings the next few times he went to that gas station, or avoid walking between cars parked outside it.

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