Monday, May 19, 2014

Let's talk about harassment.

Something that drives me up the wall is seeing and hearing people blame a person that is a victim or harassment for being harassed. The most common thing I see is blame being placed on the harassed for what they're wearing. Or people saying that clothing is obviously the biggest draw for a harasser. Let's do a little stroll down memory lane with me. Buckle up, this is going to be a long one.

(I go in to specific details on three instances of public harassment that might be triggering to some.)

One lovely Saturday I was at an outdoor mall. You know the type, not outlet stores but a bunch of stores, specialty shops and restaurants grouped together in the same style that outdoor outlet malls tend to use. I was by myself, as I usually tend to be. I was walking along wearing black flip flops, flare jeans and a black Dallas Stars tshirt. I walked passed two guys in their mid-twenties and one of them called out to me. I ignored his cat call and kept walking toward the store I was heading toward. Ignoring it didn't do the trick because he yelled at me again and threw something at me. I stopped, turned and said as politely as I could that I wasn't interested and asked that he leave me alone, please. He didn't like that much, called me a bitch and told me to "bring my white ass back [over there] and talk to [him] right fucking now." I started walking again at that and him and his friend began following me, continuing to yell things at me. I quickly ducked into a Barnes & Noble and ran right into a security guard that was on his way back out of the store to presume his patrol outdoors. I stopped him and explained the situation and pointed to the two guys who were now standing around just outside the doors of the bookstore. He asked if they had laid hands on me and I said they hadn't because I had ducked into the store as quickly as I could once they started following me. He said he would go out and talk to them and tell them to move it along. I went deeper into the store to the magazine shelves so I could still see out on the sidewalk through the windows. I saw him talking to them and watched them look through the windows a few more times before they walked off. The security guard came back in and alerted the store manager to the two guys and then went back on his way. I was afraid to leave the store immediately. I wasn't parked close to the store and didn't want to run into them again. My boyfriend was at work in a city 50 miles from where I was at the time. I was in the city I lived in at the time but I had no friends who lived there. The boyfriend had friends that lived there as it was the city he grew up in. I thought of calling one of them to come up there but felt silly doing that because at that point, I just wanted to get to my car and go home. I decided to hang out in the store for a little while since it's a store I love anyway. After about half an hour, I had found two books I wanted to buy but decided to go over by the magazine shelves and see if those two guys were anywhere in sight. I told myself I was being ridiculous and paranoid. Except I wasn't because they were back to hanging out in front of the store. I decided to call the police. They took off quickly once the police SUV pulled up outside the store. I was asked if I had initiated any of the dialog with them and was questioned about if I had led them on or given them any cause to think I had been interested in them. I hadn't and resented them trying to place fault with me for two guys acting like dicks. I was told they couldn't do anything because the guys hadn't harmed me in any way and asked why I felt it necessary to call the police when it hadn't escalated to them "really doing anything." I was livid because I shouldn't have to wait for violence to occur to take action. The fact that they followed me into a store and came back after a security guard had sent them on their way was threatening enough.  The security guard that had originally dealt with them offered to walk me back to my car. I drove home and once I shut the front door, I started freaking out causing an anxiety attack. I'm not sure why it happened then instead of in the store but then again I often don't understand why they strike when they do. I digress.

Based on societal views, I obviously did something to provoke them. I ignored them, politely asked them to leave me alone when ignoring them only caused persistence, was at an outdoor shopping mall in the middle of the day on a weekend afternoon completely sober and was dressed in loose fitting clothes that covered everything but my forearms, hands and everything from the neck up. I guess it was my fault for having the audacity to not humor a random guy on the street that wanted my attention.

Another instance: I was in a club with my boyfriend and a guy friend. The club wasn't busy and was very laid back in atmosphere. I needed to use the restroom. The restroom was on the other side of the club from where we were sitting at a table and it was upstairs. I walked over to the elevator since that was the only way up to the second floor for the restroom. While waiting on the elevator, a man at a table close by began trying to get my attention. I at first assumed he thought I was a waitress and said, "I'm sorry I don't work here." He replied, "bitch I didn't ask you if you worked here, I said get over here." I replied that I wasn't interested and just needed to use the restroom. He replied that he didn't care and to get over there before he got up and got me himself. He didn't wait for me to respond and got up as the elevator was opening up. Instead of going upstairs, I turned around quickly and went back to my table. I explained what had happened and my boyfriend got up and accompanied me to the restroom. As soon as I got back over there, the same man got up and started to say something to me again, until my boyfriend who is 6'8" and 300 lbs stepped up beside me. The guy looked at him, looked at me and immediately sat back down and averted his attention elsewhere. A little while later, I went to the back patio with my boyfriend since he smoked at the time and I wanted fresh air. The guy who had harassed and threatened me earlier but hadn't been thrown out because "he didn't really do anything" followed us out there. I was afraid he had gotten a few drinks in him and wanted a confrontation. Instead, he came bearing an apology, stating, to my boyfriend and not to me, "I didn't meant to scare her, sorry, I was just trying to talk to her." "That's not how you talk to a woman, ever. And apologize to her, not to me." To which the guy mumbled some garbage and went back inside. We left shortly after that.

 That night, I had on black 2" heels, black pants and a blouse that showed no cleavage, wasn't the least bit see through and the sleeves ended at my elbows. I made no eye contact with anyone but the elevator when I first walked up by myself. I guess being a woman in a club and not originally assuming I'd need my boyfriend to escort me to the fucking restroom was where I fucked up this time. Silly me, assuming I could go to the restroom in peace without some asshole harassing me.

Another instance: I was walking down a street on Sunday afternoon. I don't remember where I was going but I remember it was a beautiful day and I was walking downtown and enjoying the weather and sunshine after so many days of rain. I remember I was wearing jeans, flip flops and a t-shirt, as I quite often do. I remember a car with 4 guys not much older than me pulling up and driving slowly along side me so the passenger could attempt to flirt with me from his car. I moved further away from the street and again, expressed my disinterest and told the guys to leave me alone. He tried a few more lines but I wasn't interested and said as much. This  resulted in the guy harassing me and the one in the backseat passenger side to both throw their sodas at me and call me a skank, slut, bitch, tease and a few other names I don't recall before the driver sped away.

I guess it was my fault for daring to go OUT IN PUBLIC on a nice afternoon by myself and expect no one to bother me. I guess I need to make a lot more friends so I can have someone with me every time I go somewhere. Not that having a person with you always stops someone. Maybe I should hire a bodyguard because I'm obviously asking for harassment by gallivanting around outside by myself, right?

I don't have to give attention to someone just because they want me to give it to them. I'm allowed to decide I don't want to be bothered by a person without having to face verbal or/and physical harassment from them. I should be able to go places, by myself, in the middle of the day, without having to worry about if the person who just said hello is just being polite or if they're going to attempt to take it further and if they're going to react poorly or not. I shouldn't be blamed when a person does react poorly to rejection or being asked to leave me alone.

I'm not saying no person ever decided to single someone out of a group or a crowd because of the way  they were dressed, I'm sure that happens. I'm also sure that if that's a person's motivator, it has everything to do with them and nothing to do with the person they're about to harass. The dialog that surrounds this topic is disturbing because people spend more time pointing fingers at the harassed, trying to tell them what they did wrong and how they have partial blame because of what they're wearing rather than focusing on the person doing the harassing. I'm not at fault for their actions. They make the decision and put forth the effort to act the way they do. Them. Not me. Accountability is a real thing and unfortunately, often times, people would rather tell a person who has been harassed or assaulted what they should do differently to avoid it next time. It's the same kind of bullshit you find in rape culture. "Don't do this, don't wear that, don't say this and it probably won't happen."

"Don't wear that because someone might harass you or worse" is bullshit and incredibly inaccurate because it doesn't often have to do with what a person is wearing. That needs to stop being such a heavy focus point and the focus needs to shift to the fact that people aren't objects and people aren't entitled to demand attention from someone else and react with verbal or physical abuse when they're denied and people that do these things should have repercussions to face when they do react this way.

You wouldn't tell someone who was a victim in an armed robbery that they had it coming because they work in a store with a cash register. 

You wouldn't tell an athlete that had broken their leg that they maybe kind of sort of had it coming to them because they play a contact sport so they should have been more careful.

You wouldn't tell a person who had their home broken into that they deserved it because, duh, homes sometimes get broken in to and look at you over there living in one!
You wouldn't tell someone who got hit in a car accident by another driver that it was their fault because they should have been looking out for what every other driver was doing on the road.

So why do people want to place blame on a person who was harassed instead of the person they should be placing the blame and focus on? By doing this, you're only making it harder to change this. The more you blame people who aren't at fault, the less people will speak out about it because they don't want to be told they're at fault because it's hard to fight a battle when you're starting on the losing end from the get go. Or worse, they listen and believe they really shouldn't have worn those tight jeans to the mall and believe that the guy who copped a feel on the escalator was valid in that because he only did so because he was provoked by them, placing blame on themselves instead of where it really belongs. 

The belief that the way a person dresses is what causes them to be a victim or harassment or an attack is problematic, it's stupid, it's inaccurate and it's not helping anyone. 

Another problem with this assumption is that it gets people thinking if they don't dress a certain way, they don't have to worry about people bothering them. I am harassed far more often when I'm mostly covered and not wearing anything tight or revealing and I'm far from the only person who could truthfully back that statement up. The belief that you'll be safe from harassment as long as you don't wear this and don't do XYZ is harmful and dangerous. Based on societal standards and the usual victim blaming bullshit so many people spout, the amount of times I've been harassed should be significantly smaller.The belief that a person is even somewhat at fault for harassment because of their clothing is enraging. 

A short dress, a tight pair of pants, a low cut blouse, a bikini; none of these things are an open invitation to say lewd things, badger someone for their attention, verbally assault, physically assault or harass them in any way. A short dress is just that, a short dress. It's an article of clothing and doesn't entitle anyone, male or female, to harass another person. Ever.


Jessica said...

You're an attractive woman and dealing with jerks who want your attention is a downside that goes along with being an attractive lady. Deal with it gracefully and don't let it get to you.

Brad said...


NO. Someone being attractive is NOT an invitation to be harassed. People shouldn't
have to "deal with it" because another decides that they dont want to listen to "no thanks Im not interested."

Ashly, well said and I love the analogies you did near the end. Change never comes from silence. Keep it up.

DeeAnna said...

As far as I glean from this youve never been met with physical harm but emotional distress at most which all in all isnt bad considering the harm that could have happened had you not reacted smartly to the listed instances. Self awareness and public awareness are keys to avoid scary situations and maybe not going out alone if you live in a bad area or are going into a bad area would help. There will always be people who prey upon a woman out by herself assuming she's an easy target.

Jessica said...

you have the ability to choose what you let get to you and what you let slide as a free thinking individual. You can be bothered my what people say to you or you can ignore it and not give it a second though. As DeeAnna sort of touched on later, people will always single out a women by herself especially a pretty one so you know if you go outside and come in contact with other people there's that chance someone will say something to you that you don't like. And it's only really an issue if they get physical or violent in some way which isn't being focused on here. We're being too sissypants here over things people said and guys being a little too persistent. It's just part of life and the society in which we live in. It sucks but its the way it is.

Dangerous Lilly said...

I'm shocked that commentators who appear to be women (Jessica and DeeAnna) are the ones to say "Just suck it up buttercup, it's part of life".

fuck that noise. hollaback. Jesus christ. NOBODY should have to put up with shit they don't want, harassment and catcalling and bullshit. Nobody. I wonder if Jessica and DeeAnna are also of the mindset that a woman was asking to be raped if she wore revealing clothes? Ash, you have every goddamned right to be upset.

From their site:

Why you should Hollaback:

There are two reasons to hollaback: for you, and for the world.

For you: Hollaback! is all about your right to be you: A person who never has to take it or just keep walking, but one who has a badass response when they are messed with. Someone who knows they have the right to define themselves instead of being defined by some creep’s point of view. Because none of us are as simple as a list of physical attributes. We have a right to be who we are, not who we are told to be. We have a right to define ourselves on our own terms when we walk out the door, whatever that means that day. That hour. That minute.

Street harassment teaches us to be silent, but we aren’t listening. We don’t put up with harassment in the home, at work, or at school. And now we aren’t putting up with it in the street, either. By holla’ing back you are transforming an experience that is lonely and isolating into one that is sharable. You change the power dynamic by flipping the lens off of you and onto the harasser. And you enter a worldwide community of people who’ve got your back.

For the world: Stories change the world. Don’t believe us? Think about Rodney King, Anita Hill, or Matthew Sheppard. These stories didn’t just change the world, they shaped policy.

The internet has given us a new campfire. Each time you hollaback, you are given a king-sized platform to tell your story. Thousands will read it and your story will shift their understanding of what harassment means. Some will walk away understanding what it feels like to be in your shoes, others will feel like they are not alone for the first time or that it’s not their fault. Your story will redefine safety in your community—it will inspire legislators, the police, and other authorities to take this issue seriously – to approach it with sensitivity, and to create policies that make everyone feel safe. Your story will build an irrefutable case as to why street harassment is not OK. A case strong enough to change the world.

But it all starts with the simplest of gestures: Your hollaback.
- See more at:

DeeAnna said...

Well "Dangerous Lilly" I don't think women deserve or are asking to be raped by wearing revealing clothes but I believe the revealing clothes does attract the wrong kind of attention. It's the same as getting drunk in a bar and leaving with someone you had met at that bar but never met previously, not asking for it and not deserving of any type of abuse but that's still an incredibly dumb thing to do and it's not surprising when such a dumb, dangerous and reckless action results in something bad. You have to be accountable for yourself to some degree when you're out in public.

Dangerous Lilly said...

DeAnna - Hmmm or, you know, men could be taught NOT TO RAPE. I could be standing in a bar naked and I'm STILL NOT ASKING FOR IT. I could be in bed with someone, naked, and say no...I don't want to have sex with you, this is as far as I want to go AND I'M STILL NOT ASKING FOR IT.

cammies on the floor said...


As someone who has gone home with that guy from the bar and been beaten to a bruised pulp and forced to do sexual things against my will I can tell you a few things:

1) you've never been there, or you would never make that distasteful comment

2) I wasn't asking for it in the slightest,


3) no matter how outraged I am at the ignorant comment you made, I sincerely hope you never have to go through something even remotely similar.

As for Lily, I agree with every word you wrote, and echo every sentiment of Ash and this post... it makes me sad to see WOMEN commenting to suck it up, or blame the attractiveness of the person...

It's sad that until it happens to them there are people out there who will never understand the horrific nature of harassment and rape.

<3 A

DeeAnna said...


I've never been there you're right because I don't go to bars and leave with people I've just met because it's unsafe and very dangerous. I'm so very sorry to read what happened to you, no one deserves anything like that to ever happen to them. But people need to think about their own safety because other people aren't going to and other people aren't responsible for your own personal safety. It's up to each individual to do what's best for them to keep them comfortable and safe.

Lilly, I NEVER SAID YOU WERE OR WOULD BE ASKING FOR IT. I said acting dumb, reckless and dangerously in public draws the wrong kind of attention. Stop putting words where I didn't put them to make your point. Again, no one is responsible for your own personal safety other than you as far as dealing with people in public.

Ashly Star said...


Sure, we are responsible for our own personal safety BUT acting like we're solely responsible for what happens because of other's actions is asinine. You seem to be missing the point that other people are responsible for their own actions, too. And when those actions are inappropriate, threatening, offensive or dangerous, it's unacceptable and should not be given a pass because "MAYBE THE PERSON THEY VERBALLY ATTACKED, THREATENED OR PHYSICALLY WENT AFTER DIDN'T DO ENOUGH TO KEEP THEMSELVES SAFE FROM ALL THE POTENTIALLY SCARY AND DANGEROUS PEOPLE IN THE WORLD."

That is called victim-blaming and that is unacceptable. I believe I was acting in a safe and responsible manner in every instance I listed and in damn near every other instance I didn't list. I'm not responsible for how someone else chooses to act or react to me. I'm not to blame when someone else choose to harass me. That's on them. The moment "no" or "not interested" is said, IT NEEDED TO END THERE.

Being attractive or dressing a certain way or being a woman alone out in public are NOT invitations to anyone to harass or do wrong to that person. We shouldn't be teaching people to be fearful to live their life because other people might garner the wrong impression. We need to be teaching people that no fucking means nothing other than no and that "not interested" means shut the fuck up and move alone, not keep bothering that person until you get what you want. Not escalate it to physical harm to get what you want. Not do anything other than shut up and leave that person alone from that moment on.

The moment they choose to ignore what's being said to them and do what they want to do anyway, it doesn't matter what things I've done to keep myself safe. It isn't solely dependent on what I do. I'm not controlling them. I'm not deciding what to do for them. I'm not to blame when they don't listen to "no", "not interested", "please leave me alone" or any other damn thing.

If I'm responsible for my own safety, as you are so adamant about, then how are you so confused about how these people are responsible for their own actions as well?

AFare24Get said...

Wow. Accountability is dead in society. I'm a pig, a jerk and an SOB nut no is no. I can draw that line of distinction and I'm an asshole. No ONE deserves to be harassed, bullied or mistreated simply because someone chooses a victim and expects them to take that assault. But this is the same as in schools where parents ask the teacher, "What did you do to my child."

Once the crutch is established that person will continue carrying out their predatory desires no matter how often they're told 'no'. Excuses will always win out, which is damn sad. Maybe at puberty all women need to be issued pepper spray, brass knuckles and kubotans. Because guys are assholes I've taught my sister and friends to shoot and fight dirty and violently.

Many blessings.

Eric said...

WOW. So much I'd like to say here but ultimately I would be repeating what Dangerous Lilly said in her comments and repeating what Ashly said in her smackdown reply so really I am just going to say I agree with what they've both said in comments and LOVE everything about this post.

Jessica and DeeAnna, you're part of the problem. The victim blaming going on here by DeeAnna is appalling. I'm sure had something similar happened to you that you would be outraged and wouldn't be so hellbent on trying to place blame where it doesn't belong.

Anonymous said...

AFare: I like so much of what you said up until the end. Reacting violently isn't the answer unless it's in self-defense and it's the only measure you have available to try to get yourself out of it. I hope that's what you meant. :/

DeeAnna: You should realize that as Ashly touched on in her post, thinking that since you act, dress and behave in ways that you think doesn't make you a target doesn't always mean that someone around you won't feel differently. That is a false sense of security and thinking you're above these things is dangerous too. Harassment, assault, rape; these things CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. No matter what you're wearing or how you're behaving.

AFare24Get said...

Anonymous - Yes, those final thoughts of summation are a last resort, not because your latte was low-fat & not frothy or soy. ;-)

Last resort but the best way to defend is to fight like there is no tomorrow if you can't flee or talk your way our.


DeeAnna said...

Eric and Anonymous,

Had any of this happened to me I would be asking myself what I could do in the future to prevent such things from happening again. I'd examine the situation and figure out where I needed to improve to keep myself safe, as that is MY RESPONSIBILITY. I would not be blaming other people for my lapses in behavior and judgment. Like it or not, there is never just one person to blame in most situations and people lack accountability when it comes to them being wronged. People think because they're wronged they're off free because they are the victim and shouldn't be held accountable for stupid actions, not thinking, putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations, etc.

Anonymous said...

DeeAnna: I find it funny you replied to me and Eric but ignored Ashly's response and question to you completely.

I really dont get how this is such a struggle for you. No matter what you do or say the second someone doesn't listen to your "no" THEY ARE IN THE WRONG. PLAIN AND SIMPLE.

Jormengrund said...

Ashley! How I have missed reading your posts..

I agree with you 500%. The fault here does not lie with you, it lies in the actions of people who feel entitled to do whatever they please, and act with no morality.

I have found that common sense is in reality rare sense, since so few people use it anymore. Common courtesy, common decency.. They aren't common anymore. Finding someone who can use sense, be decent and courteous is a surprising change of pace in this day and age. More often, it's folks looking to point a finger of blame at the person being mistreated because they are actually making noise, not the person sneaking away trying not to be noticed for their poor choices and bad behavior.

Chin up, I can hope and pray that things will get better.

If not, tell boyfriend to quit his job, and become your 24 hour bodyguard.. Maybe you can get country to pay for it! *wink*