A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
I was walking home around 8:30 on a Friday night in Ballard, and as I passed the O’Reilly Auto Parts on 15th, some guy in the parking lot started yelling “hello” at me. I kept walking, saying to myself that I was going to let this one go, just keep walking and carry on with my life. But as I did, he kept yelling “hello” and something else I couldn’t understand. It definitely was not a “hey I need help” kind of hello or anything like that. Finally, I couldn’t take it, my blood boiled, and I turned around and said, “Do you have something to say?” And I started walking back toward him to reclaim my space and stand up for myself (sure, this is dangerous and one day I’ll probably get hurt doing it, but if the law isn’t on my side, it’s on me to let these people know this behavior isn’t okay).
As I walk back he gives me this exasperated look like, “oh really?” As if I’m now the one putting some kind of burden on him or am about to interrupt his life. Well, you started it, bro.
So I’m standing right in front of him, outside of this auto parts store, and I repeat myself. “Do you have something to say?”
He says, “It doesn’t hurt you to speak” (referring to me ignoring him originally).
I say that I was walking home and I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me, so why should I speak to some stranger who’s yelling at me from a parking lot?
He says the age-old line, “I was just saying hello. I didn’t threaten anything.” Which to me, insinuates he knows exactly what he was doing (harassing a woman) but also knows the legal loophole that since he didn’t explicitly threaten me, he didn’t do anything legally wrong.
At this point another person (male) walks by, into the store, completely ignoring us and certainly not bothering to help me. I’ve noticed that when I engage with my harassers, I become just another “crazy” on the street that people ignore. It sucks.
Anyway, I end the encounter by asking if he’d yell at and try to talk to me on the street if I were someone else (a man, anyone but a young small woman walking alone), and of course he was like “yep, sure would” (bullshit).
At this point I just told him to really think about that as I walked away.
He yelled, “God bless” (nice touch) and something else my way as I walked off, and so ended another day in the life of a girl walking home alone at night.
Another thing I’d like to point out about this situation that I think many other people who face street harassment have also experienced and should consider more closely is the way this person tried to put the blame back on me. I think this is often a way that victims of street harassment are made to feel ashamed or embarrassed about calling out their harassers. Think about it: if I really had the situation all wrong and he really wasn’t yelling at me in order to intimidate me (or whatever the hell reason people harass people for), wouldn’t he apologize when he saw I was offended by his actions? Or wouldn’t he at least try to explain his intentions instead of immediately getting defensive? In my experience, I don’t think harassers ever expect me to respond and are thrown off when I do, and it seems defensiveness is what they turn to immediately. To quickly try to cover their asses I guess? I want people to know that it’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay to respond to harassers, and it’s okay to respond with anger. I write this because after I respond to harassers, a million different “alternate responses” run through my head. Things like, “maybe I could have really made him understand if I had just spoken calmly and explained how his actions made me feel and made him see that I’m a human being too…..” Or, “maybe he really didn’t mean any harm and I should have just explained that women walking alone are harassed all the time and him yelling from a parking lot felt very much like that” and on and on…
But I think the truth is, they all know what they’re doing. And there’s no shame in letting them know how pissed off you are about it. If I had responded calmly, would the situation really be any different? Likely not. So I say let them have it. Someone willing to be that shitty to another human being on the street likely isn’t going to be changed by a few calm words.