I was only about a block from my home when I passed a man in his 70s-80s, resting in a wheelchair in front of his own building. I had seen him by his house several times, since we are neighbors, so when he waved to me, I smiled and said hello. He motioned me over with his hand outstretched, like he wanted us to shake hands, which I thought was odd, but kind of quaint. Like, maybe he shakes hands with all of his neighbors to be polite? And I was in my own neighborhood, and he was a familiar face.
But when I reached over to shake his hand, the man gripped my hand hard and pulled me into an odd embrace, and I kind of stumbled forward out of surprise… Since he’s sitting down, I was now leaning over him, and he stretches up to kiss me on the cheek while simultaneously reaching up to grope my breasts with the other hand. One of my hands was held tightly in place, and when I stumbled, I grasped the wheelchair with the other hand… so as I was off-balance, my neighbor freely gropes my boobs and keeps kissing my face.
As soon as I could pull away from his hands, I stepped back… it was only for a few seconds that I couldn’t break free, but I still felt dirty and violated, and no words would come to me… This is a man I know; who also knows where I live; who is in a wheelchair, so I’d look bad if I started being rude to him…
I stumbled backwards a few feet, then turned and quickly walked home. I still see him now and then, and I cross the street or take my dog with me, if I spot him soon enough. I know I shouldn’t feel ashamed, but I don’t yet know how to address this without making it into a big deal.
This incident spurred me on to sign up for a Hollaback workshop… so if it happens again, I’ll feel prepared to speak up for my personal space. Just because someone is familiar does not make them safe. It doesn’t give them the right to touch you! Remember that you are as important as anyone else, and your feelings are just as valid. Be your own advocate!