I have experienced street harassment for as long as I can remember. I have tried to develop strategies for dealing with this type of harassment (even though they might not work, they bring me a small amount of comfort). But what happens when you’re with people who haven’t experienced it, who don’t have coping strategies?
I was riding with my partner at the Hains Point 100 when we were aggressively harassed by a following driver. After honking he pulled alongside of us and started screaming about how he would kill us with his car. He called me a bitch.
How do you respond when someone points a deadly weapon at you and tells you they plan to use it?
I don’t know. Usually when drivers use their cars to threaten me it happens faster. They’re speeding by not paying attention, not rolling slowly with eyes full of hate, actively wishing me dead. As with most cases of harassment, I was angry about the abuse.
In this case my anger turned to my partner. I was angry that he didn’t “stand up for me”. That he wasn’t being “protective”.
But then I stepped back. My partner has been exposed to little, if any, harassment of this nature. Men don’t typically scream at him while they drive down the street. They don’t threaten to kill him.
When we spoke about the abuse later he expressed a feeling of “deserving” the abuse, of inciting it. This is absolutely untrue. As most of us do when strangers yell at us as we go about our day, he simply didn’t respond.
And that is okay. We must remember not to judge other peoples responses to verbal abuse and harassment. Each of us experience these events differently. We need to support each other and remind both ourselves and others that NO ONE deserves to be harassed.
A man running by made a point to ask if we were okay. He reminded me what I had forgotten; “That was messed up what happened back there. No one should talk to anyone like that. He was wrong”.
*While I understand that in a dialogue not everyone will agree – I have decided not to approve comments that are openly hostile or disrespectful. Additionally, comments posted with overly generic email addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be marked as spam.