Find your role in ending sexual harassment.
A few weeks ago, I was leaving work and three guys followed me out of the building. I didn’t notice them at first because I was too busy trying to plan out my evening of picking up my child, navigating the commute home, and figuring out dinner before time got away from me. Despite the chaos in my head, I heard a voice from behind me say, “Hey, check that out”. I didn’t think anything of it, until one of them commented about my tights and then whistled at me. I instantly got nervous and started to walk a little faster. As I turned the corner in the parking lot, I glanced back and saw there were three young men cutting across the corner and headed in my direction. I picked up my speed, got in my car, locked the door and watched them walk past my car from my rearview mirror. By the time I pulled out of my parking spot, they were walking past my car a second time. It was four-thirty in the afternoon.
They looked to be around the age of twenty—give or take a year. I don’t know what they were doing. They could have been following me or they could have been lost. It doesn’t matter. With two comments and a whistle, I was reminded of my vulnerability to sexual harassment or more commonly known as street harassment. I wanted to turn around and teach them that those type of comments or whistling at women is not a compliment. I wanted to give them a valuable lesson on how to treat women, but I couldn’t. I consider myself to be a strong, confident as well as an opinionated person. I have commented back in the past, but in that moment my personal safety had been compromised and my legs just kept on moving.
I don’t know if they all were participating OR if there was one harasser and the other two chose to remain silent and witness the series of events. I am sharing this story because many of us have either experienced or witnessed similar scenarios on the street, at school or in the workplace. We can choose to remain silent and contribute to the normalization of sexual harassment or we can demand the change and create an environment where this type of behavior is unacceptable. There is a movement in Minnesota working to end street harassment. We can put an end to sexual harassment. We can also shift the norm so when something like this does happen, others involved can identify it as sexual harassment and stop it. You can demand the change. We can inspire a change of heart.