When “no, thank you” Isn’t Enough

As a woman, I have faced issues concerning unwanted advances from men. Issues that were serious enough for me to purchase pepper spray and a taser. At a young age I was taught to run and scream if a strange man approached me. I was told to kick, fight, and scream as hard as I could. I wasn’t to speak to any strangers–but especially not strange men. If I was wearing a dress and there were non-family men over our house, I was to sit like a lady, put on pants, or just leave the room altogether. These are things we teach our girls from a young age: how to avoid sending the wrong message to a man so that he won’t get the wrong idea and be inappropriate— whatever that might look like. What are we teaching our boys?

We live in a world where women are viewed as property and rape culture seems to be prevalent. We blame the victims for not being “careful enough” more than we hold men accountable for their actions. I don’t know a single woman who has never been harassed, molested, or worse. Not. A. Single. One. Let that sink in. Everyone woman you’ve ever come in contact with has experienced this. These women are our mothers, daughters, sisters, teachers, doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, aunts, cousins, etc. And they continue to live in some form of fear that it will happen again. I know I do.

When I was in 8th grade, I was sexually assaulted by a classmate several times over the period of a month. It didn’t happen behind closed doors—it happened in the hallways and right in the middle of art class for everyone to see. Somewhere along the line, someone allowed him to think it was okay to treat girls this way. He also assaulted many other girls in my friend group and unlike me who was ashamed and afraid to speak out, one of my friends told her mom and the principal as soon as it happened. It wasn’t until she told her story that I was able to speak up. And for some victims, they never get that courage. Shame is a powerful muzzle.

Two years ago, I was stalked in my own neighborhood. Every morning, I would walk to my car parked on the street and a man would be there at the playground working out with his shirt off. He would always be training someone when I would walk up and at first, I thought him saying good morning was just him being polite. But then, about a week or two into these encounters, he began to step to close to me. And then he was bold enough to ask me if he could leave a letter on my car because he was too shy to speak his feelings out loud. I politely declined and began to wonder if I should find other parking arrangements. There was limited parking in the area I lived at the time and the only spots that were ever left but the time I got home from work happened to be by this park. So, my options were few in between. As time went on, I began to feel more uncomfortable and would speak less—I’d nod and briskly walk to my car and began unlocking my car door with the key instead of opening the doors with my fob. I began to see this man all over town. He appeared in the library parking lot across from my house and followed me to the street I lived on. I bought a taser and began keeping a knife in my car. I told everyone at work and made a safety plan with friends and family. He was still around. So I moved. I recently saw this man in the local Walmart with a woman who I am assuming is his love interest. I hope Sis is okay.

Recently, I have also experienced a situation where I was uncomfortable with someone I have known for some time. I had pegged him as awkward and harmless and then things got weird as of late. It became so unbearable that I have made every attempt to exhibit the fact that I am not interested and avoid this person altogether. Sometimes it seems that “no, thank you” is simply not enough.

There are certain types of men who deem themselves Kings simply because they believe that they have dominion over women. Take heed, Sis. These are not Kings. These men are dangerous. They view us as property and do not truly appreciate the value or beauty of a woman. They covet us. They feel power when they exude force.

The shocking murder of Jassy Correia, warns us about going home with strangers. What was supposed to be a fun night celebrating with friends turned into something else. We’ve heard of the girl code and the buddy system. In college, I experienced a situation where a friend was exceptionally inebriated and someone and his friend wanted to take her home with them. I ended up damn near having to fight to grown ass little men in five inch pumps. If we came together, we leave together—there are no exceptions. Everyone always seems harmless in the beginning and we like to think that people are good enough—and human enough—but that is not always the case.

Then there are longtime offenders such as R. Kelly where the situation has been ignored and essentially normalized to the point where it basically takes a class action suit to call attention to it. For years this man has preyed on underage girls and has literally written song lyrics that reflected his behavior. But it took 30 years and a handful of women speaking out at the same time for the world to get angry. Where were ya’ll when he was actively abusing those young girls?

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women will experience rape at some point in their lives and one in three women will experience some form of contact sexual violence. One in four girls will be sexually abused before age 18. These are the national statistics. Imagine what the statistics look like in your own backyard.

I have learned that it doesn’t matter how you dress, if you’re nice or not nice—none of that matters. We are all at risk.