It happened so quickly that I didn’t know how to respond. It had never happened before and I hope it doesn’t happen again. It took me a couple minutes to process it and replay the sequence of events to sort out exactly how it went down and how I could have prevented it. But looking back on it now, there was no way to stop it. That is not a good feeling. Then or now.
I was walking from the subway to my apartment, a short two blocks, on my way home from a dinner event. As I looked up to see if I was going to make it across the street before the light changed, a man walking the other direction put his hand on my crotch and grabbed me. He kept moving but when I looked up to realize what had happened, he was looking at me hoping for a favorable reaction. Stunned that I just been groped on the street, I didn’t react for a moment, but then two middle fingers came flying up and I shouted “unwanted physical contact” and then a couple other words I’ll edit out here. I then made a motion like I was going to come after the guy, and not in the way he wanted me to, but when I saw him quicken his pace and turn the corner, I let it go.
When I got back into my apartment, I was surprised at how many different thoughts were running through my head. Dudes hit each other in the crotch playfully long after junior high and there was no real physical harm compared to some of the sneak attack frat bro rough housing that I’ve been a part of, but this wasn’t meant to be playful in that way. It was someone else saying, “what you have I want and I am just going to take it.” That doesn’t happen to me. Until it did.
I’ve shared this story with a handful of friends and almost 100% of my empowered rockstar girl friends have said that something like has happened to them multiple times. These are powerful women who respect themselves and demand respect from others that I now know have felt the same frustration and confusion I did, but with a frequency that made my big brother tendencies flare up. One of them told me that sometimes she’ll look at her self in the mirror, think “this is a great outfit, I look awesome” but then add another layer because she didn’t want to have to deal with unwanted advances or comments that day.
The irony of this encounter I had was that it happened the day after I posted my blog about The Understand Project. Until then, I didn’t understand what it felt like to be treated like meat or to have unwanted touching from a stranger. I didn’t understand that when that does happen, you feel like you did something wrong or that you shouldn’t talk about it because it makes you look like you can’t handle it. I didn’t understand until talking with my girl friends how frequently it happens and how often they have to be on the look out for it. I didn’t understand that in 2016, people still treat each other with that kind of disrespect and think it is going to work. I still don’t understand, but I'm a lot more aware.