Editor’s Note: This article contains references to harassment.
Growing up, I watched strangers compliment, approach and, unfortunately, sometimes verbally harass my mom enough times to learn how to deal with it. Men in grocery stores, gas stations and anywhere else did not care that she was with her two young daughters. They still called out to her things like “Hey honey” or “What time do you get out of work?”
This is in no way meant to make you feel any sort of pity for her, me or women who deal with this everyday. It’s meant to address how this harrassment is normalized to the point where young girls like me had to be taught how to deal with this harassment.
Recently, while working at my boxing gym, I noticed a man pacing in front of the building, looking in the windows. He came inside and almost immediately said I’m beautiful, he loved what I was wearing and asked for my number. I declined with no emotion and said “No I’m OK, thanks.” Unfortunately, even after leaving the man lingered outside the building. I ended up having to call my boss to rectify the situation.
Sometimes compliments from strangers are genuine. I’m fine with this as long as nothing is expected in return. It’s the disgusting comments and outrageous behavior that’s unacceptable.
While harassment is entirely unacceptable, we must learn how to deal with it. Here’s my advice.
Don’t feel bad for leaving these situations; leave the bar, take a break at work, call your mom or an authority. I used to feel embarrassed for voicing my fear, anger and disappointment to anyone, but especially an authority. This is unfortunately because women are often not believed when reporting harassment. We are made to feel overactive and told to take the compliment or give them a chance. Don’t listen to this absurd rationalization.
I highly recommend taking some form of self-defense or my favorite, boxing. It allows you to finally let go of that fear of harassment and bark back when necessary.
If you get catcalled, act as if you hear absolutely nothing and keep walking with purpose to avoid any contact.
Always enter a room with caution but also with pride in yourself. I used to be scared to go to work sometimes, go to class when I was sat next to a creepy guy, or even get gas alone. Don’t be scared. Fake the confidence until it’s so real no one can deny it.
Live your life, but don’t put yourself into dangerous situations. Take risks, but responsible risks. Go on that date, give your number to the attractive barista, go to that party. But, also send your location to a friend and be safe.
Also, talk to your loved ones if you’re upset. Don’t keep your anxiety and anger about harassment to yourself for too long. If you’re like me, it will make you take it out on genuinely nice men who just want to be your friend or get to know you.
What some men don’t understand is that danger is everywhere for women. You don’t have to be at a bar to get harassed. Hence the reason why we should all carry pepper spray or something of the sort.
Breathe, cry, laugh it off. You will be okay, one or dozens of bad experiences with strangers or men you know or perhaps dated does not define you or all men. There are good people. Just be aware and ready to handle the bad ones who deserve to go to hell.
All my advice has worked for me and my friends, but sadly, women still get assaulted despite their efforts to stop harassment. There are resources to help you at NC State, and remember it’s never your fault if you’re dealing with any kind of harassment.
If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship violence, sexual violence, stalking or any other form of interpersonal violence and are in need of advocacy services, the NC State Women’s Center has trained advocates available to offer crisis intervention, emotional support, resources and referrals. Students can contact the 24/7 Sexual Assault Helpline at 919-515-4444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with an advocate.
Advocacy services through the NC State Women’s Center are available for all students inclusive of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
For more information on advocacy services, please visit go.ncsu.edu/supportsurvivors. If you would like to talk to a confidential resource, you can also connect with the NC State Counseling Center at 919-515-2423. You may also visit go.ncsu.edu/safe for additional information on resources and reporting options.