During spring break, I was sexually harassed twice in one week.
The first time, I went to a gay club with some friends on the weekend. My friends and I enjoy these places because we feel there is less risk of harassment, and we can be safer. In the past, every experience I’ve had here has been positive.
That day wasn’t the case. A drunken, middle-aged man grabbed my boobs with both of his hands, pretended it was an accident and stumbled away.
I was in a dance circle with my friends, so I continued dancing so as not to ruin the moment. What else could I do? The man pretended to hold my boobs for balance, and he was much bigger than I was.
With the incident still on my mind, a few days later, I was leaving 7-Eleven on Liacouras Walk, with a slice of pizza in one hand and a coffee cup in the other.
The group walked toward me, and one of the boys gave me a suggestive look, saying, “Hey,” as a pick-up line. With my hood up, I looked down to show my lack of interest, but when I passed him, he turned to me and grabbed my butt.
He laughed when I yelled “Hey!” defensively, while his friends chuckled. One girl in the group looked me in the eyes and just laughed as if everyone got the joke but me.
I really wanted to really hurt him back. But I just stood there, tears of anger streaming down my face as I watched them walk away.
I didn’t know the proper way to react to a situation like this, but I knew it was terrible. I wanted to report them, but I didn’t know who they were, and I couldn’t remember their faces too well.
At that moment, I didn’t know if there was anything I could do.
He didn’t mean harm — it was all a joke to him, but that doesn’t make this behavior acceptable. He made me feel like my body wasn’t mine. But shouldn’t that type of disrespectful behavior be punished, too?
Crying, I called my friend on my way home who stayed on the line with me for comfort. That feeling of disrespect made me so angry that I couldn’t stand still or think straight. All I could think was, “You want my boobs? Take them. My butt, too. I don’t feel like they’re even mine anymore.”
Most men don’t feel that — the fear and caution women have to go through every time they walk the street, especially at night. But on my own school’s campus? In a place where I actually believe I’m safe? On a campus with people who should know how wrong this behavior is, I really didn’t expect an attitude like that.
The experience triggered fear I now feel whenever I walk in the street, especially if a man is walking behind me or a group of them ahead.
I wanted to seek professional help, but whenever I tried the Tuttleman Counseling Services in the past, they were always too busy for an appointment. Even after these experiences, I gave them another shot and tried to schedule an appointment, but it was fruitless. I never had the chance to talk to someone.
I didn’t know what to do.
I spent some time searching through the internet looking for resources, and I found a sexual misconduct report incident form through Temple University that can be filed online, where I gave as much detail as possible.
Filling it out and submitting it was a step. I was grateful the form was online and not in person. Filling out the form didn’t resolve the situation — it doesn’t change what happened and the triggers won’t end thanks to it.
Still, it is an important step toward making sure other women don’t have to go through what I did. That’s the most important part: taking a step against the cycle of violence against women.
I decided to write about these disturbing experiences for not only cathartic reasons but also to spread awareness. It wasn’t the first time I was harassed or catcalled. Unfortunately, that behavior becomes so normalized that, as a woman, I didn’t know I should bother to report it. I thought it wouldn’t make a difference.
But it can.
It can prevent this from happening to others. Not only can you get the psychological help you need, but you can also spread awareness. Educate those who still don’t understand that sexual harassment isn’t a joke. It’s a crime.
Understand that the basic concept that my body is mine. It isn’t a toy.