Why isn’t a “no” enough?

[Editors Note: On May 1, I participated in Blogging Against Disability Day and one commenter on my post shared the following about her experiences with street harassment and I thought it deserved its own post.]

Unfortunately, I do think that people with disabilities are quite vulnerable to this kind of harassment. Luckily, I have not experienced any sexualized harassment since needing to use my wheelchair, but I do get the people who just move you, who think nothing of pushing your chair out of their way, as if you weren’t a real person for them to have to even acknowledge – the fact that it’s your body they are moving means nothing to them.

However, back before I acquired my current disability, I was a dancer, one with fragile ankles. Once, after I’d broken my ankle and was hobbling along on my crutches, making my way to school, a man in a car pulled up along side me and offered me a ride. I was 14, and he was, at the very least, 40. I didn’t know him and politely declined, thanked him and kept on hobbling. He started to follow me, kept asking me why I was being so stubborn, how he could see that I was in pain, and he kept pressuring me to get into the car. I started to get more and more uncomfortable, even though he hadn’t said or done anything overtly threatening. (besides not taking my “no” as an answer, that is).

As I turned the corner to a one way street, he continued to follow me, going in the wrong direction, even. It was then that I went from creeped out to totally terrified: I could not have escaped him in my condition, and I think he realized that he was frightening me, because his demeanor changed from cajoling to demanding very quickly. He started calling me names, and making lewd suggestions; my ‘hurried’ pace made him laugh and taunt about how he’d have to drive faster now to catch me. Another car happened to be coming the right way down the street, at just the right moment, and the other driver honked at him, then yelled out his window to ask me if I was alright, so the driver who had followed me quickly backed up and drove away. Although nothing physically happened to me, that feeling of being threatened was just so intense, and I still think I owe that other driver a huge debt of gratitude.


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