While walking to the train the other day, I noticed a group of young men ahead of me who were standing off to one side of the sidewalk. At this point, there was plenty of room for me to walk by, but once they spotted me approaching, they seemed to all exchange a look and moved to spread themselves across the width of the sidewalk, blocking my path. Once I reached them, I had to attempt to weave my way through. While I was doing this, they started at various volumes to say nasty things to me, some leaning close to hiss in my ear, and one grabbed my butt.
I quickly got past them and continued to hurry to my train stop. The whole experience was infuriating on so many levels. I wanted to lash out at them and to defend myself, but being outnumbered, I felt powerless and concerned for my safety not knowing what else they would do seeing as, clearly, they had no respect for me or my body. Even more frustrating, I was on a busy street and there were plenty of people around. NONE of them responded to the situation or tried to help. Some looked in my direction, but when I met their gaze, they quickly averted their eyes, avoiding my silent cry for support.
It’s incidents like this that have infected my daily life. They have become contributing factors when I’m making decisions about what to wear, if I’ll go somewhere, which route I’ll take, what time of day I’ll be out, etc. I feel as though the right to walk freely in public spaces is one I’ve been denied.