|Kat and I... on a better day.|
"I sat in the traffic just staring ahead of me and messing with my stereo a bit, but then I got that feeling that most folks get when they sense the person next to them is staring at them. Naturally, I glance over to see if my suspicions are correct, sure enough I see the man with his head completely turned in my direction, just gawking at me. I didn't stare back long, just enough time to make quick eye contact and think to myself, 'man, he looks ticked off...yeah, this traffic sucks, join the club buddy.' I went back to just staring ahead of me, when I couldn't help but feel a "hole being burned through me"--this man was STILL looking at me, intensely...thinking to myself, 'what gives?!' I glance back over and this time notice something I didn't catch the first time around--he was masturbating. Masturbating and staring at me! I was shocked. I thought 'no, surely not, my eyes are playing tricks on me.' No, they weren't, he was indeed violently masturbating while looking at me. Eye contact was brief. I of course looked away! We had locked eyes long enough for me to say this much though: he was not blinking and he seemed void of emotion. He had no smirk on his face, NOTHING...just emptiness and intensity...*shudder*, I feel violated all over again just thinking of the energy he managed to give off in that brief moment, an unsettling energy. I've never seen a man, even during a pleasurable moment, with that sort of look in his eye. It is was frightening. I wanted to escape, wanted to speed off, but there was no where to go. Totally boxed in. I picked up my phone, thinking that maybe if he thought I was calling someone, he'd stop. No. I stared straight ahead, never looking over at him once I knew what he was doing. I felt dirty."
"A break came in traffic and thank God I was able to move up a bit, and flee from this wacko...unfortunately, his lane cleared up too just a few short seconds after mine had and there he was again, right beside me once more. I had glanced over briefly as I was naturally concerned when I saw the lane beside me move that he would be back next to me again. He was. I saw him leaning slightly in his seat "rubber necking" forward as he was eager to see me again, obviously bothered by the fact I had 'gotten away' for a moment, it was the only hint of some type of emotion I ever saw in him. His face still turned towards me, his hand still quickly stroking himself...I tried to move my car up as much as I possibly could, practically right on top of the car in front of me, it didn't help, he inched forward too and could still see me, he continued to pleasure himself."
"Once again I turned away, not wanting to allow him to see my face, not wanting to be part of whatever sick fantasy he must have been playing out in his mind. Then a break in traffic came again and this time all the cars were able to make a much more significant move...I accelerated forward and made my turn away from the highway and away from him. All of this took place in the matter of a few minutes...which seemed like forever. After getting away, I immediately felt a mixture of relief, disgust and fear. I was shaken up and started to cry, realizing what had just happened. I called my husband, who was shocked to say the least...he explained how sorry he was by what had happened to me and asked if I was alright, etc. we spoke briefly as I was approaching my destination. I thought about just going home...I felt confused and violated and just plain weird...no other way to describe it. We said I love you and hung up as I found a place to park and did so. I was on a roller coaster of emotions, finding myself upset with the situation...going from sad and scared to angry. How could he do that? How could he make me apart of his sick kicks, of something I had in no shape or form consented to?! I also felt angry at the fact I rarely leave my home alone, I rarely get a 'mom's night out'...and I felt like he had stolen my evening, if that makes sense. It had been too dark to make out the car clearly, nor did I even really think about it in the moment...all I thought about was getting the HELL away!! He had never gotten ahead of me to see his plates, our vehicles were always side by side until traffic cleared, allowing me to immediately escape his view. I had nothing on this guy to report him with, or I would have, as what he did is illegal. My husband who has worked on sex offender cases through the GAO says what the man did could have actually landed him on the sexual offenders registry list. My husband's reviewed similar cases of men who are on the registry for public masturbation."
"Though I had considered going home after the incident, I decided after having sat in all that traffic, and driven this far to see my girlfriends, I would keep my original plans. Plus, while discussing matters with my husband, I decided I wasn't going to let that creep 'win' by ruining the rest of my evening. As I walked up to the establishment I realized how on guard I was. I had my cell phone in hand with 911 typed in and my finger over the call button ready to dial out if need be, I also had my car key in between my fingers (some of you may be familiar with what I'm describing, it's a safety maneuver some 'stranger danger' workshops teach to use as a weapon to gouge out an attacker's eye.) I parked close to the restaurant, and we were in a pretty safe location, so some would have seen my actions as a bit paranoid...but that's because A: I'm a precautions woman by nature, and B: The man had made me feel unsafe and yes, paranoid..."After she told us what had happened, I think most of the women at the table were in shock. I knew the best way I could comfort her in that moment was by telling her about the time it had happened to me... letting my friend know that sadly she wasn't alone.
Last summer we had traveled out of town for a family reunion, and after a full day of events we returned to the hotel around 10pm. My husband was exhausted, so he crashed, but the kids were still hyped up on ice cream and excitement. We wanted to do something special and out of the ordinary since we were on vacation, so my brother-in-law and I decided to take them down to the hotel pool. It was almost a quarter to eleven, but we figured this would be a fun treat for them.
At this point, I'm inclined to tell you what I was wearing, in an attempt to somehow explain how I hadn't "made myself" an object of temptation for some skeezeball, but then I remember, no. There is NO justification for treating another human being like that. ever. Nothing I did that night was MY fault.
Once we got down there we all swam for bit, the pool was relatively empty given the hour. I had brought my laptop with me, so I got out, dried off, and sat in a chair by the indoor pool. My brother-in-law continued splashing around with the kids, when I noticed a late-20's/early 30's preppy looking man walk in. At the other side of the pool, carved into the wall was a small sauna room... with a glass door. The man entered, and took a seat out of sight. I glanced over at my children who were playing Marco Polo with their uncle, then I returned to my laptop. A few minutes passed, then I felt it. In the same way Kat described above, I felt someones eyes on me. I immediately looked up, and without even meaning to, made eye contact with this man. He had moved from where he was originally sitting, and was now directly in my eye line. Nothing between us but the glass, the pool, and my children.
Had he been looking at them, I would probably be writing this post from a jail cell.
I immediately broke eye contact, and looked over at my brother-in-law. My heart was racing. I was so....angry, and scared, and confused. Had I just seen what I thought I'd seen? I quickly glanced back over to see the man grab his towel and bolt for the door. I assume he thought I was about to alert whoever I was with about what he was doing. I immediately stood up and rushed off in the other direction, grabbing my brother-in-law and kids in the process, but not so that I could confront this guy....or even tell the front desk. I just wanted to get away. I wanted to put that ugliness as far from me and my family as possible.
As I told my brother-in-law what had happened I was overcome by shame. Not from being used against my will in that way, that was just horrifyingly uncomfortable and gross, no, the shame came from the way I reacted.
I am a strong person; someone who's not usually afraid of confrontation, someone who likes to see justice prevail, yet here I was, running.
I felt guilty. Was this my fault? Was is because of how I was dressed, or the fact that we were down there so late? I knew the guilt was misplaced, but it was still hard to push it out of my head.
When we got back to the hotel room, and recounted the story for my husband, he immediately started asking us why we hadn't called the cops or had the front desk pull the surveillance cameras and hunt this guy down. I didn't know how to explain it, because it was just too uncomfortable....so awkward, and embarrassing, and dirty, I didn't want to allow it to steal one more second of my life.
If you've never had something like this happen, you probably won't understand that. And even if you had, like me, you might find yourself blurting out questions to your petrified friend at a crowded restaurant like, "Why didn't you call the cops or hit his car?!?" It took me a moment to remember that feeling, since it was one I so desperately wanted to forget.
However, this is something we need to talk about. Pervs like this are nothing new, but I have to wonder if they're becoming more prevalent because of the society we currently live in; a world that tells men it's ok to treat a woman like a 2-dimensional image, put solely on this earth for their self-gratification.
Have you ever experienced anything like this? I don't know why it took Kat sharing her story for me to finally tell mine.... for me to finally see what a feminist issue this actually is; what a violation it is to one's dignity.
I'll leave you with these final words from Kat, if you have had something similar happen, I hope they'll give you the courage to tell someone...
"I went to bed last night not sure if I would tell my story. I'm not too prideful to admit I was afraid of being judged...of other women thinking I had not been 'strong enough' to just let it roll off my back or not 'done something more' to stop this man from masturbating while staring at me. Then I realized, like I always preach: Be yourself. Do what you think is right and don't let what others think of you control you. No one knows you better than yourself. No one really knows what they'd do in your situation, because they aren't you, they may have a different personality from yours that reacts differently to such things, or they may have never actually been in that situation to truly know how they would handle it. I've always been forthcoming when I go through something personal. In the past, I have shared things others would not share on a social networking site, if anywhere for that matter. I do that because for me personally, I find it healing to get it off my chest and also because I find it helps others speak out and heal then too. I've never let fear of what others might say or do stop me before, so why start now? I did nothing wrong, period. That man wanted to use me, he made me a part of something sexual I did not consent to and in that way, he violated me. I can't undo what he did, but I can decided how I react, and I choose to tell my story."