“I’ve been raped before…They put me back into that place.” – Ev’s story
It was my lunch break. I was exhausted from the paper I was working on, tired from a distinct lack of sleep, and ready to hear the voice of my best friend who had been away for five months. He was my boyfriend for a while, but we both have some things that just make it not a good fit romantically.
He rang me, I picked up, and sat down on the steps of a church building. I was wearing a knee length floral dress and a teal cardigan with modest ballet flats and an updo. (Just so you know, as if that would make any difference.)
So, we’re talking, and a black SUV pulls up and honks at me. Look, I do try to just ignore it. Especially when people assume that I’m a prostitute (I’m not). After honking at me two more times, I got up off of my stoop to see what they wanted – maybe they were lost and needed directions. Their license plate said Minnesota. I tried to be polite.
So, I approach the car and give them a cordial good day. The driver was an older man. In the passenger’s seat was an oversized male in a white t-shirt. And what did he have to say.
“Girl I just wanted to tell you that you should keep your legs closed.”
I paused for a moment. My friend’s still on the phone. Seriously, did this stranger just pull up, stop the car, and honk at me repeatedly to tell me this? Or was he just that disappointed that I wasn’t a prostitute.
“Excuse me sir, but it’s my body, and I’ll do whatever the fuck I want with my legs, thanks.”
It was a pretty reasonable reply, I thought. I went back to where I had been sitting and resumed my conversation, livid, sick of having to deal with harassment like this almost daily. The driver didn’t say anything to me, he pulled closer to the curb. Then the passenger went ON and ON and ON at me, pretty much saying how I deserve to be raped.
When I got up to walk, he began THROWING things at me out of the car. First he hurled a cup of ice at my face, which I ducked. Then it was the cup the ice was in. Then it was the trash that was in the car. Threw them. Right at me. I went pretty apeshit at this point, you know. Had I been a man, I would have dragged him out of the car and beat his ass – and since he started the altercation, perhaps it would’ve been seen as justified. Instead, I launched the most hurtful profanities I could, just words. If you’re going to harass a stranger, say they deserve to be raped, and then physically attack them… it’s sort of the least that I can do. Human nature does not allow me to just walk away and get on with my day at this point. I screamed for them to leave, to leave me alone, and it kept coming. All the words of what I deserved.
I’m sick of feeling helpless. Part of the street was blocked off for Artscape, so they had trouble merging back into traffic. I got a license plate number. I called the police. A woman who saw it happen asked if I was okay and offered to wait with me. I was shaking. I was having trouble breathing. I’ve been raped before. I didn’t deserve it. It’s all I kept thinking. They put me back into that place.
“Don’t let it get to you, don’t let it get to you, you didn’t deserve it, the cops are coming and it’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. This isn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault.”
Twenty minutes later, the Baltimore police arrived. They asked me what happened, and I told them my story, that I had been harassed by the men in an SUV, one of the men attempted to PHYSICALLY hurt me, and I was humiliated. I told them I had the license plate number.
The response I got is what was the most disheartening. I was told by the cop “Well, guys like that are just knuckleheads, and they’re always gonna be knuckleheads. There’s a smarter way to handle this kind of stuff. You should’ve ignored it or gone somewhere else. Sorry that he threw things at you, but since it didn’t physically hit you it’s not worth filing a report.”
So what have I taken from this? That if I get harassed, I’m on my own, because it’s my fault for being young and pretty. No matter what I wear, I will attract attention, and it’s okay for strangers to reduce me to some sort of young little fucktoy for their pleasure. It’s my fault for not running away, because if someone invades my space and sense of safety, there’s no accountability on their part. It’s my fault for not just taking it like a woman. And when someone tries to PHYSICALLY hurt me, I’m not worth writing a report for unless they succeed.
Thanks for your service, Baltimore Police. My tax dollars are obviously so well spent.