I was attacked by four guys tonight.
I am not sure what was worst — they couldn’t be more than 13 years old, I was 20 feet from my door step, it was a planned group assault, or the way bystanders responded to the incident.
No, I know at least what hurt the worst — the smirks.
After they ambushed me, I yelled and kicked and pushed back in shock and terror. And then I felt paralyzed, how I feel every time I am harassed. I was crying hysterically. I looked behind me to see the kids didn’t even have the decency to run away in shame. Instead they were peeking around the corner, and when they saw me crying, they laughed and pointed.
Just like that, I lost it. Without thinking I sprinted after them as I continued to cry and scream in Turkish. I think the group of pre-pubescent boys was surprised, because they split up and ran off.
A group of about 30 passersby — one woman, a few young guys, a bunch of older men — did stop, ask me what happened, tried to comfort me. One suggested I call the police. When it became clear nothing was getting done (and I really felt uncomfortable with all of the touching, pitying and coddling), I took the older woman’s suggestion and went home.
I then did that thing we women always do. I internalized the attack. I shouldn’t have cried, I thought. I should have done more.
And that’s when it hit me. I (along with countless other women) am harassed every single day (and often multiple times a day). It is the depressing, maddening reality. We don’t have to accept it (and we shouldn’t!) but I have decided — I refuse to let street harassment rule my life. These pervs should not have that power, and I’m not going to give it to them.
I am going to do what I can do — and that is share my experiences, let others know about the entrenched problem and respond in the moment.
So, realizing my power, I went back downstairs and paid a visit to the police station. My room mate and I spent almost an hour telling them about street harassment in the area and how it happens to everyone (regardless of age, looks, nationality) everywhere and how it makes us feel. We demanded they do something after they said, “There’s nothing to be done.”
After tonight, there will be undercover police stationed in the area where many women are harassed on daily basis. I have two of the officers’ numbers in case something should happen in the future. I am buying pepper spray tomorrow, and I plan to write about my experience and what I learned in my next op-ed.
This is all I can do…and that is pretty powerful.
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