I Experienced Unwelcome Attention From A Married Man
How I took my power back- and 3 ways you can too
“Regardless of where you live — in a city, or in some small town — if you drop your guard, there will be someone waiting to take advantage of you,” — Steve Kardian (a martial-arts expert and former police officer)
I could sense him watching.
He devours me with his eyes while the chair of the committee drones on about budget cuts.
I feel violated. I can’t focus on any of the words that are been said.
It’s getting late and the meeting shows no sign of ending so I decide to leave.
Outside, the meager light shed by a lone light pole does little to dispel the darkness and my car is parked some ways off. As I navigate by the light of my iPhone, I hear rapid footsteps behind me. I glance behind me and my heart clenches in fear. It’s him!
Suddenly my phone starts to ring, shattering the silence and mercifully breaking the momentary paralysis.
The footsteps fade away. I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath.
I am overcome with gratitude to my friend who is calling about baking instructions for party wings.
Sleep eludes me that night. As I twist and turn, I wrestle with the question about what I to do about him.
"When I was a child, I was afraid of ghosts. When I grew up, I realized people are scarier.”
This guy is a married father of two and also happens to be a well-liked businessman in the community. We are both on a committee that requires frequent meetings.
In the beginning, I tried to ignore him and then avoid him. He didn’t seem to get the message or even if he did, it only makes him come on even stronger. Attempting to flirt with an attractive woman may be a trip for his ego but to me it is seriously annoying.
Drawing attention to how he makes me feel would likely raise a stink, create a rift between husband and wife and make folks take sides once battle lines are drawn.
Perhaps I am just overreacting?
These are some of the thoughts that ate at me.
It can be a lonely and shameful place to be in even though what was happening was not my fault.
Eventually, I got to a point where I had had enough. This guy was beginning to pervasively intrude in my life and thoughts. No guy was worth losing my peace of mind or sleep over. I made a decision to stop making excuses and get my f**king power back.
“Don’t let men stare at you, stare back at them and make sure they get uncomfortable, so they see how creepy and unsettling it feels.”
At the next outdoor event, I make a beeline to where he’s standing with clueless wifey by his side. I watch with satisfaction as the expressions on his face change from lewd, to confused and finally something akin to fear when he sees the determined look on my face.
At the last moment, I switch directions, smile sweetly and hug wifey. She is delighted to see me.
He is stunned.
“You know my wife?” He asks in a startled voice.
“I do,” I confirm looking him in the eye. “I know her very well.”
Message received loud and clear. Threat averted.
3 ways you can take your power back:
What I experienced was real and scary. He was under the wrong impression that just because I am single, I was available. He acted like a complete A**hole and made me fear for my personal safety.
By letting him have power over me, I wasted valuable time being anxious and guilty about how he made me feel.
1.) It’s not your fault: In an article for childmind.org, clinical psychologist Dr. David Anderson why sometimes we feel as if the unwelcome attention is our fault: “Girls who are sexually harassed are not causing the harassment, sexual harassers are. But many end up feeling that without knowing it, they’ve somehow brought this negative interaction on themselves by wearing the wrong outfit, or being ‘too nice.’’
It is not your fault so stop blaming yourself for something you are not responsible for. You deserve to live your life without being objectified. You deserve to have your boundaries respected.
2.) Call them out on their behavior: Being afraid when your safety is in question will do you no favors. You have to be able to tell them to stop paying you unwelcome attention without worrying about the potential fallout. Your safety comes first. Always.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Stefanie Dowd points out the downside to downplaying such experiences in an article for childmind.org “ But when we say, ‘Oh that’s no big deal, it happens to everyone,’ or suggest that it’s just part of life as a female, we’re implying that girls who feel victimized or upset are overreacting.”
When someone makes you uncomfortable and unsafe, it is by no means overreacting but instead, think of it as your instincts screaming “Danger!”
3.) Speak out: If this unwanted attention persists then you have to speak out. You have every right to seek help from the authorities. It will help if you can document these incidents (dates, times & what was said) and also make people close to you aware of what is going on.
“Some people are suffering and you’ll never know because they suffer in silence”. Remember, suffering in silence is a choice.
Originally published by author on Medium.com