Today I went to the police to report an incident of sexual harassment. I wasn’t going to at first. I was going to accept his apology that the lewd text he sent me was an error of judgement during a moment of intoxication. But then I thought about it. This wasn’t going to go away. It might be forgiven and forgotten but there would be another incident.
This wasn’t a filthy message that was sent on an anonymous online dating forum where I had the security of blocking the user, knowing he didn’t have my real name or address. This was my neighbour. Someone who knows exactly where I live and that I live alone. Someone who can see me in my kitchen and whenever I’m in my backyard. By virtue of the fact that we live next door to each other, share a waist-high fence, it most certainly would happen again.
In a way he did me a favour, sending me that text. For months I had been feeling a sense of unease around him, but until he actually crossed the line, I had nothing to really act on. Now I have finally been able to give him the firm and crystal-clear message that I’ve been wanting to say for months but was being too polite to say.
You see, I’m nice. I was taught to be polite and if I didn’t have anything nice to say, to say nothing at all. I was taught to ignore bad behaviour.
But, what I’ve realised now, is that ignoring bad behaviour is the same as saying you’re okay with it. Ignoring it, is the same as consenting to it, in the mind of the perpetrator. So all those times I ignored behaviour from him, that made me feel uncomfortable I was telling him that I was okay with it. And for that I’m sorry.
No, I’m not apologising to him, I'm sorry, in the "regret" sense of the word, that I didn’t say NO right from the very start. From the very first time he wandered onto my property through the back gate and then when I had that gate removed and he hopped over the fence onto my property to say a “neighbourly” hello, I still said nothing. Then when he started with the calling me “pretty lady” and saying “hello gorgeous”, I still let it go because I felt sorry for him, didn’t want to hurt the feelings of a lonely old man.
Then he started suggesting I should ask him over for a coffee or something stronger "like Bourbon" because he's just lonely and wants some company. Even then with a dozen red flags flapping in the building thunderstorm, I was still afraid of hurting his feelings by giving him the very clear NO I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs.
Finally he went on to send me that filthy text. It may have been an "accident" and he may regret it now, but now I know exactly what is on his mind and that my feelings of unease were justified and not my overactive imagination; so for that I am thankful. I no longer care about his feelings.
And so to my neighbour, as you hold the official warning notice from the police, I say this: you may be upset and sulking that I reported you to the police when “I didn’t need to go to such extremes”. But, I didn’t go because I wanted to punish you or teach you a lesson. I wasn’t even thinking of you.
When you sent me that filthy text you weren’t thinking of me. If you had been genuinely thinking of ME, if you had paid any attention whatsoever to who I am as a person then you would have known that I would find your text repugnant. When you sent that text you were thinking only of yourself.
So, when I went to the police today, take heart in knowing that I wasn’t thinking of you. I was thinking only of myself. Because I know how this would play out if I didn’t. It would all blow over and be forgotten and then one day you’d be knocking on my door again with some "innocent" pretext to come inside and even if all you did was try to kiss me, you would be able to claim that I consented because I let you in. I went to the police today, because I was thinking of me – future me. Protecting the me on that day in the future who will feel even more degraded and violated than the me today and would regret she didn’t report your behaviour sooner.
This queen has out-manoeuvred you. Checkmate. Whatever you might try to do now, is on you.
This is why now I urge every woman, any marginalised male or member of the LGBTQ community or child to never ignore unwanted behaviour – reprimand it immediately, and if it escalates, report it.
And to parents, family, school teachers, start teaching children how to say no instead of teaching them to say nothing.