With the Turkey Trot 5K around the corner I decided that I would start walking home from work. As I way of making the walk more enjoyable I also decided to be friendly to whomever crossed my path. After all, there’s nothing wrong with making new friends! At first, people actually shrank from me physically. But within a few days, they started to smile back at me. This emboldened me to continue being friendly. Smiling at these strangers was like a small exercise in compassion in which I acknowledged their humanity, and in doing so produced joy within myself.
One late September evening, it took me a little longer to leave work because I could not find my office keys. So ended up leaving an hour later than usual. There was still plenty of light and lots of commuters on the road as well so I wasn’t worried. Two miles into my walk, a young Hispanic man in a black Chevy truck pulled into the next drive way ahead of me. He greeted me warmly and respectfully. He introduced himself and offered me a ride. I told him I was walking for my health and would prefer to continue walking. We continued talking for about 20 minutes and the whole time he was very cordial and nice. He offered me a ride again and added that he would walk with me the rest of the way to keep me company if I didn’t want to ride with him. I dropped my guard and accepted the ride and asked him to drop me off at the high school. During the ride he continued to be friendly and respectful. Nothing could have alerted me to what happened next when he dropped me off in the school parking lot.
He parked the car and as I gathered my sweater and backpack to get off his truck, he walked over, opened the door for me and held his hand to help me get off. While I thanked him for the ride and prepared to say good-bye he asked if we could keep in touch and gave him my business card. Then he asked for a selfie for him to remember me by, to which I consented as well. He snapped a couple of pictures but they they came out blurry so I set down my things and offered to take the picture myself. While I held my arms up, holding his phone to take the picture he positioned himself behind me, grabbed my hips, pulled me close to him and rubbed up on me with an obvious erection. He just had this nasty smile on his face. He knew he had me. And I was too stunned by the whole thing to really stop him. It all happened so fast that it took me a minute to fully realize what he was doing. It was the longest minute ever! I just wanted him to finish and leave.…I didn’t want anybody else to notice what was going on, because I was so embarrassed by the whole thing. I felt so violated. I confronted him and all he could say in Spanish is, “I couldn’t help it. I like you. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I’ve always wanted a woman like you.” I quickly grabbed my things and walked away as quickly as I could, looking over my shoulder to make sure he didn’t follow me. Hot tears streaming down my face. It’s probably the most degraded I’ve ever felt in my life. I felt violated, and pissed off, but I couldn’t even muster the courage to make eye contact. I’m a grown woman, a mother, I’ve always known how to take care of myself. How could I drop my guard and allow myself to be so vulnerable? I knew better. The shame was so overwhelming that I didn’t even think of taking down his license plate number, or remember to ask him to give me back my business card. I told my friend about the incident and the first thing she asked was, “Why didn’t you call the police?” My father and the man I’m dating also asked similar questions and both scolded me for walking alone. As if I wasn’t ashamed enough already that a stranger touched me so intimately, in broad daylight, on a busy street, and I did nothing about it.
Since then I’ve changed my walking route, I carry pepper spray and I don’t talk to strangers on the street anymore. There will be no more smiling at strangers.
Just last week, I saw him again… or rather he saw me. I was walking my new route and there, two blocks away from my apartment complex, he was waiting for me at a bank parking lot. I stoically walked past him, ignoring him as he desperately tried to get my attention. Immediately I called my 15 year old son to come meet me. We walked past our complex and around the next corner looking around to make sure we were not being followed before making our way back to our apartment complex.
It terrifies me to think that I may have a stalker but I’m determined NOT to let this man scare me into not walking anymore.