I love using my personal experiences to get a point across as a) it’s easier to write about and b) it provides credibility to my work. I’ve had an interesting conversation with a male colleague yesterday about sexual harassment that women are subjected to on a daily basis and he agreed that some men “just ruin things for everyone”. About 2 years ago I went through something that I don’t wish on any woman, ever. It all started when he stopped next to me on my way to work. Firstly, do you honestly think that women should be flattered if and when you stop next to her in your vehicle? If we were, we’d all be “ladies of the night” as that’s how it made me feel. Secondly, I don’t need a ride, did you see my hand stretched out with my thumb raised? If not, then don’t stop and offer me a ride thinking I’ll get into a vehicle with a stranger, as that’s what you are to me. I’m straying but you get what I’m saying. Anyway I responded and told him that I work in the next street, 8 minutes from home and he responded, “I know”.
At this point I actually looked at his face and realized that I’ve never seen him before. How did he know where I worked? I kept my cool and told him I need to go because I’m late for work and he responded, “I know, you usually start at 09h00”. Alarm bells went off instantly and I literally ran away from him. I looked over my shoulder and realized he was following me but I continued running. When I finally reached the office, stressed out and exhausted, guess who’s waiting outside next to his car? You guessed it, Mr Stalker himself! He had the nerve to smile at me like he has every right to invade my space and asked for my number. I froze as he approached me as I didn’t know what he’s capable off. He saw the sheer panic on my face and just smiled, in his mind he wasn’t doing anything wrong, he just wanted my number…what’s so bad about that? Luckily one of my colleagues walked up to me and he scattered, got into his car and drove off. I dropped to my knees and started crying, I couldn’t believe what just happened. This is a road I walk every single day, a road I felt safe on and now, now I have to look over my shoulder, memorize licence plates so I would know when it’s him, is this really a life I wanted?
Over the next 3 months or so I lived in fear. Walking to work didn’t bring me the joy it used to and I encountered him a few occasions but simply ignored him. I couldn’t sleep, focus on work or even walk Summer as I used to. I eventually decided that I’ve had enough, that it’s ludicrous to allow a stranger to rule my life. I went on holiday, saw my mom and it became a distant memory. Upon returning to Johannesburg, I’ve decided to start my daily walk/run with Summer and even walked to work again. Things went well until I arrive at the office one day and saw his car in the parking lot. I immediately freaked out and when my colleague eventually managed to calm me down, I told her who he was. As I approached reception, I gingerly asked them what he’s doing here. To my shock he was there to see my CEO about a job offer, the very same man that made my life a living hell might turn out to be my colleague if I don’t do something drastic about it. After the meeting concluded, I finally confided in my CEO about his identity and he was refused a position. That didn’t stop him though, he started his own company and guess where he rented office space? You guessed it, he’s renting an office here and I’m subjected to seeing him every day. Turns out he’s married with a gorgeous wife and beautiful children. At first I resented him, it bordered on hate and I realized it’s not healthy, I can’t depict where he goes but I sure as hell can control my emotions. I despise anger, I try my utmost best not to get angry but it’s not always that easy. I’ve told him what effect his actions had on me, I expressed my anger towards him and he apologized. He apologized but he still doesn’t see anything wrong with it and that’s the problem with a lot of men that does this, they don’t think it’s wrong. They think we, as women should be flattered by the attention, should consider ourselves lucky that they even display a bit of interest in us. This is the society that we live in, these are things I’m personally subjected to daily, the wolf whistling, the name calling…These are the things that we accept as a norm and it will continually happen until we take a stance.
What did I do about the situation? I’ve warned others because he didn’t stop with his tricks. He continued hitting on women despite his marital status, despite the fact that his wife and kids would visit him at the office and everyone knew he was married, he didn’t stop and that says a lot about his character. I’ve worked through my anger issues, I might be forced to work in the same vicinity as him but I don’t have to acknowledge his existence. I don’t interact with him even though he continued seeking me out after all that happened. I despise him and what he represents, men are supposed to be the protectors and providers but lately that’s not the case and that’s depressing.