Like a mother whose daughter has been mistreated by a perverted lowlife on a bus.
There will be another entry about today, maybe, but first I want to address what happened to Lucy today. Her Greyhound adventure went pretty well until she got to Memphis this morning. She had to switch buses in Memphis, so she made sure to be in the line early and get a good seat. Then they had to wait for another bus to arrive, and with it, an influx of new passengers. One of them was a young man who appeared to be of Asian Indian descent. He leered at Lucy as he walked past, then turned back after surveying the whole bus and sat down beside her.
She was sitting by the window, so she couldn’t just get up and move to another seat. Still, she had no way of knowing what she was about to endure. First, the guy immediately cuddled up to her, leaning against her. She didn’t know what to do. She thought maybe it was a cultural thing about not needing as much personal space, but she DOES need personal space, so she crammed herself harder and harder against the window, only to have the guy lean right along with her, maintaining contact with her body at all times.
All of her efforts to brush him off did not work. In addition to leaning on her for almost the entire five hours, he: stroked her thigh repeatedly and made it look accidental, put his head on her shoulder, stretched across her body multiple times to “take a photo” out the window, tried to get her picture, and put his arm around her when she leaned forward to try and get away from him (and refused to remove it). He also offered her cookies (which she was smart enough to refuse) and wanted to drink from her water bottle (no way). She was terrified. She thought he might be a human trafficker and that he might have a weapon, and she didn’t know what to do. By the time the bus arrived in Nashville, she was traumatized and just ran straight to Mary.
So, there are two things I want to say about this. I have been in similar situations when I was younger, and I know that sometimes it is hard to know if someone is really harassing you or not. So if you are a young woman, let me spell it out for you:
–If a man leans on you, it is not okay.
–If a man asks you personal questions, it is not okay and you don’t have to answer.
–If a man lavishly compliments your appearance, this is a big red flag and not okay.
–If a man touches you in any way that makes you uncomfortable, that is not okay.
–If a man tries to touch your face or hair, that is not okay.
–If a man puts his arm around you, that is not okay.
–If a man tries to take your picture or a “selfie” with you, without your permission, it is not okay.
–If a man plays “footsie” with you, even if he makes it look accidental, it is not okay.
–If a man stretches his arm across your chest, regardless of his purported reason, it is not okay.
–If a man puts his head on your shoulder or in your lap, that is really not okay.
–If a man tries to make you talk about your “boyfriend,” or about sex, or about anything that makes you uncomfortable, that is not okay.
–If a man who has displayed any of these behaviors offers you food or drink, it is not okay and you should absolutely refuse them.
Now, in each of the cases above, the “man” we are talking about is a stranger who might be your seatmate on a plane or train or bus. However, most of the above behaviors are equally not okay when displayed by an acquaintance with whom you do not have a close relationship. Just so we’re clear on that.
Secondly, let’s assume that someday you find yourself in a situation like Lucy did today, and you feel helpless to do anything about it. Let’s talk about things you can do.
–The most obvious thing is to scream for help. “Help! This man is harassing me! He won’t leave me alone!” I would like to think that fellow passengers would come to your aid. However, as an introvert myself, I know this advice is very unlikely to be followed by fellow introverts, because we hate to draw attention to ourselves. So here are some other ideas.
–Excuse yourself to go to the restroom, but instead see if you can find another empty seat, preferably next to another woman. Tell her, “That guy’s a creep and he won’t leave me alone. May I please sit with you?” You can get your backpack or whatever when the bus gets to the station.
–Excuse yourself to go to the restroom, but instead go straight to the driver and tell him what’s going on.
–Tell the man to stop. “Leave me alone. You’re bothering me. Get your hands off me!” Say it loudly enough that nearby passengers can hear. If he doesn’t stop, complain louder.
–Enlist the help of fellow passengers by pointing out what is going on. “Did you see what he just did? He won’t stop! He won’t leave me alone!” (Again, this one is hard if you’re an introvert.)
–If, at any point, the guy produces a weapon, I don’t care how introverted you are–you have to act instantly. Yell as loud as you can, “This guy has a knife! He’s going to hurt me! Somebody help me!”
–I honestly don’t know what would happen if you called 911 and explained the situation. I’d like to think they would send someone to at least question the guy when he gets off the bus! But of course, you’d have to answer questions too.
In short, if your parents aren’t there to defend you, you’ve got to take your safety into your own hands and put an end to the harassing behavior as quickly as possible. Also, if you see someone treating another girl/woman like this on a bus, come to her defense. “Do you know this man? Did you say he could do that? Would you rather sit somewhere else?” We’ve got to help each other out!