What do you do when you’re afraid…

by Emily Jasper on December 9, 2009

TwitterThe other day, a man crossed the street as I was pulling into my parking garage. As I stopped to get the ticket, I looked in my rearview mirror. He had followed my car in and was approaching. When the gate went up, I saw him turn. I parked, saw plenty of other cars, and went into the skyway. I saw the man come into the hall with me. I assumed he wanted to get out of the cold. There were others in the skyway, I walked quickly. I could hear him behind me.

He approached me from behind and began to ask for money. He wasn’t asking any of the men walking through the hall. Just the one white woman. He had followed my car, singled me out, and I wanted to vomit.

The incident by itself shouldn’t have disgusted me so much, but it’s on the heels of others. I arrive to work early in the morning, 6:30 sometimes. And while the garage is well-lit, the skyways attached have little security that early in the morning. With it being so cold, there are many homeless people seeking warmth in the paths connecting the office buildings.

Then the aggressive comments begin. Pairs and trios of men behind me, talking about my ass. Talking about how good I’ll take it. That brushing against me would show me what they could give me. That they could rip me wide open. That they would give me a reason to walk faster.

Imagine trying to start work after a few mornings of that.

I’m too afraid to turn and say anything. There isn’t a guard walking the hall to whom I can call attention. So I walk faster, hoping to make it to my own office building where we have plenty of security. Hoping they don’t keep following me. If there’s one person bothering me, I will say “Stop!” But no one ever chimes in, “She asked you to leave her alone.” So when there’s more than one, I don’t know what to do.

I filed a report, and I was told that there’s a guard on duty down in the lobby of the garage. That security in the other buildings is up to their own preferences. That I could press a red button in the hall, and someone will answer on the call box.

And by that point the jeering men would have moved on, and new men will make new comments tomorrow.

I have to find a new place to park. I asked my boss if I could vary my schedule or work from home more often. If you look up a crime rate comparison, apparently Minneapolis and DC aren’t that different. And I felt so much safer in DC.

I shouldn’t feel victimized, but I do. I should be stronger. I should put my self-defense training to work. But I’m paralyzed by fear.

And I don’t know what else to do.