A FINE LINE BETWEEN PURSUIT AND HARASSMENT

The following is my husband’s take, his view on what happened to me the other morning:

 

There’s a fine line between pursuit and harassment, a lesson every young man needs to learn.

My wife came home in tears today. She was out of breath, sweating, and very angry. During her routine morning walk, a man had followed her and would not leave her alone.

It all began with a simple “good morning”. That’s where it began and should have ended. A polite, impersonal greeting between two strangers. But to this particular man it was an invitation. Never mind that she never said another word to him. Never mind that she completely ignored him, shut him down cold. Never mind that he was scaring her. He followed her anyway, talking all the time, flapping his gums. Perhaps he was trying to impress her. It doesn’t matter. She wanted nothing to do with him, didn’t even hear what he was saying because she was listening to music on her iPhone.

However, she was very aware of his presence. Deciding not to say anything, knowing that if she told him to go away or get lost, it might only encourage him, she simply walked away from him. And he followed. Finally, after some time had passed, she darted around a corner, ran down a side street, cut up another street and lost him.

At last she felt safe to come home; she did not want him to know where she lived. And then she told me what happened in a voice shaking with anger, fear and outrage.

What makes it worse, of course, is that she has been sexually assaulted before. And to a lesser degree, we had recently moved to a new city. Now she was afraid to walk along the beach, because he might be there. And she was angry that her freedom was being taken away from her by some clueless man.

Before I was married, before I became a father to my daughter, before I came to know and understand women, I was one of those clueless young men. If a pretty woman smiled at me or said hello, I assumed it meant she also liked me. Sometimes I tried to talk to her, sometimes I watched her from across the room or bar. And one time I followed her, because I wanted to be near her. Because I thought she was leading me somewhere. She wasn’t of course, and now I realize I frightened her on that day some 30 years ago.

Just as my wife was frightened today.

If I could give young men some advice, it would be this. Just because she says hello, it doesn’t mean she wants to talk. Just because she says hello, it doesn’t mean she likes you. Just because she says hello, it doesn’t mean she wants to sleep with you. That is all fantasy on your part. The reality is this. Hello means hello, nothing more or less. So don’t pursue her, don’t follow her, because it’s the wrong thing to do. Because you’re invading her privacy. And because there’s a fine line between pursuit and harassment.

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NOT AT ALL RIGHT

Yes, it has been a long time, over 5 months since my last post.  With all the changes taking place in my life, I simply did not take the time to write.  More on that later.  Right now, though, I need to vent about an incident that just occurred.

As many of you already know, my husband and I have moved away from Coronado, up the California coast to Ventura.  We are still in the process of doing our best to settle in.  That is also a story for another time.  This morning, though, I was taking my walk.  It was not even early because it was so cold last night, I had to wait until it warmed up a bit before leaving the house.  Not that the house is warm!  Anyway, I was walking one of my longer routes that takes me down Main Street and out to the bike path along the Ventura River Estuary and to the path along the ocean.  As has always been my habit, when I see someone passing me from the opposite direction I say, “Good morning.”  I think it is simply a polite thing to do.  I am not looking to engage you in conversation.  I am only acknowledging that I see you and that it is morning.  After I made the turn onto the beach path, I said ‘good morning’ to a guy on a bicycle.  He then proceeded to start yakking at me.  I did not slow down or respond to him and I have no idea what he even said, nor did I care.  Little did I know that he followed me.  Didn’t know it until I went to cross the street to go up and over the 101.  I wasn’t scared, but I was pissed.

He then continued to follow me at a distance.  I did not turn around because I didn’t want him to know that I knew he was back there.  After a few blocks I was able to look back when I crossed another street.  My main concern was that he not know where I live, so I started zig zagging on blocks.  I ran when he was unable to see me to put even more space between us.  I eventually wound my way around to my house and, again, made sure he was not able to see where I live before crossing the street and going up the driveway.

I came in the house and told my husband what had happened.  And now I’m telling all of you.  My questions are:  Which part of I-am-completely-ignoring-you-and-anything-you- have-to-say-to-me do you not understand?  Why do you think it is okay to follow someone who has clearly NOT engaged with you in any way other than to be polite and say good morning?  What gives men (I know this is a huge generalization here, but my experience has been it is men and not women) the ‘right’ to harass someone who is clearly not interested?  Do I have to be a bitch in order to get my intent across?  Now, given my history, this is an even bigger deal than it might otherwise be.

Part of the reason we left Coronado was that I continue to not feel completely safe.  I do understand that it wasn’t Coronado who attacked me, and I was able to go back to loving living there again.  And yet, there is still a part of me that was hoping a new place might, just might, allow me to feel safe like I did pre-sexual assault.

I am not saying that the guy this morning was anything other than a normal person, BUT I wanted nothing to do with him and he was ignoring this.  Is it kinder to tell someone to ‘fuck off and leave me alone?’  Okay, maybe not in those words, but why should I have to specifically spell it out?  I have been accused of being a stuck-up snob because I don’t speak to people, and yet when I do, I am followed.  I have also been told that I seem to have a shield around me and a look on my face when I am walking that says, ‘don’t fuck with me.’  Most of the time this works at keeping unwanted attention away, not always though.

So, is my only recourse to not speak to anyone ever when I am out walking?  Is it okay to say good morning to women but not men?  I seem ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ in this situation.

THE POWER OF YOUR MIND

“If we plant apple seeds, we will get apple tress.  If we plant daisy seeds, we will get daisies; we will not get watermelons.  We can get only manifest that which we plant or place into the fertile Law of Mind.”  This passage was written by Rev. Patti Paris and was the reading from today’s Daily Guide in Science of Mind.  She goes on to say, “It is our responsibility, then, to become clear regarding what we desire.If we are not propelled by our desires, we may be pushed along by our fears.  Then what out-pictures is more likely to be what we do not want rather than what we want.

As we shift our vision from fear to faith, we can spend more time in what we desire instead of what we fear.

This takes time and dedicated spiritual practice, but the habit of thinking negatively will be replaced by the positive thoughts and feelings.  With all our attention going to what we would have, it becomes our experience.  As the saying goes, ‘Energy flows where attention goes.'”

Is it easy to think only positive, happy thoughts?  Of course not.  It has been my experience, though, that it is possible to shift one’s mindset to a more positive channel.  This coming from a life-long pessimist.  I know it can be done because I did it.  It is a process and something that I work on daily.  And, really, that’s okay.

I know you’ve heard all of this before, as I have.  Something struck me this morning, though, when I was reading this.  To me, it is so simple to understand that you will never, ever, get watermelon from apple or daisy seeds.  As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”  Whatever you think is!  IMG_0008.JPG