I was on my way across Alligator Alley to see one of my favorite singers in concert.  I stopped to stretch my legs and take a few photos. The giant parking lot was empty. Cars zoomed past in front of me heading across the alley. Just before I climbed back into my car, a man stuck his head out the window of a truck and began howling whistling and barking at me. My first thought was, seriously, this is still happening? How do guys still think this behavior is okay? Then I thought about my manuscript. Of course, it’s still happening it’s why I felt so compelled to write a story about human trafficking.

I arrived early at the concert. The theatre doors were closed. A group of us waited in the lobby. It was at this point I questioned coming to the concert alone. I struggled with my need to be independent and the fact that I’ve been with my husband for twenty-eight years and had become accustomed to having him at my side. As much as I love his company I also have a desire not to feel as though I need him for security or protection.

David Gray sang song after song. It was magical! My seat was first-row center directly in front of Mr. Gray as he sang. I had a couple on either side of me. At the end of the evening, we stood and applauded so loud David came back on stage for an encore. We all sat back down. I noticed a man walking toward me. Suddenly he reached out and grabbed my hand and wrist and started pulling. “Let’s dance.” Right there in front of David Gray singing, while everyone was seated quietly listening, this man was trying to get me to stand and dance. I refused. He pulled harder. I could feel my hand burning like my face. Security came down the aisle and tried to get him to leave. He refused. The security guy was young. He didn’t know what to do. David Gray was still singing. The stranger decided to appease security by sitting with me in my seat. Part of me was humiliated, part of me was shocked, and mostly I wanted the whole situation to stop. This guy on my lap was in his early thirties. He said it was his birthday. There was no smell of alcohol. I had a feeling he had taken something which meant there was no telling what he’d do next. I sat. He took pictures and video of David. Everyone in the front row could’ve taken wonderful pictures, but we all respected Mr. Gray’s wishes of no photography. Here he was phone in hand recording. Everyone ignored him.

Well, David started another song, and the stranger on my lap decided he still didn’t get his dance. He stood and began pulling me again. It was not a gentle coaxing. It was a tightly gripped pulling. I waited for any of the men in our row to stand up and escort him out. None did. The woman next to me yelled, “She doesn’t want to dance!” David Gray kept singing. Now, I’ve taken self-defense classes. I was more humiliated than scared he was going to hurt me worse. I didn’t want to cause any more of a scene than what was already happening. I made excuses in my mind. He’s young maybe he doesn’t realize his behavior is inappropriate. He’s under the influence of a drug. Oh, isn’t it sweet he wants to dance? And the worst thought, the one that’s been so ingrained in me it makes me sick when I think it especially when I’m in harm’s way, don’t hurt his feelings. Argh! I’m going to get on my soapbox here for all the parents with girls. Please teach your girls that it’s perfectly okay to hurt anyone’s feelings when it comes to protecting themselves or speaking out for what’s right. And please teach them that it doesn’t have to be a stranger it can be someone they think is a friend or even a relative, if they’re being harmed by a boy/man they need to defend themselves, speak out and get help. Teaching girls to be sugar and spice and everything nice is the WORST thing you can teach your daughter. For her safety, don’t do it!

Two security guys came and escorted the stranger to the side of the theatre. They didn’t even remove him from the concert. Everyone, including me, put up with his behavior. And that’s why I’m writing this post. When are we going to expect better behavior from men when it comes to women? When are we going to stop making excuses for guys that put their hands on women, sexually assault women, rape women, and solicit sex from women? How did I go from someone trying to get me to dance to rape? Well, no one did anything. Even the security accepted his behavior. Not one of the men around us stood up and helped. He was never held accountable for his behavior thus ensuring it will happen again.

When I told my daughter about this incident, she wasn’t shocked. She recently completed college where this is a huge issue on campuses. Young men are not being held accountable for their behavior toward women. My daughter told me that not long ago she was at a concert. A young man behind her kept screaming at the singer to come to their section of the stage. He screamed “Get your ass over here!” to the female singer. Then he put his arm around my daughter and his hand in the front pocket of her jeans. My daughter uses a wheelchair. Getting away quickly in a crowded concert can be challenging. Young women around her saw what had happened asked her if she knew him and when she said no went to get security while none of the young men did anything. I’m going to write that again because it’s so infuriating. None Of The Men Did Anything! This scares me. Even the guys that knew better didn’t help. Why? Did they think my daughter enjoyed the attention? Did they think it was none of their business?  The young women understood immediately what my daughter was feeling and helped her much like the lady next to me who spoke up for me.

Security came and took the guy away from my daughter. She told me that security then came and checked on her three times after that.

The manuscript draft I finished deals with guys and their attitudes toward women. It stems from my life growing up female and the messages I’ve received. It stems from situations similar to the one at the concert. It deals with what society tells girls they should be and how tragedy arises when we as a society hold certain beliefs about girls/women. It’s in our music; it’s in our movies and TV shows, it’s in our theme parks. It affects all of us. Even the best of parents can’t protect their daughters as long as there are boys/men believing it’s okay to treat women as objects. As long as there are women protecting their boys blaming being under the influence as the excuse for their behavior. As long as there are women calling other women sluts reaffirming to men that it’s okay to degrade women and treat them as objects.  And as long as there are religions demanding women be a certain way and men another giving the man permission to be in charge–telling boys they are dominant over women. And also as long as there are boys/men who do nothing when they see a man hurting a woman. As long as there are all these things….

Our girls are not safe.

It’s time to rethink what we’ve been taught and move forward with our eyes open as to how we believe women should be treated and whether or not our words and actions reinforce or go against that belief. Some of my favorite songs are not female friendly. Messages are all around us. I thought as long as I taught my daughter about strangers and that no one was allowed to touch her inappropriately, she’d be safe. Not true. What I didn’t realize is that society sends girls a message to be kind, considerate, gentle, wait for it…princesses. Ugh! Would a guy have shared his seat with the stranger as I did? What would a guy have done if another was pulling his arm or grabbing him? And what would we as a society have said if punches were thrown between the two guys? How would everyone have viewed it if I had stood and connected the heel of my hand with his chin or kicked him? Would they have said I overreacted? He just wanted to dance?! He was under the influence and didn’t know what he was doing?! Would people have wondered what I was wearing or if I had been drinking too? I kept the peace. I sat there. I took it. That’s what I’ve been taught to do. Unfortunately, it’s what we teach girls. It’s not a good message. It’s not a message that will keep them safe. Today, I ask myself the question of how far would I have let it go? At what point would I have stood up for myself?

Obviously, I’ve felt passionate about this subject for years. It’s why a manuscript has emerged from it. Having two instances in one day of men treating me as an object, the catcalling, and then trying to force me to dance, simply because I was a woman alone, tells me I can no longer stay silent.

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Comments to "When He Grabbed Me"

  1. Kim

    September 28, 2017

    Thank you this is something that all young ladies should know I put my granddaughters in Karate for this reason. I can’t wait to read your next book

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