Several years ago I, as well as other women, were being verbally sexually harassed by a older man who lived in the community. He didn’t actually know me or the others and it was happenstance that I discovered I wasn’t the only one being targeted. In fact, it never felt personal; I sensed I just fit a general stereotype of women he deemed “worthy” of bothering. Who knows how many women he hassled, maybe it was dozens. I got the idea it was almost a hobby, as if he’d go out with the express purpose of doing this, for kicks.
He’d make inappropriate comments and sounds and came across hostile, especially when called out on his behavior (I didn’t but two other women did say something to him). It got to where I’d tense up whenever I saw him – I still do. I believe he got off on making women uncomfortable. Nothing about his behavior indicated flattery toward the targeted women or that he wanted to pursue anything beyond his comments and noises. That is, this wasn’t a prelude to having a nice conversation or asking a woman out. His goal was harassment alone.
Lest you think something was wrong with him, besides the obvious – i.e., that he couldn’t “help himself” for some reason – let me say I think not because he picked his victims; he thought he was anonymously picking women who couldn’t do anything back to him. That’s how it looked to me. Besides, even IF he was mentally incapacitated and/or had deep-seated issues with women that brought about his behavior, it would up to him to seek appropriate treatment. I have no sympathy.
My immediate community is relatively small – it’s part of a larger area that is less cohesive – so I was able to figure out his name and even where he lived. I reported him to local police. They were patronizing at best – it felt like I’d walked into 1950 – and it turned out another woman had already gone to them and received the same treatment (by a female officer no less). Still, after that and public discussion of the perpetrator on an online group, the harassment died off. The man even flagged me down and approached me some time later thinking I was someone he knew! Wasn’t I such-and-so, he asked, giving a name. That told me exactly how impersonal the harassment had been, how generic. He didn’t even recognize me! I was too taken aback to say no I wasn’t who he thought but I WAS a woman he’d been sexually harassing.
There are these moments in life… Earlier this year, I found an object belonging to him. How’d I know it was his? Why, he’d pasted his name and address on it! I stood there on the public sidewalk and considered my options. Hmmmm. The item wasn’t irreplaceable but neither was it of no value. I pictured the stereotypical angel and devil sitting on each of my shoulders whispering to me. If I was a saint, I could return it to his home and leave it at the door. I was on foot and this generous errand would have taken me out of my way. And did I really want to do that kindness? Nah.
On the other end, I could toss his labeled possession into the street conveniently located just a few feet away and let the cars have their way with it. The idea made me laugh out loud. Picturing his belonging being crunched to smithereens was cheering. I also had the option of chucking it into the nearby overgrown shrubbery where it was sure to rot and never be uncovered. I enjoyed these thoughts. In the end, I went with my third option, leaning it up against a nearby tree where it might be seen and found.
It felt like the universe was testing me. Heckled by the universe: “Haha, what will she do with this conundrum?”