Last week, while shopping at Aldi, an older man touched me inappropriately.
It’s weird to type that out, because that means it actually happened, and that it wasn’t some weird dream.
I was returning my cart at the popular grocery store. For those who are unacquainted, you have to insert a quarter to use a cart, and then get the quarter back when you return the cart. Nine times out of ten, I return the cart with the quarter still in it, so that the next user gets to do it free of charge. It’s a very small gesture of human kindness, but every little thing counts.
Last week, when returning my cart, an older man was approaching me with a quarter in his hand, arm outstretched towards me. “Don’t worry about it!” I said brightly, pushing the cart towards him. He continued to keep the quarter outstretched to me, not saying a word. “No really, I don’t want the quarter. Please just take the cart,” I pressed. As I attempted to complete the hand-off of the cart, this strange, old, silent man took the quarter and put it down my shirt, squeezing the top of my left breast upon releasing the coin. He then took the cart, turned around, and started to walk away.
Shocked, I ran to my car. After I caught my breath and saw he had gone inside, I went back to the carts and put his filthy money in a random, unused cart.
I didn’t want his fucking quarter.
When I recounted this story to some of my loved ones, I cried. I cried because I didn’t do anything. I didn’t yell at him, I didn’t tell him to get away. I didn’t get a manager and complain. I just ran to my car and–much like I’ve done whenever anything horrible happens–called my mom to cry.
So why didn’t I do anything? I think shock had a lot to do with it–you never expect assault, especially when you’re just trying to be kind. Going to a manager crossed my mind, but I could already hear the response in my head:
“He’s old. He doesn’t know any better. He didn’t mean it that way. You’re thinking too much about this.”
And this is where my anger seeps in. Many men are raised, and live their entire lives, thinking that this kind of behavior is not only tolerable, but acceptable. When these men see women, they see conquests, they see a power struggle. They see something they want to take or control.
So, you can imagine how my anger amplified upon hearing the results of the recent Stanford case.
If we continue to make excuses for men, whether it’s rooted in their age or talents or any factor whatsoever, we will never be able to live in a world without rapists and assaulters. When we apologize and make excuses for these men, blaming alcohol or bad timing or whatever the hell you think is the cause, rather than the fact that it was a desire to rape or assault that caused the behavior–nothing else–we are saying as a society that it is okay for these types of people to exist.
And it’s not.
I’ve seen the actions and results of the Stanford case trigger an anger in women that I haven’t seen before. I’m not sure what finally set it off–the leniency of the sentence, the smug-ass look on his face during the trial, the plea from his father asking us to not label his son as a rapist for the rest of his life. All of these things have enraged and set my fellow women off, and there has been a sense of womanhood understanding in our discussions. It has forced women to reflect on events in their lives, times they were treated with injustice and inhumanity, based on the fact that they were a woman.
When I told my fiance what happened to me at that grocery store, he held me in his arms as I cried again. “He wouldn’t have done that to you,” I said in gasps. I looked up and saw that Craig was tearing up.
“No, he wouldn’t have,” was all he could say.