Stop the Harassment!

Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle

It never fails. I’m walking to the park or the beauty supply store or the co-op or my friend’s house and vehicles are slowing down…guys are calling at me from porches… “Hey, wanna ride…can I get your number…ya man treating you right?” Now, I’m not the finest sista that ever lived in Riverwest, but it seems like every time I’m out and about some dude is trying to hit on me or pick me up. Most don’t care when I fl ash my wedding ring. It gets no respect. I have been followed for blocks by an individual exclaiming what he can do for me if I’d only give him my number. I have even been approached while walking with my young daughters! My eight-year-old has been subjected to comments and come-ons much too nasty to print! I have gone out of my way to look like a hag in hopes of being left alone on a power walk. Disguises don’t work — sleaze doesn’t discriminate. Sister friends do you feel me? I’m well aware that this type of harassment happens everywhere, but I do feel that it is pervasive in our neighborhood. It has happened to me so often I had actually become used to it. I expected and accepted sexual harassment as a part of life. But that was comfortable stupidity. I’m wide-awake about the situation now! Lately several of my female friends and neighbors, who will remain anonymous, have been approached and harassed by some creepy characters. Several have been left terrifi ed and feel extremely vulnerable. Defenseless. One individual was actually harassed by a group of men inside a local business and the taunting continued on the outside as she left the store. A few weeks ago I was approached in my alley by a guy collecting cans (don’t freak out about all can collectors… this was one individual). It’s one thing to be whistled at by a fella passing by, but it’s absolute horror to be what I call “verbally molested,” threatened and/or followed by someone. The worst part is feeling that there is nothing that can be done about this kind of violation. What can the police do? Who’s going to hang around long enough to get a description? Just walk fast and don’t make eye contact? Arm yourself with pepper spray? What to do? We must empower ourselves! Be alert, but not paranoid. Be very observant so that you can report violators to the police. Share information and details with your girlfriends. And it’s certainly not a bad idea to take advantage of a self-defense class. Two years ago, during a casual conversation, a group of my friends discovered that the same guy in a station wagon had been approaching us all at the same corner. I had the misfortune of being chased a few nights later by this man on Weil street. I did report the incident, but he should have been reported upon our discovery. This is our home…our hood and we have a right to feel safe. For the most part, I enjoy my outings and I won’t stop enjoying the beauty of living in Riverwest. But this is an issue that must be addressed openly. Girlfriend, you are not the only one! Oh Yeah! Let me end by expressing great appreciation for the many gentlemen in our neighborhood that have much respect for the ladies. You know who you are! Thank you! Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 6 – July 2002
by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle