I’d always believed the grounds of my alma mater were safe, that nothing bad could happen at a private Christian university. It wasn’t until I met and encountered this guy in several of my major classes my junior year that I understood the feeling of fear many women experience throughout their lifetimes. Though seemingly innocent at first, this guy began to pursue me. I wasn’t interested, but he persisted beyond the boundaries I put in place to tell him “No” as explicitly as possible. He let it be for the majority of the fall semester, but as we proceeded into spring semester, he restarted his pursuit. Even as I continued to communicate that I was uninterested, he continued to overstep his boundaries, this time aggressively. Though he had no reason to believe I was invested in his pursuit in any way (again, how many times can a woman say “No”???), he began texting me multiple times a day - sometimes even multiple times an hour - demanding to know where I was and what I was doing. I explained for the umpteenth time that I was not interested and asked him to respect my space and stop texting me. When began threatening me, I blocked his number.
Despite my best efforts to diffuse the situation, his behavior escalated to the point of stalking. He would wait outside of the communications building after class and watch me. I felt so threatened that I felt uncomfortable walking back to my apartment alone in broad daylight for fear of him following me or attacking me, although I was convinced he already knew where I lived. Though I was never physically harmed by this guy, and though the situation subsided before he took any more aggressive action, I was emotionally shaken and threatened solely by his presence in my class and on campus multiple times a week. I considered bringing the situation forth to my department or filing a restraining order, but like so many women, I remained silent, except to my best friend and my mentor, and let him get away with his complete disrespect for me as a woman.
I wish I had spoken up. After he finally stopped harassing me and disrespecting my boundaries, I heard word that he had started dating another woman in our major and was verbally and physically abusing her. I hate to think that her pain was caused in part by my fear of the systemic shaming of women who speak up against men who overstep their boundaries.
It can happen to anyone. And it does happen far more often than we even know. Let’s put an end to this.