I will not stand for sexual assault or harassment in any way.
Last weekend on I-35 South around Wichita I noticed a truck would not pass me. I wondered if I was going too fast in the right lane and needed to adjust. Then I looked to my left and saw four boys in a pick-up truck. I’ll call these boys the 563BIO Boys.
I was not going too fast in the right lane. The 563BIO Boys were going down I-35 at a steady pace of about 90 miles-per-hour to catch up to cars who had girls in the drivers seat so they could show her a sign that read, “Show tits for $20?”
My first reaction was disgust.
My second reaction was fear. How long had they been following me on the interstate? Did they notice I was alone in my car, and then create the sign? Did they intend to follow me and hurt me? Being alone in a car on the interstate can feel very isolating for a 20-year-old woman when idiot boys like these are also allowed to operate vehicles.
My third reaction was anger. After speeding away from them I filled with a red hot anger. How dare they take my right to feel safe inside my own car? How dare they disturb me so much that my hands shake on the wheel. I wanted to get even.
The next day, I reached out to every branch of law enforcement in my area. I started with my local university force, who then directed me to the Oklahoma City department, who then transferred me to Oklahoma Highway Patrol. I was then told in less than a 90-second conversation,
“I’m sorry ma’am but since it’s after the fact there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“I can’t even file a report? To have it on record?”
“No, unfortunately not ma’am.”
And I agreed. How unfortunate.
How unfortunate that even though I was harassed for 60 miles, the perpetrators will receive no retributions, no warning, not even a letter. Because it’s after the fact and I’m the only one who saw it.
What’s worse is I was made to feel that I was stupid for even trying to bring the incident to light. Most of the officials I contacted had the air that I should just “shrug it off, it’s not a big deal, just boys being boys.”
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. College campuses across the nation have been engaging in the “Not On My Campus” campaign. Students take a pledge saying they will not stand for sexual assault on their campus. I took the pledge so it also included sexual harassment. Everyone has the right to feel safe on their campus.
Sexual harassment on any scale is a doorway to sexual assault. As soon as we turn the other cheek to sexual harassment, we allow more severe discretions to take place until a sexual assault transpires. We silently comply with the harassment as it happens and stand back as bigger offenses slip through the door that was just opened. Maybe if we stopped tolerating these sexual micro-aggressions, fewer women would be assaulted, fewer men abused, and more people would feel safe in their own cars, their own campuses, and their own skin. Maybe if we took more stands against sexual harassment, we wouldn’t need to dedicate an entire month to the warning signs of sexual assault.
It’s a glaring reality that victims rarely see justice for their abusers.
“Was what happened to me severe enough to qualify as assault or harassment?” “Will anybody believe me?”
“Did I do something to cause it?”
So what can we do?
We can talk about it. We can shed light. I will not sit back and accept that as long as I am traveling alone, then I am vulnerable to the harassment of 563BIO Boys. If people choose to harass as they did to me last weekend, then I choose to shine a spotlight on them. To highlight what they did and say This. Is. Not. Okay. I choose to tell the world what these boys were doing.
I deserve respect. I deserve decency. I deserve to feel safe. Because I am a woman. Because I am a person. Because I am a human being.
The 563BIO Boys: A Dodge Ram beige pick-up truck with an OSU sticker.