We were walking south, towards the hotel friends were staying at, looking forward to having our morning after wedding breakfast with them. We saw it happening from a long way off. A young woman was standing, right at the corner, it looked like she had just crossed the crosswalk and stopped. She was looking down at her phone, texting madly away. She had earbuds in her ears. She was in the world, but not the world she was in.
Across from her, at the corner of a building, slightly in the shade, were a group of four young men, around the same age as the woman standing texting. They were staring at her and making sexual gestures towards her. When there was no response they started making rude comments about what they'd do to her. The taunts were vulgar and violent. She didn't hear them. She didn't see them. She just stood there, texting.
They saw us approaching and standing on the other side of the sidewalk. How they categorized us, I don't know, as old, as irrelevant, as fellow 'men' I couldn't guess. What I do know is they didn't stop. It was light out, it was morning, it was a public street corner. I thought she was probably safe from them.
But I know that rape and sexual violence (to which she was already being subjected) don't confine themselves to the dark.
Probably safe isn't safe enough.
As we crossed the crosswalk I said to the young men 'Just stop it for God's sake.' They looked at me, laughed and continued. Even with a small admonishment from a stranger, they didn't stop. I felt the danger meter rise. They don't care if people see them, they don't care if other's disapprove.
I made the decision.
I approached her, to the catcalls of the young men. Calling out to her didn't work because she had the buds in her ear. The music was playing loudly, I could hear it as it leaked out and filled the space around her. So I tapped her on the shoulder.
She reacted with a start and pulled away from me, yelling at me, "Don't fucking touch me."
I started to try to explain that I thought she needed to get out of the range of the boys, who were hooting and hollering at me now. Calling me a 'perv'. She didn't hear me or them. The music was too loud.
She glared at me as if I was an offender and stomped off, jaywalking to the other side of the street and continuing to head south.
It felt awful being treated as if I wanted to harm her when all I wanted to do was warn her.
But I'm beginning to think I should have left well enough alone. That what I did might be more traumatizing than what they did outside her notice.
I comfort myself by thinking that I'd done what I believe people should do, the opposite of ignoring it, taking action.
For better or worse, I did what I did.
My story of what happened and why I touched her shoulder will be much different than hers. I will be a fat, ugly, cripple who dared touch her shoulder. I will be the creep in her story.
It feels awful.
But, in the end, I suppose I don't care.
My heart tells me that she was in danger. My mind agrees. Action was my only option.
But I'm wondering what you think. What would you have done? Please feel free to give me advice or criticize my action.