Today I was tested. It was brutal, shocking and scary.
I passed. It was hard. I hope never to be tested like this again. As bad as it was, I’m also glad it WAS me who was tested. You’ll see why. Read on.
While shopping at Walmart today, a middle-aged guy asked if I’d help him pick out paint colours. He had a few photos on his phone for me to look at. I agreed. Why not help someone out?
The first photo he showed me was blurry. He assured me there were better ones, I just had to swipe. I swiped right to left, to see the next picture, but nothing. No more photos on the roll.
He told me to swipe left, to a previous picture…
It was a close-up of his erect penis.
This is not funny; this is sexual predation. This is the same as him opening his rain jacket and showing me his genitalia.
I freaked. I got mad. I stayed calm. I was upset. I was scared. I was a huge ball of conflicting emotions. I said he flashed me, and that is illegal.
With a sly fox smile, he blamed me: “I’m married! YOU swiped too far! It’s all your fault.”
Nice, eh? This well-rehearsed excuse and blame shifting was a little too quick – me thinks he doth protest too much – and way too short on actual embarrassment.
Realizing the con job he was trying to pull, I looked for a Walmart employee. One was close by and I yelled for her to call store security because this guy had just showed me a picture of his penis. What did she do? She believe him. In fact, she asked if she could help him pick out paint colours!
Not wanting a sexual predator to get away, I phoned the police. Once he realized there were real consequences to his sexual assault, he tried to leave the store. I followed while speaking with the police.
I tried to take several photos of him, but he blocked me with his hand over his face – again, a bit too obvious. Who automatically covers their face?
At the exit, I cut him off and got there first. I called out to to the Walmart Greeter to call security because this guy just showed me a picture of his penis. The sexual predator yelled that I was harassing him. I kept cool and kept talking to the police. Store security showed up, but he made it clear he could not detain the guy.
The sexual predator asked to speak to the police. He repeated his well-rehearsed speech that it was my fault, and all a misunderstanding. He gave the police his real name and phone number (I know this from speaking to the police officer later). When he handed back my phone, I quickly took his photo.
THIS really pissed him off, and he chased after me through the store. When I turned to look at him, he took my photo, then ran off.
Who Came to My Aid?
No one. Absolutely no one. No one intervened and asked what was going on. No one stood silently by my side as a sign of solidarity. No one offered to detain him until the police arrived. When he came after me, no one called out for him to stop. In fact, based on the employees actions, everyone was quick to side with the sexual predator.
The sales associate refused to call security, and instead offered to help the dude pick paint colours. Store security refused to take his photo while the guy was on my phone. No one – and I mean no one – challenged him on his so very unlikely story that it was my fault for swiping through some strange man’s photos.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: who the hell has close-up photos of their erect penis on their phone? Of those people, how many ‘accidentally’ show them to random women while shopping?
Brazen, Daylight Attack
This guy knew what he was doing. He got me to swipe the photos, so he could say he was innocent. He was quick to label me as ‘over-reacting’ and described the event as a ‘miscommunication.’ Ha ha – all very funny. We’ll laugh about this later.
Thankfully for me, the investigating police officer also saw through his thin ruse. In the words of the police officer, he would round this guy up, and scare him straight.
How did this affect me personally? My hands are still shaking, almost 12 hours after the attack. I didn’t realize how shook up I was until I was giving my written report at the police station shortly afterwards. I could barely hold my pen, and I hope they can read my writing.
In the short term, I’ll be okay. The long-term effects of this are disturbing. Will I ever take a man at his word when he needs help? Will I be wary of innocent guys? Will I accidentally pepper spray a guy who tries to show me photos of his new baby?
Make no mistake. This was not a harmless joke or victim-less crime. My life has been changed forever. How I view random men has been forever poisoned.
Stop It Early
I was not this guy’s first victim, but I made his experience today so uncomfortable, and drew so much attention to him, that I might be his last. There were no prior complaints against this guy in the police system, but there sure is now. It will be pretty hard to feign ‘accidental flashing’ twice.
And here’s my plea to all men and women – REPORT ALL INSTANCES OF SEXUAL PREDATION!
Guys like this don’t stop at showing dirty pictures. Soon, it won’t be enough for him to just shock women with pictures of his penis. When will he want to use that penis against a woman in an act of violence?
If the women he flashed before me had called the police, I might not have been attacked today. By calling attention to his sexual abuse in the store, and then calling the police, this just might end here. It might not – but at least the police know who this guy is and what he’s capable of.
Why am I Glad it Was Me?
I teach people how to set and keep mental, emotional, physical and sexual boundaries. Today my convictions and teachings were tested to their limit. It would have been easy to let the guy off, to pretend to believe his lies like the store employees did. I could have just called all my girlfriends and whined about what a crappy day I had.
But I didn’t.
My boundaries were firmly trespassed upon, and I stood my ground. I pushed back, and HARD! I lived my words today. I walked my talk. No one can ever take that away from me. No one makes a victim out of me.
Men and woman of the world – your boundaries matter! Push back. Say something. Yell for help. Make a complaint. Scream. Take a photo or video. Call the police. Intervene for someone else. Do something! Anything!
It’s when we stay silent that the bullies and predators get bold and keep going. It’s when we stay silent that they win.
I’m not perfect, but I’m learning. There was a time when I would have been scared stiff to stand up to that guy. There are plenty of times when I did NOT stand up for myself, when I did NOT protect my boundaries. Those times haunt my memories. I feel the hot flush of embarrassment for how I allowed those bullies and predators to make me feel bad, less, unworthy or unacceptable.
But not today. Today will be remembered as one of courage.
How about you?
Have you ever fought back? Have you ever stood your ground and protected your values and boundaries? I want to hear your story – please share it in the comments.
Or did you get bullied or attacked and were unable to fight back? How did that affect you? How did you deal with it? Please share your story so we may all learn from your experiences.