Fear or Apprehension

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, and I feel like there is no way to avoid that, but here goes – today I was assaulted, in the truest, strictest legal definition under the common law. 

An assualt, as those of you who have sat through a torts discussion know, is “an act that puts a person in reasonable fear or apprehension of immediate bodily harm.” 

First years get confused by this.  A battery is an unwanted touching.  An attempted battery is assault. 

Today as I went to the job fair, I walked past a McDonald’s that is on the opposite corner of the law school (not my law school, fyi).  As I passed it, a man came out.  We almost knocked into each other, and I mumbled “excuse me” but did not say it louder.  As I waited at the crosswalk, I realized that the man was standing REALLY close to me.  Like, I was in the shadow of his parka.  He was 6’3″; I’m 5’4″.  I felt very uncomfortable, but was boxed in by the traffic light.  When the light changed, I scurried across the street.  He kept pace with me, mumbling.  He was waving his hands around, like he might try to touch me.  At some point he made a strangling-type motion, but I didn’t think it was directed at me. 

As I stood at the second crosswalk, I tried to give the man a wide berth.  I thought he had just been standing really close to me.  It was at this point that I realized something was really off about him.  He walked into the middle of the street, faced me, and started to say incoherant things.  The light turned and the girl next to me and I started walking very quickly towards the law school.  He again kept pace and followed me.  I felt very anxious, but knew security was right inside.  As we got closer to the door, he got close again and stuck his hand in the back collar of my suit jacket.  I felt his fingers on my neck.  I felt absolutely terrified.  Here was a man who was clearly mentally unstable, already had some kind of problem with me, and he was touching me.  It was also not lost on me that he was way bigger than me, and could easily hurt me very badly very fast. 

I jumped away from him, and, I still can’t figure out why I said this, but I said, “Excuse me, sir, please do not touch me!”  Um.  REALLY???  I called my assailant sir?  Really?  At this point, he ran away from me, screaming f*ck you and a number of other obscenities I didn’t quite catch, and then he came back towards me and then he, for some odd reason, pushed the button on the handicapped door opener that opens the door to the law school.  Then he ran off.  The girl I crossed the street with and I went to the front desk and reported it to the security gaurd.  She immediately looked out the window as we pointed out the man, got a description, relayed the description to the main office, and got campus security out looking for the guy as well as had them send over somebody to take a statement from me.  I felt much better after I talked to them, because truthfully, I wasn’t sure if the incident was “that big a deal”, but they treated me like it was important that I be okay and be comfortable. 

I am honestly not sure if I would have reported it if I had been alone.  Probably, yes, but there is a large part of me that worries that I’m making too big a deal out of this.  That I’m a upper middle class white girl who got overly freaked out because she was in a bad neighborhood and somebody not like her got a little too close.  But you guys, this guy put his hand inside my collar.  That is not okay.  It’s just not.  No, I’m not hurt.  But it was really scary.  Then I was really nervous about going outside and actually asked my husband to meet me at the school and walk me home.  So anyway, I think I made exactly the right kind of deal about this.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Fear or Apprehension

  1. I agree that you made exactly the right kind of deal about this. Have you read _The Gift of Fear_? It’s a book about how important it is to listen to your instincts when you’re afraid for your safety. The author writes about how women are taught that they shouldn’t make a big deal out of stuff and worry about being rude to people who make them uneasy in situations where their fear is valid and potentially life-saving.

    This is *not* a middle-class-white-girl-unreasonably-nervous-in-a-bad-neighborhood story. The guy followed you. He put his hand inside your collar. The campus you were on needed to know what had happened. So don’t worry for a second that you overreacted. You did nothing wrong!!

  2. I agree fully with Petite Chablis. You did the right thing by reporting it. What happened was not in your imagination. He followed and touched you. He was clearly mentally unstable.

  3. I’m so sorry that happened to you, and happy you were so close to the campus when it did! I think your reaction was quite appropriate no matter who you are.

  4. Jo

    You made a very good call. Props.

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