Male Intimidation is something I have fought my whole life. It seems like when you are a survivor of any kind of abuse or assault you are vulnerable to more abuse. Every single woman I know has had some kind of sexual harassment or abuse. I also know some men who have endured sexual abuse, so this is not only a female issue.
I travel alone quite a bit for my photography and writing. I get really anxious every single time I have to stop for gas or to use the bathroom. I feel better when I take one of my dogs along, but it doesn’t completely relieve my anxiety. Truck stops especially make me nervous. I have had men approach me even with my lab!
I took one trip alone with my teenaged daughter. The worst was the first night we camped in our van at an RV site, and we arrived as it was getting dark. While we were still outside I noticed a young guy walking by without a shirt. He not only looked at us, but stared blatantly even after we noticed him, without looking away. Once passed, he turned back and continually looked at us as he walked away. I had my daughter go inside, and we remained there until the next morning. I had trouble going to sleep because all I could think about was the two of us being alone with no way to defend ourselves. The next morning while we were packing everything up, that same guy walked back by, and did the EXACT same thing. We left shortly thereafter. Once out taking photos of places, I was honked at by multiple truckers driving by, and a couple of them slowed way down like they were going to stop. On another trip, this time all alone, I was driving on the interstate on my way home. I had my window down slightly, listening to music, and was just concentrating on driving. A large extended cab truck pulling a boat pulled up next to me in the fast lane. When I glanced up, I see a guy hanging out of his window pointing a phone at me. There were several other men in the vehicle, all looking, waving, and yelling at me. He continued pointing the phone at me until after they passed me. From then on, every time I stopped I looked to make sure their truck wasn’t there.
Another time I was out exploring, while both of my daughters waiting in the car, a man pulled up directly behind me, got out and rushed toward me. He was trying to tell me he owned part of the property, and he wanted to give me permission to hop the fence and photograph it. While it was a very nice gesture, my PTSD symptoms were triggered, and it took a bit to calm down.
My husband, my youngest daughter, and I stopped somewhere on a family trip to see my other daughter. While my husband was inside, I noticed an older man (I would guess in his 60’s) sat on a bench in front of the building, chugging whiskey out of an enormous jug. With a sneer on his face, he pointed his phone back and forth between my daughter and I. I called my husband and asked him to return immediately. The man also pointed his phone toward other women who were walking in. When he returned, I told him what was happening, and asked him to move to another parking spot where the guy could no longer see us. I also asked him to go complain. My daughter and I stayed in the car, and I started a conversation about it with her. I first second-guessed myself, and she did the same, stating maybe he was filming himself or perhaps he wasn’t trying to intimidate us. Then I realized I was setting an example for her about how to advocate for herself. She does not want to be rude or mean, and always wants to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I told her that sure there was a chance that he was oblivious, but my gut screamed at me he had ill intentions. I explained that she should never worry about being mean or rude to anyone who she felt intimidated by. I think women especially need to get more comfortable with putting their safety first, even when it requires them to be rude or “mean” to the person making them uncomfortable. I told her to ALWAYS listen to her gut, and not to doubt herself. Often what we are feeling doesn’t always make sense, but that doesn’t make it untrue.
The last trip I took, when I returned to my car from the rest stop bathroom, I noticed a man standing near my car. I got in, and locked the door. He continued standing on the driver’s side in my blind spot, just behind the car so I could not pull out. I wasn’t sure if he was just oblivious or if he knew what he was doing. He walked right by the driver’s door, and looked in right at me. Once again, it took a while to get out of panic mode.
I also receive frequent friend requests, and messages from random men I don’t know. One guy wanted to meet me at an abandoned asylum, and I told him ONLY if my husband joined. This man also tried to talk to me about his marriage (at the time I wrote several articles about my divorce), and I encouraged him to work it out with his wife, and to try to keep his family together. I never heard from him again, although I DID hear from his WIFE! She thanked me for having the integrity to encourage him to try and work it out. She also said he reached out to another woman when he didn’t receive the answer he wanted from me, and cheated with her on his wife. On my next post, I will list some dos and don’ts about how to approach women, and I will elaborate more on the online experiences I have had.
I would love to publish your story, whether anonymous or with your name. Begin healing by breaking your silence.
**Feature Photo by Adam Cybulski**
**Other photo by Christian Holzinger**
November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.