In San Francisco last year, a man stabbed a woman in the face and arm after she didn’t respond positively to his sexually harassing her on the street.
In Bradenton, Fla., a man shot a high school senior to death after she and her friends refused to perform oral sex at his request.
In Chicago, a scared 15-year-old was hit by a car and died after she tried escaping from harassers on a bus.
Again, in Chicago, a man grabbed a 19-year-old walking on a public thoroughfare, pulled her onto a gangway and assaulted her.
In Savannah, Georgia, a woman was walking alone at night and three men approached her. She ignored them, but they pushed her to the ground and sexually assaulted her.
In Manhattan, a 29-year-old pregnant woman was killed when men catcalling from a van drove onto the sidewalk and hit her and her friend.
Last week, a runner in California — a woman — was stopped and asked, by a strange man in a car, if she wanted a ride. When she declined he ran her over twice.
And, lest we forget, we’re one big happy planet family here and this exact same dynamic happens the world over in varying degrees and to varying effect. Women operating freely and independently in public is a relatively recent historical development, a shift in social order. Street harassment acts like a thermidor.
What happened to this girl in Florida should make everyone pause. If he did what he’d done in India, people here might be inclined to say, “What a horrible place that is for women.” (Which is true.) Instead, what we say is, “He’s a lunatic,” or, better still, “What was she doing for him to think he could stop and offer her money for sex?” While this man is dangerous, he’s probably not mentally ill. If he is, then so are the millions of other men that feel entitled to assault and brutalize children and women and “othered” people every day.
For women and LGTB people, especially when you consider race and class as legitimate factors in this equation, that risk is significantly higher than it is for most straight men all too comfortable discussing this subject in mocking terms.