I've seen it. I've heard of it. I've even experienced it. I've shared in other people's experiences. But this one was different. This one shook to my core for weeks. This one took something away from me. My security.
I'll recount the experience below. Once this happened, I thought I was making a big deal out if and tried to make jokes about it. But it haunted me at night. I could see it clear as day in my dreams. I told my sister Susan, and she said I had to at least report to my supervisor. I still thought perhaps I was being silly. The next day, I told my boss and he said I wasn't overreacting and that the incident needed to be reported immediately. We told our office manager (a woman) who immediately validated fears I hadn't allowed to surface. She told me she understood that I probably felt unsafe since I'm a woman, that I wouldn't get in trouble for reporting the incident as it is the right thing to do, and that we can't ignore the fact that he was trying to intimidate me.
As soon as those words came out of her mouth, I started to cry. I finally let it hit me. Anything could have happened to me and no one would have known. My path is in the woods. I would ordinarily be happy to see security but how can I be happy again? The scenarios finally began to play and I immediately had a pounding headache. I completed an incident report that day (which is what I'll put below), we filed it with the head of security since my encounter was with a security staff and I went home to try to breathe. The next day, the Director issued an apology and stated that he had found the person responsible. He also stated that there would training sessions for his staff to better handle situations.
Here's my experience...
On March 30th 2015 between 4:30 and 5 p.m., I was walking home from work as I usually have for the last 4 years. On crossing the street, I noticed security’s jeep coming down the hill and signaling to turn left on to the road I was on. I moved to the farthest left of the road to allow the car turn in, but noticed that the car kept going straight down. I didn't think anything of this and kept on walking home.
A few minutes later, I stopped to take a breath and look around. It was then I discovered security driving up the hill (extremely quiet if not, I would have heard the car or felt the vibration on the road) and two other people (Caucasians) running up the hill. I turned around, kept walking to the side of the road to make space for the vehicle. The driver drove up to me and the following conversation ensued:
Security: Ma’am do you work here?
Me: Here where? The University? Yes
Me: I don’t have it with me
Security: Where are you going?
Me: I’m going home. There are apartments at the top of the hill (pointing in the direction of buildings).
Security: I know there are the water things up there.
Me: Yes. But if you drive up to the top, you’ll see the buildings.
Security: I've never seen anyone walk here.
Me: There are two people running (pointing to them). They could be running home.
Security: It doesn't matter (reaches for notepad and pen on the passenger’s side). What is your name?
Me: (at this point the runners have run past the car) is that really necessary?
Security: (didn't respond)
I felt unsettled by the questioning and since I couldn't see anyone else coming up or going down the hill, I started to walk home. I was afraid to look for my cell phone because I didn't want to risk missing something in the process. I walked as fast as I could and looked back when I got to the top of the hill hoping I wouldn't see the car anymore. But I did and that made me feel more frightened. I didn't breathe properly nor feel safe again until I was inside my apartment.
Other encounters with security have included them offering me a ride to campus during bad weather and casual hellos. This is the second time I've been approached by security about walking. The first time, I was asked if I worked at the University and where. On answering, he said OK and kept driving. This the first time I felt unsafe in the path. It felt as though I was being intimidated by him. I have always viewed my path as safe because it is patrolled by security and I’m a female walking by myself.
While I'm extremely grateful that this isn't the worst it could have been I was also amazed at how greatly affected I was by the situation. It probably doesn't help that this is all the news is full of these days so it's very hard for one's mind not to wander. I had also just seen the "Scandal" episode addressing racial profiling and that had left me cold and scared (I haven't been able to watch another episode). I also saw the episode of "Being Mary Jane" in which because of a driving spot, she was called a Black B****. She responded "Really? Can't I just be a b****?" When she got home, she sat down and cried.
That feeling of what did I do to deserve this? Is what I battled for weeks. And walking to work again last Thursday, amidst heart palpitations, made me feel like I had just owned something big again. My independence and my freedom. It'll probably take longer for me not to have a coronary every time I see a security vehicle for fear that I might see that particular driver, but it'll happen. It has to happen.
Have a wonderful week devoid of stress.
Image Source: Huffington Post