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This Idea That Just Being Nearby May Be Enough

Written By: Lauren Howard

I took my then-infant out for a drive.

She was fussy, and I thought the car might be soothing.

We found our way to a parking lot outside of a department store.

She calmed down, and I figured we could pop into the store after she caught a quick nap.

A woman was walking through the parking lot, and a man was following close behind screaming obscenities at her and demanding that she get in his car. She kept her cool and had her eyes fixed on her phone.

His demands got bigger and louder. He got in her face, tried to intimidate her, and screamed about everything under the sun.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t new to her. She had been here before.

I grabbed my phone and got ready to dial 911. I had no idea what this guy was going to do, and I couldn’t get out of the car because of the sleeping baby.

As I dialed, I looked around the parking lot. She wasn’t alone. Neither was I.

There were at least 6 other women standing by, some already on with dispatch. When we noticed each other, we nodded quietly to acknowledge and just went back to watching.

Each of them looked like they were cemented to the ground and couldn’t be moved. There was a general sense of done-with-it emanating from every pore. We had all been hassled like this at some point. We had all dealt with this guy in some environment. We saw ourselves in our own experiences through this woman, and none of us were going to let this happen again.

Another car drove up and stopped in a spot next to her. She reached for the door handle, and he started to move toward her. For some reason, he stopped and looked around. Maybe he realized that he was in public, or maybe he felt the pressure of at least 12 eyes connected to people who were ready to pounce. Maybe he heard one of the women describing where we were and realized that she was talking to dispatch. Maybe all of the above.

He tantrumed back to his car. Before he even got there, her ride peeled out of the parking lot, hopefully taking her to somewhere safe.

Those of us who were waiting glanced around to each other and gave off a nod that said it was okay to disperse.

Nothing that we did was actionable aside from calling 911, but there was power in that solidarity. I can still feel that moment in my bones. I hope she knows that we were standing by for her.

From that, you get all of this. This idea that just being nearby may be enough. This idea that the existence of community can, in and of itself, empower women to say no, enough, that they deserve more. The idea is that we need to call out bad behavior so that we all stop accepting it.

From a parking lot to here. If you need to, look up for the nod. You’ll catch it and know we’re around.


Founder & CEO at elletwo


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