Bailey Inman, age 23

Dallas, Texas

“It’s Not My Fault”

Why is it my fault?

When I think about that day and the events leading up to it, I still can’t see where I am the one at fault. I was 20 years old and had my fair share of encounters with strangers, particularly men, that I didn’t care for. I would politely laugh at an inappropriate joke or pretend to not hear a sexist remark. I had been in the restaurant business for 4 years at that point and had my fair share of unwanted advances. So that day I didn’t think twice about going to a self-serve car wash alone.

Both my sisters and my boyfriend were home at the time, but I prided myself on independence and was quite capable of washing my car by myself. In truth, nothing happened until I was leaving. The car wash had small stalls and I was driving slowly towards the exit when a man approached my car. I immediately became uncomfortable, but didn’t want to appear rude so I let him come up to my open window. I’m immediately noticed this man was bigger than me as he seemed to loom over my car. He was also older than me, at least mid-thirties, so I thought maybe he needs directions or help or something. He leaned his head into my car window and started saying how beautiful I was and how he wanted to take me out. I became very embarrassed and regretful that I had stopped my car in the first place. I politely declined by explaining I was involved with someone else, which was a completely true statement. I was hoping that would be the end and I could just drive away but he changed tactics. He went on about how he was brand new to this area and didn’t have any friends. He asked for my number, but on the basis of “friendship”. Again I politely declined, saying that I was just really busy and not familiar with the area either. He pressed me more and at this point I started to feel like an animal trapped up against a wall. He kept insisting he wanted to be friends. I felt like I couldn’t leave. I had already said no but he wouldn’t step away from my car.

Frustrated, I said a fake number and prayed that I could finally just leave. That didn’t happen. He called the number right in front of me! I’m sitting in my car flushed with anger and embarrassment as my phone obviously didn’t ring. At that point I am just ready to get away from this man who has both hands resting on my driver side window. I give him my real number this time with the intent of blocking it when I get home. He thanks me for my number and finally steps away from my car. I am relieved, but I am also disgusted with myself. I feel like punching a wall out of anger and frustration, but I also feel like crying. This man made me feel powerless to say no and I ended up giving out my personal information. I get home and immediately tell my boyfriend, expecting him to be as angry and surprised as I am. Instead I get this reply;

“Why didn’t you just drive away?”

“Why didn’t you threaten to call the police?”

“Why did you let him have your number?”

I was shocked and hurt by his words. From the outside, I suppose it sounded ridiculous that I stopped and stayed only to be polite. It was silly of me not to drive away because I didn’t want to be mean and hurt someone else’s feelings. But that’s not how it felt. I felt trapped, without any real options. My boyfriend devalued my feelings and the situation somehow became my fault. I was somehow to blame for being taken advantage of and cornered like some kind of animal. Upset by his response, I told my sisters what happened and they replied with similar answers!

“Why did you stop in the first place?”

“Why didn’t you tell him to fuck off?”

At this point I’m in tears, because I was embarrassed about giving a strange man my number, but apparently I am the one at fault. My family and friends tell me it’s no big deal and that I can just block his number. By the time I had gotten back home I already had 6 text messages from this man. I blocked his number and deleted the messages with the hope that I would forget about it as soon as possible. However, for the next 3-6 months I received calls from varying unknown numbers throughout the day and text messages from this man trying to get ahold of me. At one point I dreaded the sight of an unknown number because I was afraid it might be him on the other end.

I am 23 years old now and I still get angry and upset when I think about that encounter. I am angry with a society who tells girls to always be polite and kind. I am angry with a society who places sole responsibility on the woman to leave an uncomfortable situation. I am angry at society for allowing men to create these encounters over and over again without repercussions.

So I can continue to ask myself,

“Why didn’t you just drive away?” 

“Why didn’t you threaten to call the police?”

“Why did you let him have your number?”

But instead I put those poisonous words away and instead ask;

“Why didn’t he take no as an answer?”

I had my power stolen away from me in the moment, but I refuse to let him have power over me ever again. It is not my fault.