We received a request to include an anonymous post on our site. After discussing it amongst the team, we have decided to honor this request. Though we know who has contributed the story, we are respecting their wish to remain anonymous.
I’d like to take a minute to talk about an uncomfortable subject – sexual harassment. Does it happen in the birding community? Of course it does. Probably more frequently than we’d like to believe. Does it get reported? Not as much as it should. What could be considered sexual harassment? If you even have to ask that question – you may be the offending party. This isn’t just an issue of men harassing women either. It can happen to anyone.
It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk about, but it happened to me. I had a bird friend that was going through a divorce. Naturally, I was there to lend an ear (as I would for all of my friends). If I feel like advice is needed, I will offer my advice otherwise I try to keep things light and make jokes so my friends forget about their stresses – even if only for a moment. I must have made this friend feel better because they started telling me how beautiful I was. I have some self esteem issues and so I laughed it off. I never thought they were being serious. Then this friend wanted to hang out with me all the time. And I let them. Everyone needs someone they can trust to vent their frustrations too. It really makes you feel better. I’m here to listen.
Then the person started talking about how much they were in love with me. Uhh – say what?!?! And again, I laughed it off. There’s no freaking way anyone could be in love with me. You don’t even know me. I have my own issues I’m struggling with and the feelings are not mutual.
I still saw this person at the parks frequently. I was still friendly with them. When I saw this person at the parks, they would try to grab me by my hand and kiss me on the cheek and talk explicitly about how attracted they were to me. It got really irritating. I am more of an avoidant person, so instead of addressing the issue head on; I tried to change up my routine to avoid this person. Seeing this person’s car made me nervous. If this person got to a park before I did, I would turn around and leave – even if it had taken me 40 minutes to get there. If I saw the person coming down a path, I would turn around and hope they didn’t see me or find a spot where I could hide in the woods until they passed.
It’s really hard to enjoy a hobby when you’ve become someone else’s hobby. I felt guilt and shame that I let this happen to myself. I did not tell the person to stop or leave me alone because I thought if I did not return the feelings they would get the hint. I tried to come up with any excuse to make them disinterested in me. I did not report the incident either. I just let it frustrate and anger me. If it wasn’t for this incident – I genuinely liked the person as a friend.
What should you do if you find yourself in this situation? Report it to the police – even though I’ve been laughed at by the police for reporting this type of behavior before. At least this way there’s a record of the harassment. Also file a restraining order, but be aware that a piece of paper isn’t going to keep the person away from you. Sharing a hobby makes the situation even more difficult. Parks are open to the public and as much as it sucks to say this – the offender has just as much right to be at the park as you do. Cut all contact with the offender. Know their car – if you see it – leave. If they’re coming into a park you’re already at – try your best to avoid them. Stay vigilant. Your safety is top priority. You do not have to put up with this type of behavior.
Editor’s Note: We are grateful to the source of this post. It was not an easy thing for them to share and we are offering our support. If this is happening to you – know that we are here to listen to you and support you.