‘No Means No’or What to Say When I Tell You I’m Being Harassed or Stalked

There are few basic things we should agree on if you are someone I consider a friend and confidant.

First, no means no. People have the right to set boundaries around their bodies, their time, their energy, their families, the sex lives, their hearts, and whatever else they want. They do not owe anyone an explanation or a justification. Period. It doesn’t have to make sense, it doesn’t have to make other people comfortable, it doesn’t have to be resolved, mediated, or fixed. No contact means no contact. No friendship, no relationship, no anything.

When one of my harassers or stalkers surfaces, I can’t simply ignore them. Or perhaps better phrased – I have to invest more energy into ignoring them. I have to revisit my safety plans. I have to tell people in my life in case something happens. I have to be sure to save every iota of evidence via screenshots and downloads and backups. I have to have at least one if not more uncomfortable conversation with someone ‘caught in the middle’ who doesn’t know and never considers that the person I’m describing is the same person they know. And I have to bring other people into the narrative, colleagues on community projects or innocent bystanders.

Second, setting a ‘no means no’ boundary with someone is not these things:

  • Not getting along with someone
  • A falling out
  • A misunderstanding
  • Two sides to every story
  • A call to set things right
  • Drama
  • Using people as pawns to get back at someone
  • An open door for your opinion on any of it or characterization. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it, if you are saddened or sorrowed or frustrated by the inconvenience it causes you to work around the boundary. No means no and that applies to you as well.

As is a common experience for bloggers, especially women and people talking openly about mental health and survivors of childhood abuse and living with complex trauma and also saying political things that raise the ire of well, usually men, I have my history with being harassed online.

Sometimes, it has just been people being ugly for their one shot and they move on to greener pastures. But sometimes … they don’t. Sometimes their need or desire to have proximity to me, to have power over me, to control my actions outweighs any decency. A decent person respects “no” and doesn’t do all of these toxic things even if they perceive themselves to be a decent person.

Some of the latter folx are reading this blog post and having feelings that I am talking about them. I realize that this post may be both feeding their need for my attention and stoking a fire that I don’t want to deal with, again. What they won’t do is allow for the fact that they are not actually special in this regard. It isn’t just one or two or even five people who fall into this category. So while I am not writing this with any specific person in mind – this is not a secret message to anyone – I am writing it with all of them in mind. Enjoy your moment in my mind because it isn’t going to happen again.



I’m also not special. This happens to a lot of women in all walks of life. Just as I’ve never had a single job where I wasn’t exposed to sexual harassment, I’ve not met a lot of women who haven’t dealt with this. I just talk about it more often. I talk about my childhood being programmed by a sexual predator who was protected by other adults in our family. I talk about being assaulted by the boys in my childhood neighborhood. I talk about being sexually assaulted by someone I was dating in my twenties. I talk about the inappropriate, cringe-worthy dates and experiences. Well, not all of them because that would take so much time.

I talk about these things and yet, the predators still circle waiting for an opening and decrying being labeled a predator. That’s a pretty common theme. They are different and special and unique and I am deliberately misunderstanding or misrepresenting them. If I would just listen …

I’m not special. This isn’t happening because of my appearance, sexuality, wit, or je ne sais quoi factor. It is about power and control. When I resist them, they can’t walk away. They can’t walk away.

And you are not doing them or me any favors by dismissing or diminishing that dynamic. We are not two people who can’t get along or had a disagreement or a falling out. There is no “other side” to the story of someone who will not respect my boundary, whether they are a boss or a lover or a family member. If the man who raped me tried to get you to listen to his side of the story, you would not see that as okay. And it is not okay here either.

Yes, I just compared being harassed to being raped because it a continuum. Not everyone who harasses me has any intent of raping me, but they still want to control my mind, my body, my actions, my life. And they will always deny that continuum. They are not like those horrible people. Rape is not about sex, it is about control. If I would just hear them out …

I used to think I was a broken and damaged person who deserved this behavior. But in therapy and through processing the traumas I’ve survived, I realized I was literally programmed to believe that about myself. When I was doubted, silenced, dismissed, or ignored – those doubts were reinforced serving only to isolate me even more.

So I’m not speaking here to the people who harass me. I told them no and they have to figure that out for themselves. I am speaking to you – the mutual friends and acquaintances and family members. I am speaking to your unwillingness to see that controlling violence for what it is because you like the person, because they haven’t actually tried to kill me, or because no matter how much data you have about sexual violence in our society – you don’t trust women yourself.

When one of my harassers or stalkers surfaces, I can’t simply ignore them. Or perhaps better phrased – I have to invest more energy into ignoring them. I have to revisit my safety plans. I have to tell people in my life in case something happens. I have to be sure to save every iota of evidence via screenshots and downloads and backups. I have to have at least one if not more uncomfortable conversation with someone ‘caught in the middle’ who doesn’t know and never considers that the person I’m describing is the same person they know. And I have to bring other people into the narrative, colleagues on community projects or innocent bystanders.

Also there is no “middle” as I mentioned above. There is predation and not predation. No middle.

No one has ever apologized to me for not believing me or for when they throw these events in my face. Not the feminists, not the progressives, not the queers. Certainly not the white chis men.

I realize some of you still don’t believe me. Why do I seem to have so many of these so-called harassers? Am I exaggerating? Could I be reading into it? Am I bringing it on myself by the way I exist? Do I think too highly of myself? It is drama. It is delusional. It is ridiculous that a fat queer disabled ugly dyke would be objectified or fixated upon. It is time for a medication change. The misogyny and ableist tropes just cover this road I walk alone like a sheen of ice.

Or do we live in a world that devalues women, especially those of us with opinions, and a lot of us end up dead because of it?

The thing is that this not just men. Women and nonbinary folks are capable of the same predator behavior as men. I don’t try to figure it out – it is ALL due to toxic masculinity to some extent. It doesn’t matter to me if they have a diagnosis (I have three!) or you think it is worth trying to figure out why they do this. The point is, they do. And you have a moral and ethical duty to stop them if you can. At the very least, you have an obligation to not make it worse.

Enthusiastic consent is a good rule of thumb. Before you connect people via email or other introduction, ask. Then I can gracefully tell you “no thank you” and just sidestep stirring this up again. And you don’t have to absorb any of the traumatic fallout. It is a radically different way of moving through the world – asking if you can make an introduction or send a group text or form a committee. But it works.

Taking the data you know and the realities you see in the world to your own interpersonal circle is also useful. You know and may be very close to abusive people. They are often quite good at hiding their offenses. And this same culture that debases me has also had an impact on how you are programmed to move through the world. You don’t run background checks on your friends and colleagues. You don’t listen to the rumors and gossip. You might not even read the headlines. If you could just allow for the possibility, not the plausibility, of someone you know having the capacity to be this person … you could literally make the world better. Hey, still be friends if you want.

But don’t impose what behavior YOU accept on me.

**********************************************

This blog proudly built by snowflakes, social justice warriors, and the politically correct. Steel_City_Snowflakes

Join the Steel City Snowflakes with a one time or recurring investment in our projects.  Click the image  to see our current snowflakes.

Follow us on Twitter @Pghlesbian24

This post and/or others may contain affiliate links. Your purchase through these links support our work. You are under no obligation to make a purchase.