I don't know if this is a social issue or not, but I know I'm not the only woman who has ever had an experience like this, so here we go.
There are few instances where I feel uncomfortable defending myself, but one such instance happened just the other day, and in Drumpf’s America, I fear it may happen again.
My husband was meeting up at our favorite dive bar in Atlantic City to catch up with a friend he hadn’t seen in awhile and he needed a ride. Not wishing to intrude on his guy time, I parked at the bar and walked across the street to the Tropicana casino, figuring I’d drop in at my old workplace and see if any of my former coworkers were working. None were, so I ended up just heading back the way I had came. I figured maybe I’d walk up to the beach, as I find the sight and sound of the ocean at night to be very grounding and peaceful. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it that far because I was intercepted by a bunch of drunk guys in a bachelor party.
Coming down the escalator to cut through the (deserted!) bus terminal, four guys coming up the opposite way saw me and exclaimed, “Oh my God!” I braced myself for unpleasantries, because I’m not exactly the prettiest girl, but all they wanted was a high five. Feeling relieved, I obliged, and all four of them got a high five. When I reached the bottom of the escalator there were more guys in the same party. I told them to be safe, but to have a few drinks for me. One of the guys said to me, “More than a few! I’ll have a few drinks with you. Hell, I’ll have a few of you! Let’s go!”
Politely, I declined (I’m married, and also hello stranger danger), and at that point it got nasty. I quickened my pace, but as I was walking away they heckled me and made threatening comments and all I could do was pray that I could make it to the door and outside where there were at least a few bus drivers because I didn’t want to open my mouth and say the wrong thing and have them make good on those threats. My fear was only compounded by the fact that a few years previously, at the 7-11 on the same block, a guy went from hitting on me to threatening to stab me when I told him I wasn’t interested. Atlantic City has the second highest rate of violent crime in New Jersey, so the thought that anyone you encounter might be carrying a gun or a knife is always at the back of my mind.
Thankfully, I made it across the street to the bar where my husband and his friend were, and I told them what happened. The bartender knows us pretty well and he offered to go out and tell them to fuck off, but I told him not to bother as they had probably already disappeared into the casino. Nothing bad happened, but it could’ve, and that is what scares me. I’m unemployed and I’ve got $5 to my name, I can’t afford pepper spray or self-defense classes. If it happens again and it goes much further south, I don’t know what I could do. I just hate feeling so unsafe in the only city that has ever felt like home to me. I don’t want to leave Atlantic City, but I’m feeling increasingly unsafe just living in America right now.