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March 21, 2018

3/7/2018 3:21:00 PM
Room for a View: Take a Stand
by Peggy Tarr

March is Women’s History Month, a time to respect and appreciate women of all types and the contributions and achievements women have made and continue to make. 

In the spirit of the #Me Too movement, I decided to write about the arbitrary response to sexual harassment that occurred decades ago in Evanston.

One of my neighbors was a single mother on welfare, whom I shall call Carol.  She had a boy and a girl.  The girl was approximately 11 years old.  Carol’s landlord was a well-respected Evanston citizen, who owned other property on our street.  Occupying one of his apartments was an older couple. 

Carol called me one summer’s day to report that as she took her bath, she heard the man across the street tell her daughter to “just touch it.”  She got out of the tub immediately, dressed and went outside.  The man left the scene.  Her daughter confirmed that the man wanted her to touch his penis.  Carol called the police, but the police did nothing.  Was it because she was a welfare recipient and the man was related to her well-respected landlord?  Need I say she was upset.  I reported this to my alderperson, but nothing was done.

Several months after that, one of my daughters, who was in middle school at that time, told me that on her way home, a man spoke to her and said that she played with his grandkids and offered her candy.  She refused it as she had been instructed.  I told her to walk with me down the street to see if she saw this man.  As we walked, her eyes let me know that she now saw the man sitting on the steps of the house across the street.  When asked, she confirmed that that was the man who offered her candy.  We returned home via a different path.

I decided to go over and confront the man.  His wife let me in and told me that her husband was in the bedroom when I asked to speak to him.  I told her that I was not leaving until he came out.  She went into the bedroom, and he appeared shortly thereafter.  When I confronted him about bothering kids, he said he was just talking to the kids in the store.  I corrected him by saying that that was someone else’s kids he was messing with; that he had bothered my kids on our street and offered them candy; that he best cross the street when he saw my girls and not bother them because “I will kill you.”  His wife chimed in with, “You tell him, you tell him,” which let me know that she was well aware of his harassment/assaults on kids.

I reported the above to my alderperson, who reported it to the police, who at first said they would not do anything because the man had not really done anything.  I don’t know what my alderperson said to the police, but she convinced the police to go to the man’s house and tell him that if anything happened to any kids, he would be the person they would come after.  The man would cross the street whenever he saw my girls or me coming down the street.

I am delighted and encouraged by the girls and women that are marching and speaking out against sexual harassment of and assaults on girls and women.  Praises for the males that are joining in.  It may take a lot of time and energy to make attitudinal and legal changes in the treatment of females, but it is well worth the effort.  Let us confront sexual assaults on people, period.  Take A Stand.

“If you have a purpose in which you can believe, there’s no end to the amount of things you can accomplish.” (Marian Anderson, 1897-1993; African American; opera singer, participant in civil rights movement, “goodwill ambassadress” for U.S. Dept. of State)

“Action is the antidote to despair.” (Joan Baez, 1941-; American; singer, songwriter, anti-war, environmental and civil rights activist)

“If you rest, you rust.” (Helen Hayes, 1900-1993; American; actor)

“When you get to the end of your rope – tie a knot in it and hang on.”  (Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962; American; First Lady,  United Nations diplomat and humanitarian)

“All my work is meant to say, ‘You may encounter defeats, but you must not be defeated.’” (Maya Angelou, 1928-2014; African American; writer, singer, civil rights activist)

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