Be not afraid…to speak up.

4857“I have to learn to defend myself from men that are acting the wrong way towards me,” she said, still shaking, trying to calm her heart and slow down her breath.

“No,” I said. “No, no, no. You weren’t doing anything wrong. He was the wrong one here, honey. Him – not you.”

This is how my conversation ended the other day in a SuperAmerica in Waite Park. And here’s how it started….

I was thinking about something….I think I was lost in a song (as I have the tendency to do when I have a rare moment in the mom-van to myself) – so, I missed my turn to get gas at my normal gas station. I decided to continue on to the next gas station instead – a bit out of my way, but, oh well…the song was still on:)

As I pulled into the gas station parking lot, I noticed a women coming about from the garbage area, and along behind her followed a man. Not a big deal, usually, but, I saw the look on the woman’s face. Distress. I took in my surroundings: the woman worked at SA, the man did not. He was following after her and she was walking faster.

“C’mon, honey. I just want to know what time you get off work,” I heard him say as I parked the van, windows open. The woman turned on her heel, looked him straight in the eye and calmly said:

“I’m not interested.”

Well, she told him, I thought. But, no.

He reached and grabbed hold of her arm as she tried to walk away and continued to comment on how fine she was looking.

Out of the van I went, marching straight toward this situation, phone in hand, ready to call the police.

As I walked towards them, I wasn’t sure if he saw me – but, he let go of her arm, sighed and said, “Awwww, man! Ok then, darling. I’ll leave you alone.”

The SA worker and I walked into the store together and I went to grab my Diet Coke. I headed back to the counter where she had stood since we walked in the door, back turned to everyone, drinking water, and trying to calm down.

I walked up as she turned around and she started ringing me up.

“I saw what you went through out there,” I said. “That was not OK what he was doing to you.”

“Oh, it’s OK. He didn’t mean anything,” she said, drinking water from a bottle that shook in her hands.

g_minnesota-coalition-for-battered-women-inc-3474-1449786138.5452“Do you think we should call the police? I don’t want him to be waiting here for you after work.” I said, full of concern for not just her, but any woman that comes in contact with this man.

I have to learn to defend myself from men that are acting the wrong way towards me.” she said, still shaking, trying to calm her heart and slow down her breath.

“No,” I said. “No, no, no. You weren’t doing anything wrong. He was the wrong one here, honey. Him – not you.”

This woman I met should not have to learn how defend herself from men that grab her while she’s just trying to do her job. Neither should I. And neither should you or any woman out there.

I told my boys, age 10 and 11, about this story when I go home that night. I told them that they are to care for anyone and everyone they come in contact with. They told me they’d heard this from me before, but I continued. I’ll say it until the cows come home or until I’m blue in the face or until pigs fly or insert another saying here.

“Boys, if someone is being bullied or harassed, speak up. If you get into high school and one of your guy friends wants you to watch porn, don’t do it. The objectification of women stops with you. (And yes, I used the word objectification. They need to know it.) When you go off to college and see a girl too drunk to make good decisions being preyed on by a guy at a party, it is your job to step in.”

And so on, and so on….

If someone is being bullied or harassed, speak up. Click To Tweet

You see, my boys have seen me called every name in the book because of #unitecloud. They know that I get messages that tell me that instead of doing this work, I should make a man a sandwich and then suck their dick. Sorry for the language, but I gotta be real here. When I speak up as a woman, I get told to, instead, make food and perform sexual acts. Some days I laugh about it because, gosh, what else can I do.

But other days – like the day in in the parking lot – I realize that something has to give. Something has to change. Someone has to change it. And, that someone includes me. And my kids.

And you, #unitecloud.

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About the Author

Natalie Ringsmuth

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Natalie grew up in Central Minnesota and received her Music Education degree from Concordia College in Moorhead. She taught middle school choir in Georgia and worked in the church sector for over a decade. She now works as Executive Director of #unitecloud, a non-profit working to reduce racial, religious, and cultural tensions in Central MN and is a trainer with the CARE (Community Anti-Racism Education) Team at SCSU (St Cloud State University). She is a member of multiple boards, including the St Cloud School District 742 board, the United Way Community Impact Team, and the United Way's education initiative, Partner for Student Success. In her spare time (haha) she loves to spend time with her husband and 3 children, making music and playing games.