A Dirty Phone Call Is No Laughing Matter
This afternoon I answered the phone at work with the usual “Good afternoon, [NAME OF FIRM]”. There followed the distinct, unmistakable sound of a man masturbating down the phone. I wasn’t sure, I decided to waste their phone bill, put the phone down on my desk, second-guessed and questioned my hearing, listened again, realised my first assumption was correct, and hung up. I say unmistakable now, but I did question myself. I was and am still, 5 hours later, shocked.
I’ve never been on the receiving end of a dirty phone call before. I’ve experienced plenty of other types of sexual/bodily harassment as has almost every other woman (if not all) but never a dirty phone call. Since writing that blog I’ve remembered this further invasive experience:
I was undergoing electro-acupuncture for back pain quite a lot of years ago. The acupuncturist was using needles with crocodile clips attached through which the current was passed. He dropped one of the crocodile clips and decided to retrieve it from its lodging place in the dip of my buttocks, in the centre, by crooking his finger and fishing it out. This meant his finger touched and hooked almost into my bum. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? I am sure a couple of you smiled, and I don’t blame you for it. We are conditioned to find such things funny in so many ways.
I didn’t find it funny, I was shocked and immediately wanted to get straight out of there, but as I was almost naked and alone I didn’t feel able to. What makes it even funnier (in a not-at-all sort of way) is that the crocodile clip was on wires; had to be, to conduct the electricity through. He could have simply pulled the wires to pick the clip up, with no touching necessary.
I will never have acupuncture again. I left the shop numb and shaking, and promptly burst in tears. Luckily I bumped into a person I knew who made sure I was okay and whom I managed to persuade not to go in the shop and punch the acupuncturist through to next week. He is a big bloke so could easily have done it, and I can’t say I wasn’t tempted, but that is not my way. I needed support and comfort, not hypermasculine violence which would just leave me feeling worse for having been the unwitting cause of it.
I got my money back for the remaining session I had booked, but the shop refused to admit that there was anything at all wrong with the elderly gentleman’s conduct. No action was ever taken. As I know, he still works there and gives treatments. I walk past the shop every time I leave work (for those who know me personally, it’s not the one below my office).
Back to the dirty phone call. I had identified where I worked when I answered the phone. The person knew where I was, and I was alone in the office all day (a very rare occurrence). What about when I went home? Might they try to find the office? Is it possible they could turn up? If so, what then…?
Unlikely, I am sure, but the fact is I didn’t know that for sure. It could happen. It was extremely likely it would be simply a one-off incident, but there was no way I could possibly know.
I posted a status message and jokes were made. I didn’t find them funny. I appreciate the people were probably just trying to cheer me up, but what it made me feel was belittled and stupid for being so shocked and upset. It’s not funny. Read #yesallwomen on twitter, if you have even a modicum of disbelief about the world we live in.
I spent the afternoon trying not to worry, but when I left work I found myself looking all around me, suspicious of any man who came near me. I work in a town centre, there were a lot of people around me. A lot of men, of all ages. I was suspicious of all of them. Again, it is very unlikely anything would happen, but again, I did not know that for sure. There was no way I could know. Not all men, true, but how am I to pick out the ones that are bad from the ones that aren’t?
I am normally quite street-aware anyway, but was hyper-vigilant tonight. Even so, I still felt panicky, walked faster, was jumpy and managed to stop the panic attack before it started. I stood at the bus stop, wary of any male passenger getting on the bus, thinking to myself “he came up behind me, he’s running for the bus, why? Is he following me?” It may be paranoia but then again it may not be, stalking happens. It’s extremely unlikely and statistically I am safe, but I repeat again, I did not know that for sure.
I did not feel truly safe until I walked in my front door. Now with the passage of time, with a night’s sleep, and distance, I will feel safe again. The world is locked out and I am now in my cocoon, my safe place, my warm and calming home.
All that from one dirty phone call. I am angry now, and will keep on with #yesallwomen and confronting, blogging, fighting any way I can.
And that, dear reader, is why it is no laughing matter.