Put in My Place

This past Tuesday I woke up to International Women’s Day feeling excited.  I practiced mindfulness as I went throughout my morning routine, which was especially busy that day.  I ran to various stores, banks, and dropoffs.  I wanted to get done with my work and then go for a short run, listening to all my favorite female artists on my playlist in honor of the day.

As I got home from picking up my son from school, running milk and water into the house and grabbing bikes to take to the shop while my boys waited in their carseats, I noticed that Tim was at my next door neighbor’s house.  Tim is a neighbor from one street over, characterized by his intensity.  He once found my lost keys and walked around the entire neighborhood for an hour until he found me and returned them to me.  He also takes it upon himself to inform all the residents in our area of their alleged infractions of HOA rules.

In fact, just a few days before he had yelled over his fence that we weren’t allowed to play in the parking lot while my son learned to ride his bike.  My husband and I argued with him for a few minutes, tried to leave several times, and resolved to ignore him from then on at all costs.  This was mostly because he asked for our address in a menacing way, prompting me to immediately sit up and take notice of the implicit threat in his voice.  I told my husband that I did not feel safe around him after seeing him come after us so aggressively.

Growing up in abuse has made it so I can see abuse coming from a mile away.  I usually go with my gut when I choose not to trust someone.  I take careful inventory of if I feel threatened, belittled, or treated as “lesser-than”.  I joke sometimes that I grew up with master manipulators, and I am unimpressed with the efforts of some people that I meet by comparison.  My neighbor Tim set off this alarm in me that day.

So here I am, a few days later, trying my best to avoid him, and finding him almost on my doorstep, literally.  I was standing in my driveway, loading bikes onto the rack, trying to avoid talking to him.  However, Tim saw me and immediately came up and started yelling.  Now that he knew where I lived, he remembered the time he had brought me my keys.

He verbally attacked me for arguing with him, for not being nicer to him because of the keys incident, called me confrontational, said he was glad he knew where I lived now.  Because he’s the kind of person who talks over people and doesn’t listen, I already knew I didn’t stand a chance trying to reason with him again, or trying to engage him at all.  He was right about everything, and he knew it.  From the moment he stepped onto my driveway and into my personal space, my alarm went off full throttle.  I started shaking, but kept my head and repeated these words to him, forcefully, over and over: “I don’t want to talk to you”, “Get off my property”, “Stop talking to me”, and “Leave me alone”.

He spent ten minutes ignoring my request for bodily safety.  He felt entitled to threaten me with his words and his proximity.  He told me what to do, and how, and without a trace of irony told me how confrontational I am.  He finally stepped away from me as I didn’t back down.  I kept shaking and got into my car as he bemoaned to my next door neighbor how awful I was.  I dropped off my bikes at the shop, called the HOA to lodge a complaint, and then called my husband.

As the shock wore off, I realized that I had been harmed in a way that warranted police intervention.*  I deserve to live in my house without fear of verbal attacks, or eventual physical assault (which I’m sure could happen if I talk to this man again).  In fact, I owe that to my sex to stand up for myself.  So I did.  I have healed enough in my life to know what I deserve, and to take it.

On International Women’s Day, I honored myself as a person deserving respect.  I took action when I was put in my place by Tim, declaring to humanity everywhere: “No, I will not cower to this controlling man.  I will defend myself and not apologize for it.  I know what is right, and I will boldly stand up for myself.”

I am a woman who has worked too long and hard to cower to old, sexist, aggressive neighbors.  But I am a big enough person to see him for the way he is, and let it be.  The greatest experience I could have had for IWD was the reminder of how some people see me.  I feel closer to women all over the world because if it.  And I feel stronger in my sense of self.

*I did call the police, and he was served with a trespass warning.  I haven’t seen him since.

Kendahl

kendahl is a queer fat left-handed INFJ synesthete mother warrior activist social worker abuse survivor unapologetically brilliant powerful witch

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25 Responses

  1. Great post! Chilling. Hopefully there will be an update in the future? This is definitely not a guy you want to spend much time with! I hope he’s not married.

    • kmillecam says:

      I’m just hoping not to see him anymore. We drive by his house all the time on our way out of the neighborhood, and I know that one of these days his garage door will be open and I’ll need to deal with the trigger of seeing him again. But for now I’m content with knowing I called the police and he knows I’m not messing around. I should probably put that in the OP, huh? Oops!

  2. Megan B. says:

    Good for you! I think too many times we fight for others but not ourselves.

  3. z says:

    Sounds like he might be mentally ill or have some kind of Aspergers-type condition. Not that that makes you wrong to stand your ground.

    • Kmillecam says:

      I have wondered that. At the very least he has lived a life where not many people have stood up to him. He seems to think he’s in charge of everyone in the world, and if you don’t allow him to then you’re against him. That’s got to be an exhausting way to live.

  4. Laura says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I had an experience this week as well with an acquaintance who crossed the line into verbal/emotional attacking. It woke me up, made me realize it’s a pattern with him, and I need to protect myself by refusing to engage. I commend you for holding your ground and setting an example for me. Wish me luck!

    • Kmillecam says:

      Definitely don’t engage, and definitely stand up for yourself by lodging a complaint if necessary if he doesn’t back off. They say that we teach people how to treat us.

  5. Lisa says:

    this was such a great post. thanks for sharing your story with us and for being such a strong woman!

  6. Laurie says:

    It’s amazing how violent verbal communication can be, and how it can move through our bodies. I like how you finished your post – my first impulse when hearing that he wasn’t honoring your boundaries was, “Call the police!” I used to manage apartments and learned the local police number quickly for those tenants who did not honor my boundaries. Happy International Women’s Day!

    • kmillecam says:

      Yes, and it felt so GOOD to call the police. They went to his house and gave him a trespass warning at my request. So now he’s not allowed to come onto my driveway or path outside my front door anymore. I haven’t seen him since.

      • Thank goodness. Some people, you can still love as fellow human beings who suffer along with everyone else, but ALSO keep up a necessary boundary. Mental illness or not, you have to protect yourself and your family from certain people and their behaviors.

      • Funny, as I was reading, that is what I was thinking of.

        It probably made the point for him. So many people are used to being able to embark on self-righteous rants that they are quite surprised to be cut off.

        And now, the police have his number, so to speak.

  7. Debra says:

    I hope you did call the police, and file a complaint. He crossed over the line too far, when he crossed into your yard, and would not back off with your repeated statements to get him to leave.

    Good for you for standing up to him, without escalating!

  8. Kmillecam says:

    You’re welcome, and thanks to everyone who thanked me 🙂 This is how we can support each other as women in this world. We tell our stories and strengthen each other!

  9. Caroline says:

    Kmillecam,
    Thanks for this post. Absolutely disturbing to hear how some people can be so aggressive and abusive, and with someone who is a complete stranger at that. Way to stand up to him, and I’m so glad you got that restraining order.

    One of my favorite scenes in fiction is one in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, where the main character is in a remote cafe on a Native American reservation and stands up to some guys there. An abused woman who was with the guys later leaves her 3 year old daughter in the main character’s car. It was the main character’s unwillingness to put up with crap from these men that signaled to this mom that she was the right person to take on the care of this abused girl and protect her. Fantastic novel.

  10. Tom Haws says:

    I’m sorry you have to experience the threat of such an intimidating presence in your neighborhood. Good for you for asking him off your property and giving him a trespass warning. Hugs and high fives, Kendahl.

  11. jks says:

    You did great. Thanks for sharing the story. Reading this may help other women know what to do if we end up in a similar situation.

  12. Tatiana says:

    Congratulations! I’ve encountered two men at different times who thought because I was female it was fine to yell at me and curse me in an angry voice. In both cases I simply sat stunned, looked at them calmly, and didn’t reply. Now I wish I had told them calmly to stop yelling at me and acting threatening, then called the police when they didn’t.

    I also grew up abused, and at one point I made it a (tacit) condition of my employment that my boss never yell at me. I simply decided that if a boss ever did, I would turn in my notice on the spot. Since I made that decision, no boss ever has, thankfully. People who make that mistake need to be corrected immediately. I’m so glad you called the police.

  13. Kristen says:

    It’s terrible how often it is a revelation to us, women, that we don’t have to put up with threatening behavior from men.

    A couple of summers ago, I met an older man in front of my home and he began stalkerish behavior. He was always looking for me (as he was “just passing by” on a bike or motorcycle) and would spot me in narrow places deep in my large yard (where any normal person who was really just passing by would never see me) and come to talk to me without any invitation. Finally, we called the police when he left a long rambling letter on our car’s windshield (driveway DEEP in the yard). The officer I talked to surprised me when he said, “You should have called the first time you met him!”

    You know, I just didn’t think I would be taken seriously. While he had a decent deficiency in understanding cultural norms of personal/property boundaries, he hadn’t ever yelled or made any obvious threats. But apparently the cops know better than I did — they don’t have to yell at you to be considered a threat that you don’t have to accept.

  14. spunky says:

    As soon as I started reading this, I thought “she needs to report this to the police”…. so glad that you did. Glad that you are okay too. Stuff like that can shake you for some time.

  15. Heidi says:

    Good for you Kendahl, I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

    A few years ago, I was walking to the store to pick up a few things before going to pick my kids up from school. I was walking on the sidewalk (the only path) and came upon a man and woman in a ferocious argument. He was being very violent, screaming in her face and pushing and shaking her. There was no one else around and, as I got closer, I started to panic — Should I say something? Ask if she needed help? Call the police, turn around and walk the other way? Suddenly, he saw me and began shouting and swearing at me, telling me to mind my own business. Of course, I was staring, they were blocking the path and I was afraid he was going to hurt her. At that moment, something in me flipped and I very calmly told him to stop threatening me, that he was being verbally abusive and needed to get out of my face or I would call the police. I repeated myself and then he called me a b***h, but backed down. I asked the woman if she needed help or wanted me to call someone, but she said no and began walking away in the other direction. He let me pass and shouted at her down the street, but didn’t follow her. I was terrified and really regret that I didn’t call the police.

    • Heidi says:

      Should have read that through before I posted, *I was afraid the man was going to get even more violent, he was already being violent.

      • Caroline says:

        Wow, Heidi. Way to keep your head in that situation. I bet I would have had no clue what to say or do. Calling the police would have been good, but what you did was great as well. You called him on his abusive behavior and gave the woman a chance to get away.

  16. SilverRain says:

    “You should have called the first time you met him!”

    I hate this type of sentiment. As I’ve had to learn to deal with an abusive parent of my children, I’ve also had to try to learn the complex unwritten rules as to when you’re supposed to call the police and when you’re not.

    When he walked through a temporary restraining order to leave flowers on my driveway, I didn’t call. I probably should have. When he threatened me online, I called and was told I shouldn’t have. I continue to be baffled.

  17. Good on you. And your post brought back years of HOA horrors. I hate HOAs. Moved to get away from one!

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