What the Evolution of Hygiene Can Teach Us About Harassment

“You shouldn’t tell that story to people. It makes you sound weak,” a guy I knew in law school said. I had just told him how, when I lived in Ukraine, I visited my friend Vanessa in central Ukraine. We got on a bus alone, with only ourselves and the two bus drivers, late at night. We expected the bus drivers to take us back to her area of town. Instead, they drove out into the corn fields and tried to feel us up. They asked us if we liked to party, as Vanessa gathered keys and a broken antenna as weapons around her. We both looked out into the dark cornfields as the bus drove away from town, thinking we may have to fight these men or run out into the fields to save ourselves.

I spoke Russian, not Ukrainian, and so Vanessa yelled at the bus drivers for both of us.

Ultimately, they looked at the weapons, looked at each other, and the driver at the steering wheel broke into a sweat. They understood that we were not going to make things easy for them, and they drove us back into Vanessa’s town.

When I worked in trial court, just after law school, I realized that what happened to Vanessa and me in Ukraine was kidnapping. It had never occurred to me before.