Last Friday Night: It’s up to us

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Karli Wachtel

After a long and stressful week, Friday nights are perfect for going out and blowing off some steam.

Being new to the 21 club, I am now open to the unfamiliar world of off-campus bars. While I would love to punch the air with the joy of finally “making it,” my new adult life hasn’t solely consisted of merry Tuesday night karaoke and dollar drinks.

I wish I just had funny stories to fondly look back on and laugh about.

“Oh, college,” I hoped I would think to myself. “That was a night to remember. I love being here.”

Instead, I am sitting in my bed, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, thinking, “That was a night I would rather forget.”

For my female readers, I’m sure this sounds familiar, if not identical, to your own experiences at one point or another. Let me give you an example.

This one time at a bar, I witnessed at least 20 women — students and non-students alike — being groped by a strange man with a neck tattoo, a golden chain and slick black hair. I had it happen to me at least three times from the very same man.

This man was quiet, sneaky and flew under the radar. He didn’t really speak to anyone, nor did he have any friends with him. The fact that his presence and actions didn’t cause a scene only made him more eerie and threatening.

He seemed like an obvious predator.

Whenever I would shoo him away, he would turn his attention toward the closest woman in the vicinity and continue doing the same exact thing. After noticing his unwanted, grimy presence, I witnessed the same thing happen to a new girl in the bar.

This was a cycle I’m sure he repeated at least 20 times. I’m equally sure that this activity occurred when I wasn’t paying attention. The scene in the bar was never-ending.

Growing up in New York City, I was taught and constantly reminded what to do when you see something that makes your stomach uneasy and your arm hair stand up — go with your gut and remove yourself from the situation.

More often than not, your intuition is right. Think of it this way: When a strange man says he has candy in his van, do you go get the candy? Or do you walk away?

Listen to your intuition. Don’t get in the van.

On this particular Friday night, I had that familiar gut reaction after watching this man grope woman after woman. I was even more enraged that my peers did not make any effort to tell the guy off.

Maybe the other men in the bar didn’t notice because it wasn’t happening to them. Maybe the women in the bar didn’t speak up because they felt it wouldn’t make a difference. It’s alarming that bar culture normalizes this kind of behavior.

Herein lies the problem: Avoiding the conversation doesn’t help anybody — instead, it can hurt.

What is so disturbing about this particular night is how long this predatory man was able to roam the bar, invading women’s space in a very wrong way. What’s unfortunate is that this is just one example of a very common thing women experience on a daily basis — even by those considered “friends.”

I appreciate not being harassed when I am trying to enjoy a night out with my friends, so I respect those who do not sit idly by and watch this kind of behavior unfold.

This is the kind of behavior that should not be tolerated by any individual — man or woman, bystander or victim. It is the kind of behavior that cannot remain unspoken.

These stories should not be discussed and swept under the rug. They should be acknowledged by any and every type of audience. They should have each and every person feeling something that ignites conversation and promotes change.

So Lehigh, what’s next?

Whatever it is, it’s up to all of us to do something about it.

Karli Wachtel, ’18, is a columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at kaw218@lehigh.edu.

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