Say youve got a house service issue scheduled for your day internet repair, an appliance delivery, or your maintenance person is arriving at fix something in your apartment and youre home alone. Can you feel safe letting in someone you dont know?
Youve done it often before. But the service person asks whether you’ve got a boyfriend.
How can you feel? What can you do?
When USA TODAY asked visitors to reveal about their experiences during home service calls, responses came in from in the united states describing encounters that left them feeling uncomfortable angry behavior, inappropriate sexual comments, or leering, or texting afterward that stretched late in to the night.
While some incidents didnt total assault, these were alarming enough to create people feel vulnerable within their own homes. The most typical word used to spell it out the encounters: creepy.
Some individuals reported the incident to the business, the policeor both but many had to navigate the companys maze of contacts or received little to no follow-up from anyone. Some chose never to report at all, fearing retaliation from the service person, and quietly hoped it could disappear completely.
For 66-year-old Susan Hawkins of Fort Worth, Texas, a 2016 encounter with a cable man left her scared, shocked and embarrassed.
On your day of the installation, she was excited. She usually had her grandchild with her, but that day she was alone. When she was speaking with the cable man concerning the bill, she said he informed her he previously a deal on her behalf: He’d waive the installation fee if she had sex with him.
She froze, said noand visited her room. When she returned, the person exposed himself to her.
I was so embarrassed, Hawkins said.
He kept urging her to the touch him and also have sex with him. She told him to leave. When he realized she was serious, he informed her he’d finish installing the cable, then leave. He stayed for one hour, she said.
Hawkins kept her entry way open, thinking what shed want to do to guard herself if he attacked her. She may have hurt him, she said, but didnt desire to.
I felt so vulnerable with him, she said.
Hawkins never told anyone what happened. She actually is a Black woman, and he was a white man. Filing a complaint against him could have meant increasing contrary to the world, she said. She just wanted everything to disappear completely.
Since that incident, she says she’s stranger danger, rarely leaves the home and finds it hard to trust people.
Looking back, she now suspects the cable man had gotten away with that behavior before. She feels angry knowing other women likely faced similar situations.
At that time, she said, I thought I was just the only person.
Why reporting is hard and just why it matters
Jim Willshier, chief public affairs officer at The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said women especially dont report since they feel nobody will believe them, including good friends and family.
Women and men alike could be afraid ahead forward since they dont desire to be ridiculed or regarded as weak.
Some may believe that reporting the incident will trap them in an extended bureaucratic process.
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Willshier notes that the reporting process doesnt need to focus on contacting police or the business; it could mean telling someone the individual trusts, such as a relative or good friend.
Telling your inner circle will help you process the incident, and that means you dont second-guess yourself, he said. In addition, it will help you take the next phase, to are accountable to the business or police.
Sometimes, why someone might turn out months or years later, and at the moment reach a spot where they are able to come forward, is basically because they simply need to obtain it out, he said.
He advises the individual hearing help the victim be believed should they move forward but says sometimes just listening will do.
You need to be the sounding board, Willshier advises. Most of us have different experiences and most of us experience things differently. So, our way to healing and what we wish differs from individual to individual.
Trish Hoffman, a retired lieutenant with the Albuquerque Police Department and founder of Women Against Crime, a self-defense training company, said that when a scary situation doesn’t get reported to police or the business, a similar thing can happen to someone else.
Even though you feel you aren’t being heard, reporting leaves a paper trail that later can identify a pattern of unusual behavior.
Could it be the right move to make? Absolutely. Nonetheless it takes some guts, Hoffman said. So often, we dont pay attention to our gut instinct about someone being creepy, and… blow it off.
When reporting doesnt go anywhere
When 50-year-old Angela Fabian, of Denton, Texas, tried to report her incident to the business, she was submitted circles.
It just happened through the onset of the pandemic in 2020, when Fabian, an individual parent, was home-schooling her 10-year-old son. These were so isolated that she figured getting cable would help pass enough time.
She was alarmed to see two men at her door. These were not wearing the business uniform, but claimed to be with the cable provider. Then, they stared at Fabians chest.
The complete situation made me very uncomfortable, she said.
She didnt desire to let them in, but thought that since they will be working outside, it could be OK.
They drilled holes in to the side of the home and damaged her roof. She couldnt clearly talk to them, she said, since they relied on the phones to translate the majority of the conversation into and out of Spanish.
These were at her home for at the very least three hours, and she found herself wondering if they were scoping out her house to come back later.
Once they left, Fabian called the business concerning the damage, but was instead directed to international call centers. She asked for different departments, but nobody knew what she was discussing. She said a few of the representatives laughed at her and hung up.
She eventually got to someone in tech support team who was in a position to contact the cable men concerning the damage that they had done.
That night, among the men called and texted her at 10 p.m. attempting to come to repair the problem that they had caused.
That’s so creepy! How did you obtain my number? Fabian remembers thinking. She never taken care of immediately the written text.
The very next day, the business emailed her a performance survey to rate the service, and she reported precisely what had happened: the harm to her house, the leering, and the late texts.
The cable man texted her again saying he wanted her to improve her answers because he got in big trouble.
It concerned her that her survey response wasnt anonymous, and her information somehow managed to get back again to the cable man. She got really scared, thinking he’d retaliate.
I felt threatened, she said.
She called the business again, plus they informed her to call the authorities. However when she did, she felt the authorities didnt take her concerns seriously. Neither the business nor police followed up with her. So, she made a decision to reactivate the security system that had include the home, despite the fact that she couldnt afford it. She even bought a gun.
It proved that the cable men were third-party contractors. When she took her complaint in their mind, that contracting company started sending people out to consider the damage, and she was hopeful that her house will be repaired.
The contractor presented her with a document that released the business from liability in trade for the repair, a document she refused to sign. So, her house remains damaged.
And Fabian continues to be damaged, too. Since the incident, shes been cautious with letting anybody into her house, unless her boyfriend is just about.
Willshier urges visitors to trust their gut feeling or sixth sense that something is wrong. It really is OK to eliminate yourself from the problem, he said, in case you are uncomfortable when someone acts unprofessionally.
After a while, some interactions seem creepier
When Alexa Carrillo, now 28, looks back at her experience, she sees what happened to her very differently. Carrillo, of Tucson, Arizona,said that whenever she was 19, she lived with her boyfriend in a little apartment. A guy knocked on the door with a work order to displace the bathroom ..
Carrillo was planning for work, using her makeup vanity in the family room, when she noticed the person considering her.
Your husband is an extremely lucky man, she recalls him saying.
I didnt react to him, but I felt very uncomfortable from then on; I possibly could feel him continuing to view me, she said.
Today, she wishes she had reported him, but at that time I didnt feel just like I was in much danger; I simply felt creeped out.
What does it mean when someone is referred to as creepy? Hoffman says the word itself is too vague and broad.
That isnt a description of what someone does, she said. Thats just a thing that we feel, but its no actual act.
Thats why she advises visitors to be as detailed as you possibly can when making a written report to the business or police. Explain the behavior by detailing the remark or the gesture that bothered you.
We need to have sufficient confidence inside our skills, inside our mindset, and our ability, that whenever we realize something isnt right, … we do something positive about it versus just blowing it off, since it could change the results of what goes on to us, she said. In your thoughts, if youre threatened, you need to invest in protect yourself.
How exactly to report an incident
Hoffman says plenty of police departments allow online reporting, an excellent place to begin.
But, in the event that you cant reach the companys complaint department, here are a few other avenues:
- BBB: https://www.bbb.org/file-a-complaint
- Your neighborhood Consumer Protection Office: https://www.usa.gov/state-consumer
- A state attorney generals office: https://www.naag.org/find-my-ag/
- Federal Trade Commission: https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/
Amritpal Kaur Sandhu-Longoria may be the consumer watchdog on USA TODAYs investigations team. Send her your tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, @AmritpalKSL, or on Signal at (434) 473-4073.