As an avid reader of eHell, I’ve contributed short “me too!” stories in response to other’s tales, but never had an original post for you. Until this morning.
I was at the local coffee shop having a meeting – what about isn’t important. But I was concentrating on what another person at my table was saying and not on what was going on in the rest of the room. Suddenly, a pair of hands came from behind me and closed around my throat. I screamed like a banshee, whirled around and yelled, “Don’t EVER do that! I can’t stand having my throat touched!” (I’ve always had this; I think I must have been hanged for a horse thief in my last life…)
Everyone in the room stopped dead except the one who came out of the kitchen to see what was wrong and then went back in. The perp, one of the owners of the coffee shop, looked at me like I’d lost my mind, mumbled “sorry…” and went back to his table. The lady I was talking with actually started laughing, and when I told her I didn’t think it was funny, she said, “He didn’t mean anything, he was just being friendly,” while I sat there shaking in fright and rage. I finished jotting down the last of my notes, told the other ladies I needed to go home, and left. As I did, the perp called out something about being sorry and only kidding around, to which I muttered, “Yeah, right,” or something, and I came home and poured myself a glass of wine.
Perhaps I should have been more gracious about his apology. He had no way of knowing about my particular sensitivity. But Jeanne, this man is at least 60 and in addition to co-owning the coffee shop is a volunteer firefighter with EMT credentials. You’d think he’d know better than to put his hands around anyone’s throat. I’m still shaken, still angry, and still flabbergasted. What is WRONG with some people?10-14-11
Regardless of his intentions to be “friendly”, I believe most people would consider having a stranger place his hands around the throat from the rear to be a rather bizarre mode of greeting and certainly not a humorous one. It definite presumes he knew you better than he did and that he made an error in judgment. He’s fortunate it wasn’t me he did this to because my reaction may have been a swift elbow to his abdomen or groin. He’s apologized, in a somewhat clumsy way, so I wouldn’t hold it against him forever and I bet he thinks twice before doing to anyone else.
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Screaming in fright is exactly what Miss Manners recommends in response to any sudden and random inappropriate touching. Even if you weren’t actually frightened by it, the response of justified alarm is what signals to the perpetrator (and all the bystanders) that the touching was inappropriate.
Anger or hostility, on the other hand, dilutes that signal. (Although I do think you had every right to feel angry not only with the perpetrator but with the clod who laughed at the incident.) If you come across as resolutely maintaining your politeness even though you’re seriously freaked out, it’s more effective than snarling at people.
So just say a bit breathlessly, “Oh of course, I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm” or something like that before briskly moving on, along the lines of “Well! Where were we again?” The more clearly you are seen to be politely trying to minimize the incident (after the first spontaneous shriek of alarm), the more sympathy will center on you rather than the perpetrator.
No. That is not what Miss Manners says. She says that is OK to bring attention to someone who has threatened you or touched you inappropriately. You don’t need to scream obscenities but if you are attacked in this way (and yes, strangling someone is an attack) you should be clear and firm that you do not want to be touched. Your method will tell the people around you that you are OK with him, which could lead to more of his behavior.
OP, you need to find a new coffee shop. Be upfront with the group when you suggest the change. Say you do not know that man and his touching you in anyway was inappropriate.
Um, yes that is what Miss Manners says, specifically on p. 212 of Miss Manners’ Guide for the Turn of the Millennium:
“Fanny patters of all ages are treated the same. One screams and then, when everybody’s attention has been drawn, explains ‘You startled me.'”
Neck grabbers count as a subset of fanny patters for the purposes of this rule. For all such inappropriate touchers, uttering an attention-getting shriek of alarm and then politely downplaying the incident (after everybody has clearly seen that the touching in question was inappropriate) is proper.
That approach makes it plenty “clear and firm that you do not want to be touched” and definitely does NOT indicate to “the people around you that you are OK with him”. Explicitly scolding someone in a social situation for inappropriate touching may be morally justified, but in etiquette terms it’s actually LESS effective than coming across as resolutely polite even though you’re obviously shocked and horrified.
Does Miss Manners have other little tidbits about assault, strangulation or, oh, I don’t know, being stabbed? No? Perhaps because it isn’t even a question of etiquette – it’s assault.
I disagree utterly that downplaying the incident – making polite excuses for the aggressor – is more effective. It only makes them think that their behaviour wasn’t that bad, and that the victim is overreacting….giving them justification to repeat their loathesome behavior on some other “less high-strung” person.
I think it’s odd that the other women at your table didn’t seem to find this strange. I can’t think that any of them would have appreciated being strangled from behind by an unknown person, nor do I think they would have found it amusing.
It has taken me many years to train my parents that they MAY NOT kiss me on the neck. They think I am the weird one for thinking that that is inappropriate.
Um…what??? No, you’re not the weird one. Ew.
In teasing, my Dad would run the back of a finger across the fold of the neck from the back and say ‘puzz’ (like you were being buzzed by a bee). I *HATED* it. No amount of asking, telling, or demanding would get him to stop. Mom asking, telling, or demanding he stop stopped him either. Finally one day I was in shorts and tee, standing barefoot on the kitchen vinyl floor, he did that, and I SCREAMED bloody murder like I’d been shot and purposely wet my pants. (I was 9). I thought Mom was going to murder him right then and there. I stripped the clothes right there, had to take a bath and Mom got to deal with those clothes, and Dad got silent treatment for four days. He never EVER did it again.
Annie, it’s not inappropriate. Hope it took less drastic measures.
No really, please tell me where exactly pretending to choke someone is considered “friendly” so I can avoid the area…
I’m with Admin, my initial reaction would have been defensive. Shop keeper is lucky the OP only screamed, a sharp elbow can do some serious damage to the groin area (or any area, really).
That would have probably been my response. I don’t even mean it as ‘How dare he do that, take this’ *Hit*. Throwing an elbow back would have been an automatic survival instinct to suddenly having hands around one’s throat.
I’m just not a touchy person, so I have to tramp down my immediate instinct to lean away when people just go to hug me or something. Getting touched/grabbed in even a foux threatening manner, and by surprise, would basically guarantee an extremely negative immediate reaction.
Grabbing a lady by her throat is hardly a way to say hello. He is fortunate that you did not have him arrested for assault. If that is his idea of humor, I would not patronize his shop again.
The woman who began laughing was equally wrong. Does she really think that sneaking up behind a lady and grabbing her is humorous? She should have chastized him for his behavior; and you should both have left immediately.
What a careless thing to do. Being casually friendly with people you don’t know ought not to include any kind of surprise touching, especially from behind, and somewhere like the throat!
I work in a psychiatric hospital; if you feel someone’s hands closing around your neck there you’re in big trouble. My reaction would have been much like yours, plus a physical component I’m sure.
I probably would have had a meltdown, complete with ungentlemanly behaviour* and a lot of screaming. Possibly slapping.
* Yeah, I know, but in that state expecting good manners is like trying to run Word whilst your computer is in BSOD. Not gonna happen.
I once knew a girl in middle school, who had the same sort of idea of a “friendly” greeting – including once throwing her belt around my neck while sitting at the desk behind me! My screaming in the middle of class certainly got everyone’s attention.
I don’t know what was “wrong” with the fellow in the OP, but this girl certainly had a hostile passive-aggressive (and aggressive-aggressive) streak a mile wide. The sad part was, she honestly could not understand why she had no friends.
Yeah, a coworker once did this to me, and I automatically used my self defense training and twisted his wrist. Fortunately my manager completely understood. That particular co-worker had a history of harassing female co-workers and was fired.
Even if you know someone really well, sneaking up on them like that could get *you* hurt.
Completely idiotic thing to do! Who in their right mind would say hello by putting their hands around your throat?
Maybe I just answered my own question….
I wouldn’t feel bad. I don’t think you did anything wrong. That being said, I’d let it go and try to put it out of your mind. It’s over now and I’m sure he’ll never pull that again. Meanwhile, “I think I must have been hanged for a horse thief in my last life”… classic! Love it!
I can’t believe the posters here defending the creep! I don’t care if he mistook her for someone else, I don’t care if they did know each other well, I don’t care if she was rude (she wasn’t) for leaving abruptly. NO ONE puts their hands around a person’s throat from behind unless they know the other person wants them to; i.e. partners who are into some weird sex thing.
I had a girlfriend in high school, forever ago, who would come up behind me and put her freezing cold hand over my eyes from behind. I told her to stop. I finally had enough when she did it unexpectedly, and instinctively smacked her hand away. She never did it again. That was a high school kid; I assume the creep in this story is an adult.
My ex had a bad habit of grabbing me from behind when I was bent over. I don’t mean a quick grab, either, he would grind up on me and grab me. I didn’t like it and repeatedly told him to stop. One of the many reasons he’s an ex. Once he did it and I tipped forward, hitting my head on the wall. I instinctively turned around and kicked out. Hit him in the groin; really didn’t mean to, but he never did it again.
I’ve known people when startled, to faint; and injure themselves when they meet flat surface finally. Whirl around with a roundhouse and lay someone low. SCREAM like a banshee and hyperventilate.
That is just people that someone else walked up behind and said something. NOT touched them.
Unless you were in the situation knowing that some friendly give and take was going on; the person that touched you OP was lucky you didn’t retaliate swiftly and painfully or worse, pass out cold. How that was done was totally inappropriate, period. It could be construed assault, especially since the point/way of touching was hands to the throat of another. It is nice an apology was offered, but.
Out of line and the others you were meeting with, it wasn’t funny and shouldn’t have been blown off. It was unexpected, unwanted, and totally inappropriate. If someone did that to me and it wasn’t in the context I was already engaged in horseplay with that individual, it would probably have ended with a pretty nasty retaliation on my part and the rest would have gone worse. I normally don’t jump startle or turn with retaliation, even if touched, *normally*. Surprise me and put hands on my throat and all bets are off. OP I hope you got a chance later to have a private talk with your friend, calmly and in friendly manner and get it sorted about please don’t do that ever again! (assuming you are a good friend with this person, have been for some time, and want to keep the friendship)
OP, you did nothing wrong.
The business owner was inappropriate and completely in the wrong. Of course you reacted the way you did, it’s a normal reaction to being strangled from behind by someone. You are owed a sincere apology.
I’m another who hates anything around my throat. I’m so glad I’m not a man so now I’ve left school I will never need to wear a tie again.
His apologies weren’t enough, and you were perfectly right to reject them, though it might take him some time to accept what he’s really done wrong. I think Miss Manners advice on someone offering an insufficient apology (eg one like “I was only kidding” or “I’m sorry but you provoked me” ) was to respond coldly and minimally and keep that cold demeanour until they apologised appropriately.
I was once locked into a basement kitchen with about ten other people by someone who thought it would be an acceptable way to keep people out. I freaked out. I have severe claustrophobia. I found out I was locked in when I wanted to leave the kitchen and found the doors locked. There was no other way out, no windows, no other door. I couldn’t go back in there for hours.
It was very unfortunate, because dinner was held there, a dinner I’d planned and made with nine others, and that night was tapas night, something we’d spent all day on. People were cheering and applauding downstairs, and I couldn’t be there. I was so mad and upset.
And what made it worse was that some thoughtless twit had agreed on this plan, and when confronted said I was overreacting!! Ugh. There was some more to this story, and it got even worse later, but this
fits the story by OP.
OP, I understand you completely!! I have my own dislike of being touched in the face. I hate being kissed by strangers or acquaintances, and don’t you block my nose. I will slap you.
I certainly hope the people who locked you in didn’t get away without any form of punishment. Their behavior was anything but acceptable.
They got away with that and lots more. Eventually, I left the group and I must say I’m much happier now.
“There was some more to this story, and it got even worse later.”
Oh my. It got WORSE? Please tell the rest of the story, ketchup! (If you don’t mind, that is.)
I don’t mind.
It was a basement room with kitchen and dining halls in a fortified fortress like building, with a thick wooden door, which they’d closed using swords. It was a sword fighting workshop, lasting five days. There were 80 participants, cooks and teachers. I led the team of 8 cooks. We also had dinner in that room, which had seats for about 80-100 people. There was one way out! All windows were too small for anything bigger than a cat to go through.
I have never been friends with that girl. Small wonder.
We were all members of a group of volunteers with a historical and martial arts background. We all had our jobs and tasks. However, I’m quite vocal, and I know what I want. So if there was a job I liked, I went for it. She and two others started making my membership less than enjoyable, because they felt threatened (their words). They never said anything about it until it came to a head years later, and after the locked-in thing.
It was little things. I couldn’t even tell you what it all was. Little stuff, piled up. Mean things.
And then finally, it exploded when during another one of those weeks of workshops they’d decided to not talk to me all day long, ignore me all day, and during a day we had to work together too. It might sound mild, but they’d just learned that this was how they’d bullied me during childhood. I suffer from PTSS and had a terrible episode. That was the end of it all. I quit. I’m so much happier now.
Unless it was a steel clad door that door would have been history. Hollow core inner doors aren’t that hard to destroy if you’re not caring… and that would have been the end of the evening once I got out of there.
So you did the work on food, you did the work on the entertainment, then you were locked out? Was this your place or someone else’s? If it’d been mine the evening would have been over as soon as the door was history… and so would the friendship with that person that locked me in. Oh yeah, they did the locking, they get the bill for that door. And charges levied.
I had two gradeschool friends that thought it was fun to lean on a door and hold me in to a room, and had done it several times. They made the mistake of doing it at MY house when they were supposed to be sleeping over, and they didn’t know my dad was in the basement too. He heard me trying to open the door and them giggling, said a couple of loud words about ‘what is going ON’ and the two were done with sleepover and he took them back to their parents’ places and told the parents why their kid was being dropped off. That was the end of the friendships…
They lock you in? That’s illegal, it’s called false imprisonment. I would have pressed charges.
Yea, I could’ve done that, but it never crossed my mind. I was too shaken.
In my opinion, everyone is allowed one exceptionally stupid mistake. This was his. I think you should continue to patronize his shop as you’ve done before. But if he comes up behind you and acts like he’s going to strangle you again, then don’t go back. And warn others.
I think it needs to be spelt out to him that kind of behaviour is unexceptable and he is NEVER EVER to do it again to anyone else.
Yeah, there are idiots who think it’s “great fun” to sneak up behind a female friend and grab her (hands on shoulders, hands over eyes, etc.) to watch her jump, or otherwise forcefully invade her space. Most of these idiots urinate standing up. I suspect it’s a bit of a sick power-trip for them.
I have explained to every idiot who has tried this stunt with me not to do it again. I’d assume I was being attacked and they could end up with my elbow in their stomach up to my wrist. I’ve also demonstrated how perfectly my hard, bony, pointy elbow lines up with their soft, squishy, yielding abdomen. This usually sobers them up, especially since I can come off as a bit high-strung and unpredictable.
But hands around the neck?!? He got off easy with a little screaming. He’s lucky you didn’t yank one of his hands from your throat and bite down on him until the bones in his hand started snapping like wishbones.
Oh, and I think you need a new set of associates. Seriously. They were WAY out of line for laughing this off.
So many people seem to think stuff like this is funny, smh.
My (ex-)best friend once invited me to help him decorate his house for Christmas (he was all alone over the holidays and I love decorating, and since he was my best friend, I said “sure, I’d love to!”). While we were preparing some stuff, sitting on the floor, he said he’d have to get a knife to sharpen the candles so they’d fit in the candleholders.
He left for the kitchen, got the knife and… snuck up on me holding it to my throat.
Granted, it was the blunt side, but I didn’t know and I froze up in fear.
I have to admit… I ended up laughing nervously and pretending I was ok with it. Well, I was 16… and very, very bad with confronting people. Still am.
I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to the acquaintances at the table who laughed off the incident, and presume that they were laughing nervously because some people are made extremely uncomfortable by anyone making a “scene”, even if that “scene” is completely justified and is, in fact, normal behavior.
If they indeed found it funny and thought the perpetrator’s behavior was friendly, they should be avoided in future!
I worked retail for a few years, and it always dumbfounded me the ways customer’s would grab, shove, pinch and ram their carts into me to get my attention. Not one apology and they never understood how unacceptable it is to put your hands on someone. One of the ma y reasons I no longer work there.
A male colleague once suddenly came up behind me and reached down the back of my blouse to tuck in a label that was sticking out. Without my knowledge or consent, naturally. He was astonished when I whirled around and spat “DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN.” Because, of course, he was only trying to help!
He should have told you your labal was sticking out.
Not defending him at all. Not an appropriate thing to do. It just boggles my mind that someone would do this, so part of me wonders if he meant to come up behind a customer, put his hands on their shoulders, start talking to the group, etc. I am not saying that is appropriate either. I am just flabbergasted that hands on throat would be considered acceptable, so maybe he misjudged when going for shoulders. (Still not acceptable, but it makes more sense how someone might be able to rationalize that to themselves since I’ve seen people do the hands-on-shoulders move to groups before.)
When someone comes up behind you, you don’t know if it’s a stranger or not. I don’t think stopping to think “Is this a stranger? Is this possible dangerous?” is particularly adaptive: a person simply reacts, throat issue or no.
That’s a really bizarre and inappropriate thing to do.
Let me join my voice to the choir of people who think you did absolutely NOTHING wrong, OP.
I cannot even understand how anyone would find funny and harmless the fact of placing their hands around your neck from behind. Even if the gesture was meant as being just playful, it can certainly be viewed as an attack.
Had it been me, I think the perpetrator would have heard in no uncertain terms how inappropriate his behavior was. All while bending over in pain, since my elbows are a tad trigger-happy as well.
I just remembered another story:
I was sitting in the parking lot at a grocery store, going over my list before I got out of my car. I was very tired and had a splitting headache. Suddenly, someone slammed against my car door, filling the window, and screaming “BOO!”. I screamed in terror, only to realize that it was a friend of mine who thinks such things are funny. He proceeded to laugh like a loon, especially when I swore a blue streak at him (raising my middle finger to boot). I still haven’t entirely forgiven him.
He was better off under you than me – the last two times someone has grabbed me from behind unexpectedly, I backhanded them or elbowed them before I even looked – I was trained to respond as such when I learnt martial arts as a child. While the person playing the ‘prank’ has usually reacted in shock, bystanders have always been on my side fortunately – who thinks grabbing someone in a threatening manner (and since strangulation can kill you it’s certainly threatening) is in any way funny?
When I was 17 I spent a year in the US as an exchange student. The pastor at the church my host family attended discovered I was (am) extremely ticklish. He would come from behind any time I was distracted talking to someone and poke me on the ribs. It always caused me to jump and shriek, I hated it! I told him a million times I was too ticklish, he wouldn’t stop. One time he asked me if anyone in my family liked to tickle me, I said “my dad did, but then one day I lost control and was so desperate I punched him on the gut. Hard.” It was not true, but the pastor had no way to know it, right? He left me alone after that. Thank heavens! I HATE being tickled.
OP this man in a jerk and you did nothing wrong. I’m sorry that he gave you such a fright that you had to leave your meeting (and while the person you met with was stupid to laugh, i am going to assume that she laughed out of nervousness).
I am appalled at those who think that this wasn’t a big deal, or that you overreacted. “in the moment” you felt like you were being strangled. I cannot understand why this person did this to you. (even if he mistook you for someone he knew – i’ve never heard of “greeting” a friend this way either. )
I, too, have a “throat thing”, but mine stems from an assault when I was younger. For many years, I couldn’t wear turtlenecks, choker necklaces, scarves, or stand to have anything touch my throat. It took years before I could have my husband kiss or touch me there. In the OP’s situation, I would have reacted on instinct and probably injured the owner.
I was thinking the same thing. I’m a survivor of childhood abuse including an attempted strangling once. To this day it’s a bad idea for people to sneak up behind me, my brain will not take the time to figure out friend or foe, I turn and strike on pure instinct. And for those foolish enough to touch my neck without my permission, they are risking a very painful retaliation.
Same here. A boy in high school once grabbed me by the neck and squeezed hard enough for me to get spots in front of my eyes, and he didn’t let go until I kicked him. That was over 10 years ago, but I probably would still lash out on instinct if someone grabbed me by the neck today.
No no no no no. You NEVER lay hands on a person in a public place in such a threatening way and from behind. The fact that you hate having your neck touched is irrelevant. This was deeply deeply inappropriate and if this were a chain store I’d be complaining to head office. If it’s a boutique store I wouldn’t go there again.
From your account it doesn’t sound as though you know the person. This makes it worse. If I were you I’d speak to the police. It sounds like an overreaction but someone who is effectively a stranger putting their hands around your throat is assault.
Periodically my friend, J, will do this to me. Usually at work (we work together). I know him very well – he is practically my brother and I recognise him by scent as soon as he gets close to me. But he is the only one that is allowed to do this and only because we’ve had a close relationship for years and years.
I think your reaction was comparatively subdued quite frankly. You have nothing to feel bad about.
Yikes! I wonder how long before he tries that with a veteran? Someone like could easily break his arm or worse before figuring out it was “just a joke”. We buried my grandpa last summer, and among the many stories told was from my uncles talking about being sent in to wake him up from his after-work nap so they could have dinner. The procedure was to crouch on the floor, creep up, and then tap him on the shoulder. If you tried doing this standing up, you’d get a fist in the face before he figured out who you were. He’d seen some pretty bad stuff in Europe in World War II, including hand-to-hand combat and having to spend a night alone behind enemy lines while German troops marched past; he was skittish pretty much his entire life. Gentle, gentle guy — wouldn’t kill spiders or flies, just captured them and released them outside. Wouldn’t hit his kids (on purpose). But that fight reflex is nearly impossible to overcome. Imagine, say, a former POW being “greeted” by this shopkeeper. You just don’t do that sort of thing to people. Hopefully this is the first and last time he’s done something like that, because now he knows it makes people freak out.
Those sorts I wake up by staying at FOOT end and pat the toes gently a few times while repeating their name until they join the waking world. I have known people to sit upright but no further. A former boyfriend that was a martial artist told me that was the safest; come from the feet end of the bed, reach out as far as you can, do not pat hard and repeat the name 3-4 times as you touch them.
Not wanting to be touched on the throat is not a strange fear unique to you. Why should anyone touch your throat? Why should anyone touch your neck from behind? Why should anyone you don’t know touch you at all?
I can’t believe everyone acted like his behavior was remotely acceptable.
Am I the only one who thinks the OP didn’t explain how well the coffee shop owner knew her? I’m not saying that it justifies scaring the OP and taking her off guard… But I find it hard to believe that a stranger would do this?
Not that knowing someone well makes touching OP’S throat okay, but it does mean that the coffee shop owner felt he knew her rather well enough to think this greeting wad okay.
Yes, the people around OP didn’t sympathize with her, but if that many people had the fans reaction, in guessing OP over reacted, then felt embarrassed of it, and left. I do think the offender should have noticed how upset his touch made OP and offered an apology. This would have probably made the situation end on a better note.
“He had no way of knowing about my particular sensitivity. ”
To me, this is irrelevant. You don’t do things like that to anyone. They might be sensitive, or you *might trigger a frigging flashback to something you didn’t know about.* Nine years ago I was attacked by someone who tried strangling me. I had PTSD for some time, took a long time to get past, and I still can’t wear turtlenecks and am always tugging at scarves. But I don’t go around *telling* people about one of the worst things that ever happened to me, just in case they do something stupid. It’s their responsibility to be a decent human being, not mine to announce my issues to the world. Even people I’ve known since two years after the incident don’t know. Decent human beings do not go around “jokingly” threatening people they don’t know EXTREMELY well.
Doesn’t matter what the situation or who it is someone putting their hand’s round someone’s else’s neck to be firendly needs a reality check.
I had the same thought as Calli.
One of my girl cousins (I have 3 of ’em, daughters of my dear Aunt Lillie) recently told me a story that brought tears to my eyes.
Before World War II, they were the darlings of their Uncle Buddy, who would become my father a few years after the war.
He was a cheerful extrovert, & they played with him like he was a brother, playing jokes, etc.
One day after he returned, Patsy came up behind him & gently poked his ribs, just enough that he would have ordinarily, pre-war, been startled & then laughed.
She said he whirled around with his fist raised & a look of rage on his face.
When he realized that it was his niece, he chewed her out royally
“Don’t you *ever* do anything like that again.”
Trauma changes people’s wiring, & the Daddy that I knew was never the uncomplicated Uncle Buddy that my cousins had known.
Grabbing a person’s neck or throat *is* assault, which an assailant is likely to rationaize by saying it’s all a joke or the victim is over-reacting (how else could he justify assault?).
If OP had called the cops, this guy would have been hard-pressed to make them believe it was ‘all in fun’.
& it’s a normal biological reaction to go into full panic mode when grabbed by the throat;
that’s how predators kill their prey.
As a child, someone actually did that to me, wrapping their hands around my throat and squeezing. To this day, I cannot stand having anyone touch my neck in any way, nor can I wear anything ( clothing, jewelery) that touches my neck. What that man did, while maybe harmless in intent, could very well cause terror to someone who has been assaulted in this manner.
I know this is a few months old, but I think it’s crazy important to point out that the fact that everybody here is so incredulous about somebody putting their hands around a customer’s neck while nobody here is reacting the way the friends who actually witness the altercation did. I think that’s evidence enough to confer that the coffee shop owner didn’t actually put his hands around her neck. At least not in an obviously hostile way. I’m picturing a sloppy version of this:
I can see how it could be misconstrued easily enough as a threat to somebody who has previously been traumatized or even just somebody with issues being touched. Especially because it’s unannounced and not consensual body contact. The whole thing strikes me as a guy just being too familiar and not respecting boundaries rather than something actively hostile or aggressive. I doubt he was attacking her or even play-attacking. It doesn’t make any sense. He would have apologized immediately if he was playing a joke and it backfired (even if he wasn’t actually sorry) while somebody who was confused about what they did wrong would have acted the way the coffee shop owner did.
I think OP has some issues. I think she was allowed to immediately react however she naturally would have (and did) but then reassessed the situation and reinforced with everybody present that you’re not comfortable with people touching you without warning. If the offending party doesn’t immediately apologize and promise to remember that, then you’ve got a situation. I doubt that’s the case though, as nobody else seemed to think it was anything overtly hostile.
But it is important to respect boundaries regardless if someone might have been abused. I think the general idea here in these posts about victims of abuse is if you do it to the wrong person they could lash out. I have not been abused but I would be unimpressed if someone suddenly touched my neck/shoulder/head area, especially if it caught me off guard or scared me.
It also stops things being misunderstood – if you don’t want to be accused of being a creep don’t act like one. If you carry on acting like one by being “over friendly” with people then you are going to make them feel weary regardless of their past.
I know first-hand how unwise it is to surprise someone from behind. I had just made a new friend a few weeks before and my husband and I were at her house watching a movie with her and her husband. I noticed that she had got up from her chair and a few moments later, at a very intense part of the movie, my friend came up behind me and yelled, “Boo!” in my ear. As a reflex, my right hand went up and it landed right in her lip! I didn’t realize that she had crouched down and that I would actually hit her. So we started out our friendship rather violently. Fortunately, we still tell the story and we both laugh about it. But if that had happened in a public place and she had been a stranger, I could have been arrested for assault!