It was almost 11 p.m., and Emelia Holden, 21, was finishing up her shift as a server at a Savannah, Ga., pizzeria when she felt a hand on her backside.
As many of us have now seen — and cheered! — on the surveillance video that her cousin shared with the world on Reddit, she immediately yanked the man backward by his red shirt as he tried to walk away and wrapped her arm around his neck before using her body weight — all 115 pounds of it — to slam him to the ground, knocking his sunglasses askew.
“You don’t touch me,” she yelled, adding some choice words as he sat against a trash can, totally shocked
Kudos to this hero waitress, who did what so many of us have only dreamed of doing after being in similar situations. She told The New York Times that the video has inspired people to reach out, including women who told her they had showed the video to their daughters. Other servers shared their own stories of being harassed or assaulted, she said, and told her watching the video had empowered them to react more assertively next time.
Some of her customers high-fived her for the takedown, she said. I know I’d like to offer her a virtual high-five:
“I’ve cried because I’ve been so touched by what people are saying,” Ms. Holden said.
The service industry has struggled to tackle sexual harassment even as the #MeToo movement has prompted changes in other fields. In interviews with The New York Times, more than 60 servers and bartenders shared stories of gross comments and harassment they faced from customers. They struggles with deciding where to draw the line, and how that affected how much they made in tips.
“We deal with a lot,” Ms. Holden said, referring to female workers who have been groped. She said she knew that she would have the support of the pizzeria’s owners and her co-workers after taking the man down, so she was never afraid of backlash from them.
Since the video began to circulate, customers have been nicer to the servers at the pizzeria, and tipping has actually gone up, she said. A local jiu jitsu business even offered her and the other servers a free class. (Ms. Holden said that she does not have any training in martial arts or fighting, which makes her feat all the more amazing.) She generously redirected donations to a local animal shelter, raising about $13,000 for it and about $3,000 for a spay and neuter organization.
Ms. Holden, who will be studying funeral science next month, said she hoped the video reminded everyone that servers are people too, who are just trying to make a living.
“I’m just happy that he was held accountable,” she said. “And I’m very happy that there have been so many women empowered by all of this.”