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I’m a New Yorker, but was living in Paris seven years ago. I guess I felt pretty confident in my street smarts because I had endured countless cat calls/random verbal harassment for years.
I was walking home late at night after my friends left me off of a cab a few blocks from my house, and two somewhat thuggy looking guys in their 20s approached me. They were looking to “party” and wanted me to have a drink with them. I told them no thanks, and went on my way. They could tell I wasn’t French via my accent and followed after me, cajoling and cat calling. I tried to ignore them and kept walking but they were really being persistent, so I told them to “piss off” while looking down and trying to find my keys and hurry away. One grabbed me and shoved me against the wall — at this point I had turned a corner onto a not so well lit street (stupid) about a block from my apartment, and there was no one around. The friend said something like “leave her be” and then ran off. I was struggling with the main guy, who was big (I’m not tiny either, 5’6″/130lbs) and he had me pinned to the wall with his hands like vice grips on my arms and his body pressing against me, I have no idea how long that went on, but he kept getting angrier and all I can really remember is how strong he was and him trying to kiss me (violently…so I guess more like head-butting my face) and how he kept saying how pretty I was.
I was absolutely terrified and have never had an adrenaline rush like that. The rest just happened so fast I barely remember the sequence, instinct took over (I had taken kick boxing and martial arts on and off for years): I managed to get my knee up and kneed him in the groin. He let go, and I elbowed him from above in the back of the neck, coming down with most of my weight — like they teach you to. I remember him on the ground but moving and guess I must have ran, and fast. It was only then I noticed I had been screaming. I had lost a shoe in the scuffle but I got to my door very quickly. I buzzed all the bells and someone let me in because I was crying and shaking too hard to get my keys out. I had a fat split lip, a bruised/scraped cheekbone, arms and bloody scraped elbows. But beyond that, I was a nervous wreck. I would jump at anything and was so jittery and on edge. I was 23 and it took about 6 months to feel safe enough to go out at night again, even with friends. Nothing happened, they never found the guy and as soon as I told the cops I had been drinking and walked home alone they were like: “Oh, you’re OK, no big deal.” As though somehow it was par for the course.
I’m 30 now, and back in NYC. I tell all my friends to take self-defense classes or some kind of martial art. It’s really so so so important to know how to defend yourself. It’s best not to put yourself in stupid situations, yes, take a cab all the way to your door. But inevitably I find myself every now and again on a dark/empty street at night and get chilled thinking about what could happen if…
As women, we are smaller than men and need to know how to defend ourselves, end of story. Even psychologically it’s important not to feel like a victim. I don’t know what would have/could have happened that night or what that guy thought he was going to do on the street like that, but I was so thankful to have had some defensive training that took over, like auto-pilot. I had thought that martial arts were “fun”, I did karate instead of ballet as a kid and then took up kickboxing in college. Before my attack, I really didn’t appreciate how insanely important it is to know how to defend yourself.
I’m glad to see a forum like this and I hope that we can give/get strength in numbers and shared experiences. Be strong ladies!
Submitted by Sarah
Dear Hollaback Community,
I apologize for using this submit feature for something other than reporting an incident, but I’m wondering if it’s time to up the ante in fighting harassment.
Following the story of the awesome woman on the subway who confronted her assaulter, I have read story after story of women who were harassed and assaulted and turned to the police or transit workers who made it very clear that they were not going to do anything. This is utter bullshit. These people are getting paid to serve and protect and yet so often they treat these stories with indifference.
I’d like to suggest that we don’t just shame the perpetrators of assault and harassment, but also those who choose to aid and abet them by doing nothing. Next time a cop refuses to do anything? Take his/her name, rank and badge number (you should always do this anyway) and post it up. Let the world know who the cops are who don’t give a damn what happens to the people they are supposed to protect. Same goes for transit workers, security officers, etc.
If they can’t be bothered to do anything because they care or because it’s their job, maybe a little shame and public pressure will get them off their asses.
Submitted by Stop Police Complacency
Just found out about this site via the radio, and it’s motivated to finally share my story.
A few years ago when I had just turned 18, I stopped at the gas station on the corner near my house on my way to work. There was only one older gas attendant, 56 I would later learn, working. He kept glancing over his shoulder which I thought was really weird, but I just kept my music on and pretended not to notice. Then, when the last car in the station was gone he leaned against my car and started asking questions/making comments – did I have a boyfriend, I was very pretty…
I was incredibly nervous but figured i’d be out of there in a minute, i’d only asked for $5 worth of gas to make it to work and back. Instead, he mumbled something I didn’t understand…and then stuck his hand DOWN my shirt and into my bra. Without even thinking I floored it and drove away, with him hanging half out of my window. I was appalled that he shouted, “call me!” while I was driving away.
It wasn’t until I called my mom in tears that I realized I had to do something. I went with my dad to the police station, which ironically is positioned directly across the street from the gas station, to make a report. I was beyond mortified to have to explain to both the cop and my dad what had happened – was it a grope or a fondle…inside the clothes or outside…how long was it? After a million questions I was taken in the back of a cop car to identify him, and then had to listen as he made up excuse after excuse while the cops questioned him.
Thankfully I didn’t have to go to court myself, the cop testified for me. My initial decision directly after the incident was to just pretend it didn’t happen, but i’m glad I took action. I found out that this guy already had a restraining order against him because he had done the SAME thing to another girl only a few towns over. It’s been 6 years and I still take someone with me to get gas and only lower my window a crack to slip the money through.
Submitted by Brittany
This story isn’t recent, but three years later I am still annoyed and disgusted thinking about it. I wish Hollaback had been around then, so I would have thought to get a photo of the jerk who verbally harassed me or in some way react to the guy rather than just letting it happen. I can’t go back, but I can at least share my story and think about how I’ll respond next time.
In 2007, I worked for a big company in northwest Washington, DC. I lived in Arlington, Virginia and commuted every day by walking, through a pretty nice residential neighborhood to the metro.
One morning, about 7:30 AM, I was taking my usual walk to the metro near the Court House station (orange line). I was dressed in pretty formal business attire, with a heavy coat on over my clothes because it was spring and still cold. I had huge sunglasses on that seriously took up most of my face. Nothing was tight-fitting, hell, I barely had any color on. I was pretty much dressed in all black with my black peacoat and black slacks on. That, the fact that it was broad daylight, or that the sun had barely been up an hour, or that I was walking through a nice family neighborhood and right next to an elementary school, didn’t stop some jerk from harassing me. (But we’re always “asking for attention,” or these things wouldn’t happen, right? Ugh.)
Just a few blocks from the metro, a guy pulled up next to me in a red pickup truck. He slowed down, rolled down his window, and proceeded to whistle, hoot and holler at me. “Hey baby! What you doing? Hey baby! Looking good!” [Smooch noises, kissy faces.] I just looked straight on and kept walking. He kept at it another minute, then revved his engine and drove off. I flicked him off and kept walking to the metro.
It bothered me all morning. I felt angry, violated, confused, embarrassed. It was so unexpected that early in the morning and in the kind of setting I was in when it happened. I felt completely caught off guard and like I was powerless to stop it. If I felt all that just from some creep yelling at me from his vehicle, I can’t imagine how violated other people must feel when men choose to actually physically violate them, flash them or direct hateful slurs at them.
Submitted by Angelina
Last summer I was at the park by Valley River Center (the local mall) babysitting my two year old nephew. I was pushing him in a stroller when a man on a bike started to coast right next to me. I tried to speed up my walking, but since he was on his bike there was no way to lose him. He was asking me all sorts of questions about the child I was with, such as his name and if we lived nearby. Finally he asked me if he could touch my boobs and I instinctively stopped and said no. In less than a second he grabbed my breast and rode off. It was so fast that I had very little time to react.
Obviously I wasn’t physically injured, but the fact that he had asked me before groping me is sicking. He was getting off on the non-consensual aspect of it, and that is terrifying. It was also terrifying because I was with my two year old nephew. He had specifically targeted a woman with a baby.
Submitted by Barbara Ann
This occurred back in July and although I wanted to write about it then, I wanted to forget it even more. In having to choose what category of harassment it falls into in order to send this story in, I’m even now embarrassed at my difficulty in labeling it. I don’t know that it counts as assault, even though it definitely didn’t feel like groping.
It was 10pm on a Friday night and I was waiting on a well lit block, in front of an active open restaurant, for the bus that I take everyday. Instead of heading to or from work, I was on my way to a small joint birthday party for two friends. Since I knew I’d be traveling there and back alone, I’d already decided to leave a little earlier than I needed to and had consciously decided to leave my bag at home and travel light so I’d be less of a target for theft. I’d also chosen to wear a more conservatively cut and oversized shirt than I would otherwise have worn on such a warm night.
Ten minutes into my wait for the bus, I was watching traffic to see if it was approaching my stop. I suddenly felt something slam against my backside. It didn’t feel like someone tried to cop a feel, and it didn’t feel like someone slapped my ass as they were passing by. It felt like someone wound up and hit me as hard as they could with something flat. I imagined a stack of books or a box and instantly thought maybe I was in the way of someone making a delivery to the diner or moving something out of the apartment entrance next door. I glanced around, embarrassed and blushing, and realized that none of the many other people walking across the street or crossing at the corner were paying attention, even though the smack had sounded obvious and loud to me. I spun around and realized that the only other people close to me were three guys who looked to be in their early 20’s, dressed for a night out. They were two feet away from me at that point and were continuing up the block laughing, the one in the middle of the group looking back at me and grinning.
I pointed at them and shouted “hey,fuck you!” feeling suddenly ashamed and angry. I’m not usually shy about addressing comments or gestures that are aimed at me or other women in public, but as soon as the group slowed their pace a little, I realized just how much bigger and heavier than me each of those guys was and how little attention was being paid to the situation by passers by. The middle guy waved me over and smiled, “yeah, fuck me!” and kept walking away as his friends laughed.
I waited the next ten minutes for the bus, with my hands shaking, still physically hurting and trying not to cry. Until the bus arrived I debated whether or not to walk to the police station that is three blocks away from that intersection, but imagined being laughed at by police officers once I described that a stranger had essentially spanked me. I also realized that I didn’t see any of the guys’ faces straight on and they were pretty nondescript young brown haired white guys with accents very common in my area. I wouldn’t have hesitated to report it if he had hit me that hard on any other part of my body, but this felt much more mortifying and even harder to verbalize to a stranger. And feeling that way made me even angrier.
I debated going home, but was worried that I’d run into the group of guys on the way to my nearby apartment. I wasn’t in the mood for a party and didn’t want to explain why and spoil the mood for the birthday friends, since I knew they’d be livid. But, I was too upset to want to be alone. I got on the bus when it came, and got off a stop early when I saw that two friends of mine were closing up the shop where we worked. I told them what had happened and sat and talked with them for a while before walking over to the party, where I hung back until feeling better and could walk home with some neighbors.
After that I worried that the guys who did it would recognize me in the neighborhood but that I wouldn’t recognize them. In writing this I realize I haven’t taken the bus alone at night since then, even though it was just a spanking. In other neighborhoods and cities I’ve been followed on my walk home, verbally threatened, flashed and groped but never felt as embarrassed or ashamed as this had made me feel.
Submitted by Laura
A few friends and I were walking through the neighborhood one day, just chilling. We were walking down Bay 46st, going towards the neighborhood park, to see a blue car exiting his driveway. We were walking towards the car, figuring that by the time we got there, he would have pulled out into the street, but he pulled out alright. He stopped his car, and was just sitting there directly in front of us without pants on! I was going to walk around the car, and curiously looked in when I heard his laughter. I didn’t realize what he was doing at first.. it took a second. My friends were just standing there in shock, and we all started yelling at him. The smile soon went off of his face, and he speedily drove away. I tried to get the license plate number, but he drove away too fast. We did not call the cops or anything, because we had no evidence, and we figured that they would not believe a bunch of teenagers. This happened in about May or June 2010, but I just recently found out about this website, so I figured I should tell you all my story so you guys can be on the lookout! If i remember correctly, he had longish hair. He was wearing sunglasses, and he looked from his 20s-30s. I’m not sure what kind of car it was, but it was small, 5 seats. I am still in shock that a some-what young man would have the audacity to do this! Especially in a kid friendly neighborhood like this. Careful girls!!
Submitted by Melissa
nt tried to make her his latest victim but she wasn’t having any of it. The petite Tai-Chi instructor and now Hollaback poster child has been seen by over half a million viewers giving this creep the lashing of a lifetime. Valdivia nt will serve jail time and is reportedly awaiting deportation.
“It’s about getting over the embarrassment of that circumstance and bringing the shame, taking away the shame, from you, as a woman being violated — and bringing the shame back on the perpetrator,” Briggs said, in an exclusive interview with CBS 2.
It wasn’t Valdivia
nt‘s first illegal adventure in subway sex abuse and, somewhat shockingly, wasn’t even his last—he was reported for the same offense in 2007 and yet again one month after assaulting Briggs. Oh, Mario. From us to you–please get help (but have fun in jail first).
There was a construction site near my house for several months. I had been avoiding walking near it whenever possible, taking the longer route between my home and my bus stop. One day I had the *audacity* to just take the faster way home. I figured that if I just walked fast and pretended to be on the phone that I would be safe. Wrong.
Several men, both on the ground and on the building, started to yell at me. A couple of them even approached the fence to get as close as possible, making vulgar gestures and remarks.
When I got home I made this sign and posted it late at night. I used zip ties to secure it to their fence, facing the busy street in front of the construction site. They didn’t manage to get the sign down until 9am – long after all the rush hour traffic got to read my message.
On the back of the sign, I included the definition of sexual harassment and a special message for the assholes that made me feel unsafe in my own neighbourhood.
Submitted by Jessie
I got off work as a bartender at 1 am on a Saturday night and was headed to a late night food take out place on Lincoln.
Lincoln Ave has lots of bars so it also has lots of police presence.
I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt tied at the waist, and jean shorts to my knees. No cleavage, no skin except arms and lower legs, and I was wearing sneakers.
A guy walking towards me just pushed me up against the wall and started groping me, he was drunk as can be, and I shoved him off me and I was angry beyond words and I started punching him as hard as I could figuring I would get in as many licks as I could until the policeman who was like 30 feet away would come over. I was so fueled I didn’t care if I got hurt, my adrenaline was pumping.
The guy was hitting me back more than I was hitting him so I stepped back and started screaming for the cop who finally came over. I asked the cop why it took so long for him to come over and get this answer…..He said, “I thought you knew each other.” AS IF THAT MATTERED!!!!
Pigs!! I signed a blank complaint form after telling my story not knowing how this process works. I went to the appointed court time at 11 am on the designated day, sitting for over an hour and my case was not called. I was so out of place in the scum hole of the court room, that the prosecutor finally came over and asked me what I was there fore. When I showed him my paperwork, he went through the GARBAGE and found the paperwork for me. My case was at 9 am. The cops purposely told me the wrong time so the groping asshole could get the complaint dropped.
I’m disgusted all over again just writing this. Ladies, take no shit!
Submitted by Gigi