I am 17-year-old girl living in the Midwestern United States. I was out walking my dog at dusk on January 2; my family lives in a pretty friendly neighborhood and my sisters and I have always felt comfortable with hanging out after dark around our area. As I was coming back from my hour-long walk, I registered that my dog was starting to bristle about a car that was cruising along very slowly behind us. It was now very dark and I began to feel seriously nervous. I’d had my iPod earphones in, but now I removed them in order to feel more alert.
We (all three of us) finally reached the front of my house. Relieved, I tentatively went to cross in front of the car. But before I could, the driver leaned out of the rolled-down window and started speaking softly to me. I flinched all over. You know that sick surge of adrenaline where your heart lurches into overdrive and you feel like it’s trying to tear out of your chest? My pulse was pounding in my eardrums- he’s too close, run, he’s too close, run, wrong, wrong, wrong! The sound of it literally deafened me, and it wasn’t until a few beats later that I could tell what he was saying.
Get in the car, honey. Right now. I want you to suck my cock, bitch.
There was more. I think I blocked out the rest of it. It was the eyes that scared me the most, far more than the words. He looked hungry and unfocused, and I wanted to throw up, or scream, or both. I made myself memorize his face: white, bearded, middle-aged, big.
He laughed. Then he slowly cruised away. I forced myself to take in a mental photograph of his license plate. I chanted the sequence aloud, softly, a mantra, and sprinted across the street. Somewhere in the 100-yard dash across my lawn and to my garage, my choking fear disappeared and replaced itself with a sheer and burning rage. I marched into my house and went straight for the phone. My family, gathered for dinner, watched as I dialed the number for non-emergency police calls.
After taking my initial statement and making sure that no one in the house was in imminent danger, the officer told me to stay inside my house while he ran the plate number that I rattled off to him, and that he’d be over in about twenty minutes. Sure enough, he and his partner arrived and took a formal statement from me. They had brought a photo of my harasser and I was able to identify him beyond any doubt. He was already in their records; for what, they couldn’t say but they seemed very pleased that I was a minor because the consequences would definitely be harsher.
They shook my mother’s hand. They did not shake mine. They said I was a very brave girl. They said I should be more careful.
My anger at the man carried me through for several more hours. That night in the shower, though, I broke down completely. My fear was remembered and it caught me again, mercilessly and totally.
I now grasp what my sister and mother say about this: We live in a rape culture. On the phone with my boyfriend that night (sensitive and wonderful and sweet though he is) he couldn’t understand why this was so frightening to me. He couldn’t even begin. Why should he understand? This is something that will NEVER happen to him. We as women learn how to be afraid.
Submitted by sophiecolette
Sexism on yelp? When I logged into my account, this was enough to make me think that some of the comments may not be random.
I don’t want to sound crazy, but here is what I saw (screenshot included) When I logged into my account on yelp, I saw the banner overhead greeting me with a very personal and creepy message, “Looking good, Raven.” Somehow, it struck me. I did not understand why at the time, but this next message confirmed it: When I clicked to go to my profile, I was greeted with what you see below. Now, pretty is not an adjective that would be used to describe a man. I can’t help but think that the selection process for greetings at yelp isn’t as arbitrary as people would think and that you’re privacy may not be as protected. Even in the world of online, as a woman, you want to be valued for yourself as a complex human being and not appraised as a sex object with no right and/or feelings. I can’t help but feel that something – and I am highly intuitive – is not right with this. I have contacted management and I am looking forward to seeing what they have to say. I’ll keep you informed.
I was fifteen or so when my grandfather died, though I looked more like thirteen. At his wake, which my sister and I attended all that evening, we took a break and walked to the local Dunkin’ Donuts to get a bite to eat with a girlfriend. On the way back, a group of guys (whose faces I couldn’t see in the dark) in huge SUVs honked their horns and wolf-whistled at us. I was absolutely terrified, as this was the first instance of sexual harassment I’d ever experienced. They made comments about our bodies and how “hot” we were, dressed in funeral clothes. I hung my head down and moved faster, trying to avoid causing any “trouble.” I was well-read enough to understand what groups of men + darkness + young girls equaled, even if I hadn’t experienced before or really been talked t about it, and I didn’t want anything like that to happen to me, my sister or my friend. I wish I’d been brave enough at the time to have said something, but I didn’t. We managed to get out of there unmolested, though a few of the guys seemed to have been following us right up to the funeral home. When I told my mother about it, my sister said she was happy that they’d found us attractive, while I just felt ashamed. We’ve both learned our lessons about verbal harassment now and don’t stand for things like this anymore, but sometimes I wish I had a time machine and could go back and tell my younger self to yell at them to back off. Long after that incident, I noticed how many of my male “friends” said similar things under the guise of “compliments.” Now I say what I wished I’d said back then, “Stop commenting about my body and get lost.”
Submitted by Rachel
This was a few years ago when I first moved to NYC. I lived in the East Village was walking to Union Square like I did every morning. A guy walking towards me sidled up beside me as I was walking by and said “I can see your pussy” under his breath and really close to my ear…I was horrified. This never happened to me when I was living in Boston. I was actually shaking after it happened, but I continued on my way. BTW – I was wearing capri pants, a large tank top and sneakers – hardly a revealing outfit. Strangely, the guys that do this to me in Union Square were always sidling up to me and saying “tsst” “tsst” “tsst” – it is so gross. They get so close to you that you FEEL like you’re being assaulted.
Submitted by Alie
An update to my situation:
I originally posted on December 23, 2009 (Bisexual men get harassed too). I have since moved to Los Angeles, CA and i yelled at elderly Italian man from my window that i was moving back to los angeles and that he can’t mess with me any more. But i have learned that he is still messing with me from ny via online, because when I go out I hear people gossiping about naked videos of me or the false slanderous stories the old italian man spread about me from NY so I am going to seek the help of WHOA (Working to Halt Online Abuse) and Jane Hitchcock. I just don’t know what to do and lucky i found out about WHOA and hopefully they can help me deal with my cyber harasser/perverted ex-neighbor.
Some people wanted to assault me due to the false slanderous stories but saw that i was good looking in person so they left me alone. I am stressed out and contemplated suicide but joining a church helped.
Submitted by Michael L.
This past summer, I submitted a harassment experience here. Recently, I told my mom about it (I’m 17) and she told me about something that happened to her and my little sister (age 10) when they were visiting me in Boston. I wanted to post it here because when children are harassed, often no one ever finds out. I wanted to make it clear that street harassment affects children too, and that my little sister is one of the lucky ones.
My mom and sister were on the Orange Line, not sure which station, when my mom noticed a youngish man staring at my little sister. She’s an exceptionally pretty little girl, so this was not altogether unusual, but my mom said that something in the way he was looking my little sister up and down made the hair stand up on the back of her neck. When the train came to the next station, my mom hustled my sister out of their car and into another car. The man followed them, still staring at my sister. At the next stop, Mom tried to switch cars again, and although the man tried to follow, they were too fast for him and escaped. My little sister never knew what was going on; Mom just told her she wanted a less crowded car.
Since then, my sister has been followed by another man here at home in Ohio on her way to and from choir practice. She was really frightened and asked my dad to drive her from now on; the stalker has since disappeared. But I’m so scared for her. Just thinking about this shit makes me want to throw up. A little girl should not have to ride a train- or walk around her own town- in fear.
Submitted by Katherine
It’s 5:15pm on New Year’s Eve. I just get off the subway from work, and I’m walking home. An older man, in his mid 50’s, looks at me and as he passes says: “Oh, she’s got hips on her — don’t let the little (something) fool you.” The man behind him, not sure if they were together, also in his mid 50’s, passes me with his elbow out to the side and says “Hey!” as he jabs me in the shoulder. I turn around, dumbfounded and unable to find words, and give him a dirty look. He says “this is New York!” as I turn the corner.
This encounter was enough to get me looking on Craigslist for a new apartment. I know that street harassment will follow me wherever I go, unfortunately, but it has never been as bad for me as it is where I live now.
Submitted by Diane
So this website has brought back all these memories through the years and given me the courage to contact offenders that I was not able to confront at the time. One was a grad school professor who stuck his finger up my butt while standing in line with him in the cafeteria. It was the grossest thing. I was so shocked and humiliated, but weirdly turned around smiling as though it was a joke and said something like “there are laws against that you know, ha ha” My response so sickens me now that I sent the following e-mail to him last week. Thanks Hollaback for giving me the courage to set the record straight.
E-mail I wrote to my long ago offender:
I should have slapped the shit out of you and started yelling at the top of my lungs “This asshole pervert just stuck his finger in my ass and I’m turning him over to the authorities.” You fucking bastard. We were in line at the cafeteria at USC. At the age of 30-something I’d not yet learned to stand up to sexual harassment in a way that was helpful. You have probably forgotten what you did to me, but if you are still sexually assaulting your female students I hope to God you’ve gotten what you deserve from at least one or two of them.
For some reason you hated me–I guess because I didn’t worship you. Your class was terrifying for me. I’d never done improv. You seemed to pick up on that, had no compassion or even the slightest interest in understanding my fear as your student of acting. You had all the power, Stephen. I know because I went on to be a university director and teacher. Then to make it worse, you made it your mission to humiliate me every chance you got.
I was in the MFA class of 1986 at USC. I took one year of your Improv class and then got released from it because it was so upsetting to me. I also remember you STILL treating me like shit year’s later at [ ]’s wedding. I don’t know why I was even at your table at the reception, but I was. What was your fucking problem with me? I should have cornered you and confronted you then.
I needed to get this off my chest because every time I get the USC alumni magazine, that memory comes back and I feel ashamed. NO MORE. You can have the shame because you are the only one who did anything wrong.
I deserve an apology and you deserve to have been reported.
I rather doubt you are man enough to even consider making amends. So be it. I’m having a damn good life surrounded by people who love and appreciate me and you, my dear, can go to hell.
Submitted by circe1223