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BY CLAIRE LIGHT, cross posted from her blog.
Up front I’m telling you that this is about Hollaback’s “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign, to create an online and offline movement to end street harassment. I’ve donated and I hope you’ll consider doing the same.
Boy, it’s been a long time since I posted. Actually, the last time I posted was right around the time that I moved back to San Francisco. And I’m so glad to be back.
But I don’t tell people that one of the reasons I’m so glad to be back in the city is that the amount of harassment I encounter has gone waaaaaay down. The main reason I don’t mention it is that the reactions of many people break my heart. Too many people, upon being told in general that I get a lot of harassment, act uncomfortable — with me! — and don’t offer me any sympathy, much less engage in any discussion. I’m talking about abstract conversations here, where there’s no immediate danger, and all I’m doing is communicating.
It’s so much worse, then, when the harassment happens in front of your friends or social circle and they do nothing or act uncomfortable with you, as if you were the one who had done something wrong. I know that those situations can be sometimes scary or emotionally heightened. But think about the general emotional orientation of someone who doesn’t, when the scary moment is over, automatically offer help and sympathy to a friend who has just been verbally assaulted.
I mean, c’mon, people! How hard is it to say to your friend who was just harassed, “I’m sorry you had to deal with that,” or ask her “are you alright?”
It’s those simple offerings that can make the difference between you being part of the problem, and you being part of the solution. Either you kick a friend who’s just been kicked, or you blow on her bruise and offer her salve. Why is that such a hard choice?
The immediate sympathy and help is key, but what’s an even greater act of friendship is listening, discussing, and helping your friend to process the harassment, to understand it, contextualize it, and help render it less powerful. Treating your friend as a thinking, feeling adult who is capable of understanding what has happened to her, and capable of insight, is a really important part of being an empowered woman in a society that often treats us as meat.
And the greatest act of friendship — and righteousness — of all is intervening on the spot, and standing up to the harasser for and with your friend.
This last one — standing up for your friends — should be automatic. If it isn’t, maybe it’s time to think long and hard about how you were raised, and what choices you learned to make to survive. Yeah, I was a bullied kid and I threw other outcasts under the bus if it would save me … when I was in grade school. But now I’m an adult, and every failure of mine to protect and support my friends when they are attacked is my failure, not theirs. And yes, as an adult I’ve failed many times, or been weak or stupid in my support. But I’m glad to say that there have also been times when I was mindful enough to succeed in supporting and backing up my friends. And I strive to be that person every day.
I’m thankful for those fierce friends of mine who have done all of these things: Jaime, Patty, Cyndie, Robynn, and others whom I’m forgetting right now. (There have been so many incidents over the years, and when I was younger I deliberately forgot about it when friends failed to support me, so I managed to also forget when they did support me.)
And I’m also remembering people who shall remain nameless — some of them people I greatly respected — who stood by and did nothing. And, though I forgive quickly, I’ll never forget. As MLK said:
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
You’re not alone — in being harassed, in feeling helpless, in not knowing what to do. But tackling street harassment as it happens in front of you is your responsibility, as it is the responsibility of every citizen of a free state.
Please donate to the Hollaback “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign, and start (or continue) to get everyone’s back on this.
I was on the phone and a man came up behind me and grabbed my torso and quickly walked away before I could say anything. I was on a business call so I couldn’t just stop my conversation. I am furious!
I’m a fairly traditional southern woman, raised and homeschooled by extremely conservative parents, and sheltered from the world. Or at least I was. I started college at Tarleton State in the fall of ’09, and a lot of things change. I’ve learned a lot about harassment, first hand, that I hope none of my friends never have to learn. I could write about getting groped on my way to a club/bar, or screamed at by some idiot in a truck on my way home, or even a more violent incident that happened later that year, but I won’t. Instead I give you this little jewel, the incident that truly showed me how comfortable these ‘normal’ men were with their behavior, and just how acceptable it really was. I was attending a womens volleyball game with some friends, supporting our school in the regionals I think. Some guys behind us started harassing the opposing team and screaming some very vulgar things at them. A male friend took offense to that behavior, and warned them to quiet down. When they started being rude to him, I piped up. I don’t remember what I said but it must have made an impression. They were quieter for the rest of the match, and we watched in peace. Afterwards, I refused a ride home and decided to walk, because my dorm was less than half a mile away and the night was beautiful. I didn’t even think twice about my decision. I tried to call my boyfriend of the time who lived out of town, to enjoy a walk and talk under the stars. Just as I heard the busy tone, I began to hear yelling. It was three of the drunk men from before, trying to get my attention. I tried to ignore them, they were being just as vulgar as before. I was terrified. They were large men, and at 5’2″, i’m rather not. They continued to follow me as I asked them to leave me alone, and fought off tears. I could smell the alcohol from 5 feet away. I finally snapped when they asked my name again, and told them “It’s get the fuck away from me”. They just laughed and asked if it was “mexican”. They followed me to the door before losing interest. There were half a dozen other people in the parking lot when they started harassing me. Talk about turning a blind eye.
If you want a world where no one EVER turns a blind eye to verbal or physical violence, donate to the “I’ve got your back” campaign. We’ve trying to raise another $15,000 in the next 8 days and we need your help.
We’ve only got 9 days to go and over $15,000 more to raise to reach our goal! We need your help to make sure that no one ever has to Hollaback alone. Support our campaign here, and check out the ABC article here!
I saw this man’s boner on my way home from work.
I noticed him touching himself in front of me on a crowded train (the Brooklyn-bound F around 6:50pm 6/27/11, between Jay St & 4th Ave.) and looked down to see his pants unzipped, with the shape of his hard penis sheathed in nothing but gray boxer briefs. He kept trying (unsuccessfully) to pull his shirt down over his “situation.”
I was shaking too much to say anything. All I could do was snap a photo. I regretted not speaking up the minute I got off the train. I even contemplated darting back on and yelling “Attention women on this train! This man has his pants unzipped and cannot keep his hand off his dick!”
As a woman, it’s an internal battle of wanting to call the asshole out while also not wanting to put yourself in danger. Clearly a man who’s deranged enough to touch himself in public is capable of worse.
At this point, all I can do is hope that he gets the exposure he deserves, someone braver than me recognizes him, and gives him a swift knee to the balls.
[UPDATE: This story has gone viral and was covered by the Village Voice!]
My 2 friends and I were sitting and talking at the Manorhaven Pool in Port Washington, NY …..The 3 of us are all Chinese-American with our kids nearby in the pool…A tall 6’4” drunk man came over and started harassing my friend who had earlier reprimanded him for trying to smoke in the pool area which is forbidden….He started asking about her ethnic origin: “Are you Korean? Are you Japanese, etc.?” and then he started to imply that if she was an illegal immigrant that he could possibly turn her in because he had “the power” and that she was someone “without power”…He flashed a badge and said that he was a Federal agent of some kind. My other friend and I watched him and waited for him to get bored and walk away ….meanwhile, I held up my cameraphone to him and took his photo (Thanks, Emily for making me feel fearless and quietly confident!)….
Later, he went away (he was there with his 2 daughters and maid and her daughter)…and started talking with the lifeguard….While he was chatting up the lifeguard, I went to the front desk and reported him…and they said they were aware and getting ready to close in on him…..
Thank you, Emily…I think in the past I would have felt more afraid and alone and embarrassed…. and somehow felt maybe I didn’t belong there and that maybe I had done something to bring this upon myself….It felt empowering to have my friends there at my side and all the other moms and their kids there….and knowing that I was not alone….There is safety in numbers…even if they weren’t all there, just knowing that what he was doing was called “harassment” and that he was the one in the wrong….and that other people would have reported him in the same situation was enormously comforting….. I will try to e-mail you his photo….
I was going to a friend’s birthday one night in a decent neighborhood and got a little turned around when I got off the subway. I walked around, trying to get my bearings and figure out where I was going. There wasn’t anyone around that I could see. As I was walking around, two guys were walking along the sidewalk towards me, obviously drunk. They started to talk to me, asking me nonsensical questions. (Nothing sexual, just weird, like “Do you like mermaids?”) When I wouldn’t respond, the one grabbed me by the arms and asked the question again. I looked him in the eyes and said, “DON’T you touch me!” He immediately let go, and they staggered off laughing.
I was so shaken up and taken aback by the whole incident. More than anything, though, I was proud of my gut reaction and forceful hollaback to let these guys know that what they did is totally and completely unacceptable.
I still do not remember how old I was, somewhere between 6 and 9. I felt safe; I was in a card store with my mom at the mall that I had been going to for years. It was familiar and I felt safe. A man and another person, I cannot remember if it was male or female, squeezed passed us as they were exiting the store while we were at the register. The man touched my genitals, I believe, without looking at me, probably to avoid detection. I didn’t even understand what was happening, let alone know what to do. I was holding my mother’s hand but she did not see and I never told anyone.
Luckily that is the only time I ever experienced physical sexual harassment. However, this is a lesson to parents that it does not matter the age of your child. They need to know that there are bad people that could hurt them and what to do in such a situation as the one I experienced. Just because you love your child unconditionally does not mean everyone else will keep your child from harm. Bad things CAN happen to them. Had my mother explained to me that if someone touches you in any way that you should scream or tell someone immediately, perhaps this pervert could have been caught and been stopped from hurting other children. That is something I still think about today. Are there other victims that he hurt in the same or even worse ways? Children need to know what to do! Otherwise perverts will continue to go undetected, able to hurt others, perhaps someone you love and cherish.
This is the first time I’ve ever had such an incident, although this occurred close to last winter, I am still weary of shopping near City Hall.
Some background info, I am 18 but look way younger than I am, I can still pass for 14 if I wanted to. What happened was, I was coming out of a store from shopping alone and was waiting at a corner to cross the street to get to another store, a 40-something year old man at the corner stared at me for a while an mumbled something about the weather, I smiled and thought nothing of it. He then turned to me to make even more small talk and then asked me if he could walk with me. At that point I got the bad feeling but since I was in a busy part of city hall an was heading into a store, I didn’t think to find help. In the store he kept on asking me questions and talking about himself, apparently he “works for google” and had just gotten a haircut down the street. After leaving the store, I headed towards a even busier street just in case, and he kept following me for 2 blocks after that, asking me more questions like “where are you from”, “where do you live”, “is your family here?”, “how many siblings do you have” eventually he asked if I had a boyfriend to which I said yes and he still had the nerve to ask for my number. After saying no, he finally left me alone.
Although my situation is nowhere as bad as the others, the key points that makes this not an innocent situation either is that this guy was obviously old and he did not know my age, I could have been 14 years old for all he cares and he would have still persisted in attempting to get my number. Any decent human being would know how suspicious it looks to follow a young girl around trying to get their number. Not to mention the specific questions he asked seemed to be trying to determine whether I was one of those Asian international students attending a school in NY on my own or not. He was the epitome of those creepers that try to take advantage of foreign students.
I was traveling for work and grabbing a drink at the bar next to my hotel. I was alone, so I was making conversation with a couple next to me for a while and everything was fine, then they left to go catch a concert. When the couple left, a man who had been next to us for a while started to talk to me. He seemed friendly enough but within 15 minutes he was grabbing my thigh and arm and trying to get me to go back to my hotel with him. I clearly told him I was married and NOT interested. I pushed his hand away and quickly got the bartender to get my check. While waiting for my check, he grabbed my leg and thigh again. I pushed him away he actually said “your husband doesn’t have to know, you’re in the big city now” Was this guy joking? I had pepper spray primed for action in my pocket. I paid and left the bar looking over my shoulder and ran into my hotel and told the hotel staff that I thought someone was following me and that I wasn’t expecting guests so not to call my room or anything if this guy had followed me. The worst part is that this man claimed he was a former NYC police officer working private security for some other company now. I was very distraught, I’ve never been harassed like that in NYC and I travel there for work all of the time.
I work in midtown east on certain days. I tend to walk around in the area to find a place to sit and have lunch late afternoons, most likely walking down 2nd ave in the 40′s. Today, as I round the corner of 40th and 2nd, there is a construction crew with some of the men up on a scaffold and a guy on the ground with a flag, warning people about the construction as they walk by. As I approach them, flag guy, already having spotted me and locking his sights on me from a few yards away, begins making loud, lewd comments directed at me as I walk towards them. It’s raining and I have my umbrella, so I turn my umbrella sideways to block his view of me as I walk by him. He, not knowing what to do then, actually shuts up. By this one action, I actually shut him down for a few seconds. My action was very pointed and very obvious. It confused him and threw him off his game. Ha! I’m sure most women just grit their teeth and bear it from him. Well, not today.
I go into a pizza place nearby, have my lunch and then exit. As I approach the construction crew on the return trip, flag guy sees me coming and is already warming up that loud mouth of his. As I pass I again turn my umbrella sideways blocking his view of me. This pisses him off. He says “Bitch!! Blocking me!! Fuckin’ bitch! All day long, baby! All day long!!!” I just continue on my way, but you know… I’m happy to have pissed him off and to have come up with just the thing to put a “dent” in his routine, even if only for a few moments.
I will take my camera with me to work next week and walk the same route again at lunchtime. If he is there and starts with the loud catcalling, which I’m sure he will, I am snapping a pic of him and will let him know that I’ll be posting it on a sexual harassment website. I fight these guys daily, and here is the next one on the list…. will keep you all posted.
I’ve lived in New York for several years, and am no foreigner to cat calls and general verbal harassment that follows me down the street often. One time, however, really sticks out in my mind. I was on the 1 train heading down towards Lincoln Center in the spring. I was going to try and rush tickets for the opera. I sat down on the subway in one of the seats that is only next to one other seat. As we passed each stop the seats were filling more and more, and eventually a man slumped into the seat next to me. He wasn’t a huge man or anything, but it was clear that he was taking up a lot of room- more room than necessary. What’s more, he was holding a pile of coats and jackets in his arms, which made him take up even more room. A few of the sleeves and edges of the jackets were spilling off of his lap and onto the edge of mine. I’m generally not a very controversial person- I usually would rather have myself experience a little discomfort than cause a confrontation, so I didn’t say anything to this man about his coats or the fact that he was taking up a little extra room on the seat. As I sat there, counting down the stops until I got to Lincoln Center, I thought for a moment that I felt something touch my leg- under my leg, under my thigh. I shifted uncomfortably, and wondered if I had imagined it. A minute or so passed, and again I felt something touching under my thigh, near my butt. This time I was sure there was something there. I turned to the man and simply yelled “HEY!” and he feigned confusion, but retracted his fingers and the coat edges that were on my lap, which I now realize were there to provide a cover for his hand moving underneath them. I remember sitting there next to that man seething with fury. I felt more angry in that moment than I ever have. Eventually I turned to him and said: What you are doing is ILLEGAL. He said: I don’t understand! I replied: AGAINST THE LAW. People were staring at us. I continued to sit in fury, and when the train came to a stop I stood up and got off even though it wasn’t Lincoln Center. I was close enough that I ended up walking the rest of the way, in a blind rage. By the time I got to Lincoln Center I was about 10 minutes too late in line, and I had no chance of getting tickets- this was really the salt in the wound. I’ve thought about that incident many times since and wondered what I should have done. I know am ready- if anyone ever is encroaching on my space I will not hesitate to say something. If someone ever gropes me on the subway again I will alert the conductor and ask that they call ahead for the police.
One of the worst parts about the incident was realizing that this man was planning it- He set out that day with an unnecessary number of coats, came onto the car, found a girl sitting by herself, and attacked. He has probably done this any number of times, and probably continues to do it to this day. Next time I’m fighting back by calling the police.
I’m usually the person targeted for harassment, since I’m tall and multiracial (and confident), and therefore the most visible woman on any given block. But just now I witnessed an egregious harassment of another woman, and I followed up with the harasser, as I would hope others would do for me (but have NEVER done.)
A big man (at least 6’2″, maybe more, and maybe 220 lbs or more) lurched out of an alcove at a small woman (at most 5’4″ and 120 lbs, maybe 25 y/o or less) who was walking down the sidewalk. He went at her fast, but slowly enough that she could get out of his way. But, since he held his arms out in front of and behind her, she could only get out of his way by going sideways. He pushed her across the sidewalk and into a car, where she ducked under his arm and kept walking. She bumped into me because she was busy looking behind her at the man, who was leaning into the car, laughing at her.
This all happened too fast for me to react to it. Now, as you can tell from the photo and video I’ve included, the man is poorly dressed and dirty, clearly down and out, possibly a drug addict. I do understand the rage and the invisibility of men like this, especially when you add on the racial component and the pressure and invisibility that comes with that.
HOWEVER, it is NOT OKAY for an oppressed man to take out his rage on a woman, or on anyone who is more vulnerable than he is, or on whom he can become violent.
I had a few seconds to decide what to do. He was still lingering just a few steps ahead of me, adjusting himself to the success of his harassment. At moments like this, I have to figure out if I’m going to be harassed myself. If I see a potential harasser up ahead, I’ll generally cross the street to avoid them. But this time, I decided to take the initiative, because I was so angry about what he did to that woman.
I stood still on the sidewalk as I thought about it. During this time, a family of two women and two little girls came down the sidewalk and the man lurched out amongst them, although I’m not sure this time if he intended to scare them or if he was just substance-addled. But that was the last straw for me.
I pulled out my phone, switched to camera mode, and walked past him, glaring at him as I went. As I expected, he started to follow me, saying something to me (I don’t know what, I had my headphones on until I turned my camera to video mode.) I started snapping pictures of him and, as soon as he saw me doing it, he walked away from me. He kept ducking into the building alcove, hoping I’d walk past. I tried that one time, but he just came back out and continued following me, so I continued snapping pictures.
Then he turned down a street to get away from me. Unfortunately for him, I’d remembered my video camera and switched to video. I turned the corner and did a little interview with him, which you can see in the video. Of course, he denied it all. Too bad I didn’t get pictures of the harassment.
He took off down the street and I followed him for a block and a half. He kept looking back to see if I was following. I stopped taking pictures, but I kept my phone held up. Finally, he walked down an alley to get away from me and I let him go. I wonder if that’s the first time in his life he’s had the tables turned on him like that. He sure didn’t like being harassed or followed.
Let me emphasize here, though, that it was the middle of the day, there were lots of people around, and I’m pretty tall and imposing-looking. I don’t necessarily recommend that other, smaller women turn the tables quite so thoroughly on a big man who was willing to get physical with a woman. It could be dangerous.
To ensure that every bystander is as amazing as Claire, donate to the “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Claire has already donated, as if she wasn’t already badass enough.
Every day I take the Metrobus to and from my college campus in Austin, Texas. Our neighborhood is pretty far away and my stop is the very last stop that bus takes, and I have to change buses three times to get to and from school. One Wednesday afternoon, around four o’clock, I transferred from the second to the last bus. I had been waiting at the bus stop for a good twenty minutes, but when I got on, some guy appeared out of nowhere and got on with me.
He was in his mid to late forties, it seemed. He tried to sit next to me even though there were tons of other empty seats, but I shook him off. Instead he sat in a seat across from me, and attempted to talk to me in Spanish. I just gave him a look and pointedly avoided his gaze, though I could see that he kept staring at me throughout the fifteen-minute ride. I was infuriated.
He finally got off at the bus stop before mine, where a tiny subdivision is located. I breathed a sigh of relief and got off at my stop, located at a tax building across the street from my neighborhood. I crossed the street and got to the entrance, when I noticed a car that was driving very slowly into the neighborhood. When I approached, I stared into the car, heart beating faster as I slowly came to realize that it was the same man from the bus earlier.
He only drove a little ways into the neighborhood, then pulled a u-turn and drove out of the same entrance. I was walking in, and I looked into the driver’s side and it was the same man, giving me the creepiest smile I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life. I had never known blood could literally run cold, but mine did that day.
He waved at me and pulled out of the neighborhood. I walked down the street backwards, watching his car. To my dismay, he was turning around at a stop-light and coming back my way. Horrified, I sprinted like mad to my house, thankfully fast enough so that he didn’t know where I lived. Nobody was home, and I hovered nervously next to the window. As I stared, the exact same car drove slowly around the street– He had been circling the neighborhood, looking for me.
I have never felt this outraged, violated, and humiliated. Knowing that he is practically my neighbor, that he would even try such a thing on a nineteen year old girl by herself absolutely infuriates me. That was a little over a few weeks ago, but I am still paranoid and I check that tiny neighborhood for his car every time I pass by, since I know he must live there.
Stories like this should never happen to anyone. Especially not 19 year olds. Help build a world without street harassment by donating to the “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. The campaign ends July 7th, so act quickly!
Check out the CNN.com article called “Mobile Tech Fights Sexual Harassment!” The article profiles our campaign – and why it is so important. But without your full support, the campaign won’t happen. The end of our campaign is a little more than a week away, so if you haven’t donated yet, please do it now!
It was just gone half past ten at night, a Monday evening in Bristol and I was standing alone at the bus stop waiting for my bus home. I was texting on my phone. A drunk man approached from behind me – I don’t know how long he had been there but I’d been there about ten minutes. He called me “lovely phone lady” and tried to engage me in conversation. When I calmly gave him the brush-off he asked if I was a criminal lawyer (huh?) so I told him no, but actually I live with one – hoping to intimidate him but of course feeding his sense of entitlement to converse. After that I didn’t give him any conversation but he carried on regardless. He asked if I had a boyfriend and then he explained to me that I shouldn’t be out alone, that if I was going to get a taxi or a bus home alone it wasn’t safe, that anything could happen to me and that he would wait with me. I said firmly that I was perfectly fine and he should leave. He repeatedly asked me to tell him where I live. He asked me whether I watch “Midsomer Murders”. Perhaps he wanted to spook me or perhaps he is a bit-part actor in it. He refused to leave, told me he had sisters and he would never ‘let’ them travel alone at night. At this point the bus arrived and I told him again to go. Instead, he stood just by the doors as I got on the bus. I wasn’t going to ask the driver for my destination with him listening, so I stood there waiting for him to go away. He then shouted to the driver “Look after her” and “I love her”. I just stood there with my back to him. Then the driver asked, “Is he your boyfriend?” at which point I said no, he is a creep who I have never met before in my life. Only then did the driver close the doors and I could ask for my ticket.
This man invaded my personal space and my privacy. He assumed he had the right to do this – and to tell me not to go out alone at night. I happened to think he was a prick, but he had no way of knowing that I wouldn’t be very scared by him.