I was on my way to the bus station today, walking behind a woman on her cell phone, when I heard a man say in a leering voice, “Well, hello, beautiful.”
The woman in front of me ignored him. She didn’t seem to notice that she was the target of his attentions.
“Hey!” He yelled, growing belligerent and glaring at her. “I’m talking to you!” She glanced over, fearful, and kept talking on her cell phone, trying to continue ignoring him.
Apparently satisfied with her reaction, the man snickered loudly and walked ahead of us. I was filled with rage and wanted to step in, yell at him to leave her alone (as I often wish someone would do for me), but I realized that I was one small woman in a secluded road behind the post office, and he was a large man who already didn’t care about women’s boundaries. For safety’s sake, I didn’t intervene, but I felt sick, sad and ashamed for my entire bus ride home.
I am normally on the receiving end of these encounters more than once a week. This time, I was not actually the target of sexual harassment, but seeing it happen to someone else was just as bad. What I wouldn’t give to be able to DO something without endangering my own life. These creeps walk around with impunity, harassing and intimidating and victimizing people, yet confronting them means preparing for violence. I hate to give them even more power by not stepping in, but what can I do?
The man met up with some of his buddies at the bus station. I snapped a photo from behind.
After reading all of the stories here and realizing that this happens to other people, every day, I decided I might as well write down my own first experience.
About nine years ago I went on a trip out with my family to Ribchester – it was all good, we went to the museum etc etc. This part doesn’t really have much bearing on the story, it’s just a bit of context. Anyway, we stopped at a playground for a while because it was a sunny day. When I went through the gates into the playground, a group of about three or four boys stared me up and down – they can only have been about ten years old. One of them took it upon himself to tell me that I had “nice tits”. That was it for me, the day was spoiled. I continued to think it was my fault for wearing a vest – now I think about it, it was the heat of summer. It was really, really hot. And I have just as much a right as anybody else to wear what I like.
I was eight years old and these sorts of comments have been directed towards me constantly since then. It isn’t a compliment, it isn’t something I should be grateful for. It is sexual harassment and I am not going to take this shit any more.
Oh, and if I could go back to that point when I was eight and experienced my first harassment, I would tell that prick exactly what he could do. Age is no excuse.
I live in Guatemala City and I cannot walk down the street alone without getting stares and comments. When I walk with my boyfriend, nobody ever says anything. But alone, every 2 or 3 men I pass on the street feels he has the right to call out to me, and it makes me angry and scared. Angry because it’s so disrespectful and they don’t have the right, and scared because as a woman walking alone, it could be so much worse than an obnoxious comment. I want to react, to call them out, but though I speak Spanish well (I’m from the States), I’m not so comfortable as to be able to challenge a random stranger on the street, especially since I can’t predict the way he’ll react. That feeling of powerlessness to call them out on their behavior puts me in an even worse mood. I tend to walk around on the street now *trying* to look angry enough to do some real damage in the hopes that it will scare some of them off. Today I finally lost my patience. I screamed the only Spanish-language obscenity I know at an employee of a fancy restaurant who called to me from the door, “Hola amor, where are you going?” (in English) It’s not the worst thing I’ve heard, but it’s what I get so many times a day it’s like a broken record. I’m not sure he heard, but the man on the street certainly did, which I felt a little bad about – it was not directed at him. And then not even 20 seconds later, a man on a motorcycle stopped at a light tried to get my attention with “ch ch! ch ch!” (The sound is used to get people’s attention here, and I cannot begin to fathom how many times I have heard it). Still fuming from the last guy, I flipped him off as I walked by, and then when he sped by he yelled something angry at me. I know that my reactions were immature and probably not the best way to deal with it, but I actually felt a little better afterward. I don’t have the energy or the responsibility to explain to every man who catcalls me why it’s inappropriate and offensive. And most of them probably already know it anyway. I get so frustrated not being able to react, and today, I *was* able to react. I’ll work in better responses, but I’m proud of myself for not feeling helpless in today.
Reading the entries on this site have made me so angry about street harassment, and given mine more context, but it has also helped me feel stronger to do something about it. Ignoring it doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop, it only gets worse, and the people who do it will just keep doing it if nobody tells them off. If they think will get away with it, there’s no incentive not to catcall somebody. Even if you just scream something at them, they know at least that it’s not appreciated nor tolerated by their target and maybe, eventually, they start to think about that… hopefully.
This story is 14 years old, but I never had anywhere to tell it before. I, like 99% of the world’s population, had been on the receiving end of street harassment ever since I was 11 years old, but these incidents occurred to me between the ages of 22 through 25.
I lived with my first serious boyfriend in an apartment off of Route 20 in East Greenbush, NY, but commuted across the Massachusetts border to my job in Pittsfield, MA…a 30 mile commute. Needless to say, I filled up at the gas station about 3 times per week at the station/convenience store right by my apartment complex on many mornings. There was also a bus stop right in front of this store and that is where my Harasser, Vic (I cannot believe I still remember this jerk’s name) found his opportunity to harass me.
I was young, slim, attractive enough so not surprised when men looked at me or shouted occasionally from their cars. I wore professional office attire – power suit or dress with jacket and heels. One morning, as I exited the store to return to my car, Vic was standing right by the door and he said softly, but loud enough for me to hear, “Oooh, those legs!” The way he said it was so gross it made me feel instantly sick to my stomach, like I could throw up. I got into my car without ever looking back at him, I wouldn’t even be able to describe him because I didn’t want to know who he was.
This continued EVERY single time I would go to the store in the mornings. Sometimes, I would see that Vic was getting on the bus before I reached the gas station so I learned that I could adjust my schedule by leaving home just 2 or 3 minutes later and he would be gone. If I saw him waiting on the bus and I needed gas or coffee I’d head to a different gas station just to avoid him leering at me, groaning at me, whispering his nasty comments at me. I hated Vic.
In 1997, my boyfriend & I moved to a different unit in our same apartment complex, then Vic figured out that he and I lived in the same complex! He took it upon himself to write me a letter and leave it on my car which was parked in front of my building! I cannot really remember the content of this letter other than the gist of it. “My name is Vic. I’ve been watching you for years. I want to take you out. Give me a chance. Blah, blah, blah… Please don’t run me over with your car.”
I find it interesting looking back on it now that he put in the line begging that I don’t run him over. He must have known that I didn’t like him or his advances. And I wished at the time I could have run him over, but then I would go to jail for vehicular homicide.
So I was totally freaked out that this guy knew where I lived. I remember expressing my fears to my boyfriend. Our relationship was slowly dying for many reasons, but his reaction to a strange man leering at his live in girlfriend and leaving notes on her car was this: “You can’t blame the guy for trying.” This man harassed me for nearly 3 years and that’s it? He’s just flirting with me?
This was just another one of our many disagreements so I decided to leave a few months later. I moved out in September of 97 and that was the end of dealing with Vic. I’ve never had another experience as creepy as him and I know he didn’t do anything “all that bad” on the scale of bad things. But if I had just had the courage to use my voice back then….I would have:
Yelled at him.
Told him he was a disgusting loser.
I would have reported his behavior to the store manager.
I would have reported his stalking behavior to the apartment complex managers.
I would have called police and at least filed a complaint on him.
I’m nearly 40 years old (about the age Vic was I’m estimating) and I don’t get those cat calls or harassment as I used to. But I swear, if I see it happening, I will speak up, I will Hollaback at all the Vics out there….”Stop it! She doesn’t want to hear about how much you want to touch her legs! You are spreading EVIL with your words and leering glances! Leave her alone!”
I was crossing the street from Old Navy and going back to my car. As I was getting into the car, I noticed a man in a beige SUV filming me with his cell phone. It creeped me out and I just watched him in my rear view mirror for a minute. When I put the car in reverse, he sort of freaked and also started to drive off. I attempted to follow him for a while, but he must have seen me and was flying. I just couldn’t keep up. I felt sort of gross and told my husband about it later. I said I wasn’t sure if he was some kind of pervert or just some weird0 randomly filming people. I’m 5’11” and 265 pounds, so I don’t fit the beauty standard. My husband said that, as a man, he thinks the guy was a perv. He said, “Pervs don’t just go for stereotypes. That you are visibly a woman is enough.” It still creeps me out to think that perv has video of me and what he’s doing with it.
A lot of folks in this town walk places – it’s a college town, we have roads, we walk. Usually I park where I work and walk down to class – I’ve been doing this for two years, no problem. Lately however I’ve been having work done on my car at a place farther up King street outside of the campus area, fairly close to where it stops being Downtown and starts being kinda rural. There are college student’s apartments in the area and some (arbitrary?) sections of the road have sidewalks.
Four times so far I’ve had to walk up a fairly steep hill, it’s a good twenty minute walk, in 90+ degree weather. I’m usually wearing jeans and a button-up shirt and sneakers. And every time at least three vehicles whistle, yell or honk. And I’m not talking just frat boys: these are State-owned trucks going to the construction site down the road, or big ol’ gravel trucks honking (LOUD) and scaring me. This doesn’t happen when I’m downtown but when I get to this part of the road, I get hassled. Every time.
I want to start throwing rocks at them. I flip them off or yell “fuck you.” A guy friend has told me I have a sexy walk and I’ve wondered if that’s the problem – I walk fast and I guess my butt moves too much? I don’t know dudes, I’m just walking. How else should I walk? I’m not the problem. A girl friend told me “They’re just trying to compliment you!” I said “They’re scaring me. If they want to be nice they could offer me a ride, and I’d make sure they know I carry a knife.”
Next time I’ll be throwing rocks.
I went to the beach with a friend and I didn’t want to sit in my wet bathing suit bottoms all the way home. There were no changing rooms where we were parked so when we were about to leave I stood next to my car with my towel wrapped around my waist and changed into a pair of shorts. I changed quickly and easily and I don’t see how anyone watching could have thought I’d expose myself in the process. There was a middle-aged guy standing behind my car fishing, with his back to me, and I noticed he was turned around staring at me. I made eye contact with him a few times in the hopes that he would realize his staring wasn’t welcome, but each time he would turn back to his fishing pole until I looked away, and I’d catch him staring again. Before I got into my car I said “hi” to him in a very sarcastic tone. He looked taken aback and said hi and then I left. The incident wasn’t the worst thing to happen to me by a long shot, but it was still irritating. It was like he had to be reminded that I’m a live person and not a paid actor in a porn film. Nothing is going to happen dude. You are not going to see my vag!
I’m an American living in Cameroon, and I have to walk 10 minutes to work everyday. I can do this by crossing a busy traffic circle and risk getting hit, or walking around and passing groups of guys hanging about. At least once each way everyday I get some form of verbal harassment unless I walk with my dad or brother. They yell ‘mon cherie’ or ‘ma belle’, and often openly gape at me in a sexual way. I’m 17, and needless to say this makes me extremely uncomfortable that I can’t even walk to work without being harassed. Sometimes I will just chance the roundabout to avoid them.
A man with a clipboard was blocking women on the sidewalk and demanding that they smile on the sidewalk near the w 4th st station. When I told him to stop harassing women, he started ranting at me. I went into CVS and while I was in there, he came in and tried to scam the cashier into refunding something he hadn’t bought.
BY STEPHANIE E. ARENDT
Senior Prevention Educator
Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault
In just the past two years, the level of awareness and support available for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified youth experiencing bullying and harassment in schools has grown astronomically. There are almost no safeguards, however, for the kinds of harassment they encounter in public spaces on a daily basis. From cat calls to physical threats and hate crimes, public harassment is one of the most endemic forms of gender-based violence, and LGBTQ-identified youth are especially vulnerable by virtue of their perceived or actual gender, sexuality or sexual orientation.
In Tucson, Arizona, Safe Streets AZ has emerged to track and address public harassment, and provide a greater network of support for the LGBTQ community. A program of the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA) funded by the Alliance Fund Queer Youth Initiative, Safe Streets AZ provides youth ages 13-23 the opportunity to share their story, get support, and become part of a growing movement to end public and street harassment. Inspired by organizations like Hollaback!, the program combines an interactive Google map and blog to track and share incidences of harassment. Community members can also use the map to locate “Safe Sites”– local businesses and organizations where youth experiencing harassment can go to temporarily feel safe and receive resources.
During conversations with local LGBTQ youth, almost all of the 30 youth that took part had experienced public harassment of some kind. Many said they worry daily about being harassed, and felt that the level of harassment they experience as the result of their perceived gender and sexual orientation is more intense. “You have to take it more seriously if you’re gay,” said one youth. “A lot of the time if someone says they’re going to kill a faggot then they’re probably serious, and you have to treat it that way.”
Despite its prevalence, there is little data on the frequency and impact of public harassment, particularly at the local level. Safe Streets AZ aims to change that. By collecting stories and reports from partner organizations as well as community members, information will be collected and used to hold more perpetrators accountable, and create better systems of support for anyone experiencing harassment.
Visit: www.safestreetsaz.wordpress.com to share your story, get support, and –together—help end harassment.
For more information on the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, visit www.sacasa.org