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I am an avid yogi and I work hard to make it to yoga class every day with my busy schedule. I was so excited when I moved into the city within walking distance from my yoga studio. I usually walk the 5 minutes to class then walk home when it’s over, still in my yoga clothes. Apparently me wearing yoga pants is an invitation for men to comment on my most blessed attributes. Two days ago I was walking home from class when about 3 blocks from my house a white car drove up next to me, rolled down the side window and said “damn girl look at that ass”. I ignored them as I always do… the car drove down the block, turned around at the round about and rolled past me again, “ASS all day!”. He did this turn around/drive-by and yell thing about 6 times before I ended up running the last block home. I hid in the alley behind my house so that he wouldn’t be able to tell where I live and I cried. I now drive the 7 blocks to my yoga studio everyday out of fear that the same man or someone else might take it even further than that.
I was walking down a main road in my town to go to a local park. About 100 yards ahead of me sat a man on a bench. At this distance, he looked straight at me and then quickly stood up and crossed the street. I noticed his abrupt movement and thought it was a little odd, but didn’t think that much of it. I kept walking. After another five minutes or so of walking down that same street, I looked over and there was the same man, still across the street, walking in the same direction parallel to me. I tried to calm my paranoia and figured, “Maybe he’s going to the park too” or to some other nearby location. As we both kept walking, however, I noticed that he would frequently look over at me from across the street and made sure to walk at the exact same pace that I was walking. When I slowed down, he slowed down. When I sped up, he sped up. At this point, we were in a very residential part of town where there were no businesses or public places, only houses, and I was getting scared. We were the only two people on the street. Finally we passed by a church. I decided to try an experiment to see if he really was following me: in front of the church, I stopped dead in my tracks and took out my cell phone. I figured the man would keep walking without regard for my direction, and I would feel silly. To my horror, he stopped when I stopped, and turned to look at me, as if he was waiting for me to keep moving so he could continue to follow me. At this point I made direct eye contact with him from across the street, put on a serious face, and pretended to make a phone call (it could have been to 911 or the police or whatever; the point was just to let him know that I knew he was following me and I was calling someone to report it). At this point, the man turned around down a random side street and stopped following me.
It was another seven minutes of walking to the park, and I was turning around to look over my shoulder the entire time.
I went to my first college dance last semester as a sophomore with friends. A guy I only knew from one of my classes was intoxicated and was leaning on me and asked if me and my friend could get a pic in the photo booth. In the booth he groped me below the waist and leaned into me from behind while doing it. I was shocked and scared so my friend and I eventually got away from him. A few minutes later he came by grabbed me and started to pull me away from my friends but they stopped him. It freaked me out but I reported him to the college and he was punished. Speaking up felt like a weight off my shoulders, but it still scares me.
I’ve been getting followed and harassed by some guys in the neighborhood. I’m freaked out about it. I’m a single mom and live with my son, and the harassers live in front of us. One kinda stalked me today, watching me. Later today his buddy started shouting shit at me and then approached me because I wouldn’t respond. My guy friend was right next to me, too. I had just told him about the dude acting shady earlier, then we were outside and the guy started calling me blondie, getting mad that I didn’t respond, then approached and started trying to call me beautiful and stuff, I didn’t respond because I was uncomfortable and scared, and him and another bystander did NOTHING. It was really scary and upsetting. They live nearby and I see them daily, and they seem to watch me when I come and go. While this is bothersome, the worst is how my male friends dismiss it, invalidating my feelings just because they don’t understand the threat women feel constantly. We are taught as children that we are prey, and men can be predators. Some men just seem so ignorant of what it may be like for us women, and are not sensitive at all. With my friend, it isnt like I expected anything crazy, but I expected at least something like “Hey, you ok? That seemed scary”.
I try to walk my dog every day. When I was very good about it, we would often go through the trails of the park and explore. One day, I decided to cut the walk short, so I went through the shortcut that leads back to the playground and parking lot. The shortcut is a wide stretch of grass, clearly visible from both ends of the park, and not private at all. As I walked, there were two men, (who behaved like boys) and one shouted at me something along the lines of, “Walk that dog, girl!” I knew they wouldn’t try anything because my dog is large, but it didn’t stop me from feeling paranoid and unsafe.
This week at HQ we said goodbye to our interns, April and Julia. This summer, April assisted Debjani with Hollaback!’s new education curriculum for teaching in New York schools about harassment in public spaces and worked on Hollaback!’s annual report. Julia was the communications intern and worked with the HQ team on managing the social media accounts and the annual report. Thank you to our interns for their work this summer!
Debjani and Rachel attended Aspen Baker’s launch for her new book, Pro-Voice. This book is about destigmatizing abortion by listening to women’s stories. Read about Baker’s book here.
Hollaback! Bahamas has been working tirelessly! The team presented at the Royal Bahamas Police Force Southeastern Division’s summer camp and the Urban Renewal Band’s summer camp about street harassment. Additionally, they were featured on the radio with Bahamas Sexual Health and Rights Association to talk about the importance of sexual education for youth.
Hollaback! Bmore attended a free self-defense class at the Baltimore Free Farm for a Community Self Defense workshop. Knowing self-defense skills is an excellent way to feel empowered on your neighborhood’s streets. Check out some tips from the workshop!
Until next week!
Holla and Out!
Today, I held hands with another woman for the first time in public. It was her first time, as well. Within less than 30 seconds of intertwining hands, a man drove by us in a truck, honked the horn multiple times, and lifted his face to the sky and howled towards us. Imagine grotesque “Mad Max”-like, war-like facial expressions.
Surely this must qualify as trauma: the first moment this incredibly sweet, thoughtful, lovely woman was bold enough to ask to hold my hand, we experienced oppressive harassment.
Man yelling at young women that they are heathens for wearing shorts. Seems religiously oriented.
I had just left a bar with several male friends when they decided to stop by the food truck right outside. I didn’t want anything, so I hung back away from the line. Most of the crowd were men and I didn’t know anyone outside of my friend group. I stood firmly with my arms crossed at my chest, scowl on my face, wearing very modest clothing, while I waited for my friends. My unapproachable demeanor was intentional, and reserved for such scenarios.
I noticed two men coming up the wide sidewalk, decided I was not in the way of foot traffic, and continued to wait. They were walking together, until they got near me, where one guy walked right up to me, to the point his chest was touching me, as if to say “Move, you’re in my space.” I waited a few seconds in the obvious power play and eventually pivoted because it felt too aggressive. The other man he was with then grabbed my waist in a very familiar manner as if to set me aside, or grope me, I couldn’t tell which. Maybe both. I resisted the urge to punch them, though my fist was already balled and ready to go. I may have done it, had I not suspected they could inflict greater harm.
It was my 12th birthday. I and two of my friends were walking back from Walgreens (we had bought ice cream) and we were waiting to cross the street back to the neighborhood. Two guys driving past yelled “Daaamn!’ at us. My friends laughed. I wasn’t even a teenager and was already being sexualized by complete strangers.