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This experience is a few years old, but I just came across this site after sharing the story a few days ago, so I thought I would share it here.
A few years ago I was visiting the Summer Solstice Festival in Greensboro, NC. It’s a wonderful festival that I enjoy very much, and usually the people there are awesome. I was with my husband (now my ex) and a couple friends — one of whom brought her children.
We agreed to meet up at the fire dancers, and with one thing and another I ended up in the middle of a tightly packed crowd, with an autistic little boy of five or so, with no way to track down the rest of my group or even get out of the crowd until the performance was done. It might not have been so difficult for another person, but I’m nightblind — I could see points of fire and tightly packed, shadowy bodies and nothing else. Still wouldn’t have been a problem, except that my young charge was both cranky and intent upon joining the fire dancers any way he could. He set up a screaming tantrum to rival the drums, struggled, kicked, bit, and pulled my hair in his flailing attempts to get away from me ( and in case you did not know, autistic kids are ridiculously strong).
A very kind older gentleman (perhaps forties or early fifties) was sitting next to me, and he offered to help me with my uncooperative charge. He helped me get the little boy restrained, then semi-calmed, and I was very grateful. And it didn’t bother me that the man sat close to me and put his arm around me either. He was inviting me to come take classes at his yoga studio.
That was when he groped me.
So here I am, still with a squirming child in my arms, and I’m terrified that without this man’s help I’ll lose my grip on the kid and he’ll go charging in amongst the torches and the gasoline. I can’t go anywhere — I’m sitting crosslegged with a kid in my lap, people pressed in on all sides, and I CANNOT SEE. And this man is talking about how he would really like to see me me again, with his arm wrapped around my shoulders and his hand on my breast.
I felt so helpless. I never expected it, not from an older man, not from one who was so soft spoken and helpful, not from a freaking YOGA TEACHER at an event where I was used to receiving a higher level of courtesy than usual. I didn’t feel like I could escape. I didn’t even feel like I could PROTEST, because his influence seemed to be the only thing keeping the kid beating the heck out of me and escaping. Don’t get me wrong, if this guy had touched the boy in any way that could have been considered inappropriate I’d have set up an unholy racket. But for myself? I sat there and took it.
I’m a braver person now. I’ve learned some tricks, and I’m not so helpless in the dark anymore. But I’m even more reluctant than ever to be left alone in any crowded place now.
I was walking and had 2 guys follow me in a car and said hey girl come here look at that ass, come here, show me your vagina. It was gross and made me feel awful.
On the local news I saw that there is a man that has flashed, I believe, 2 women in the downtown Corpus Christi area by Cole Park. It’s a popular jogging area. Police are urging that you report any and all suspicious activity in that area because they are very concerned by this kind of behavior as it can lead to a more dangerous crime as the flasher may get braver.
Welcome to our weekly update! This week, I was honored to be invited to give a talk at the TEDxWomen conference in Washington D.C. (Click here to view the talk.) We were invited to speak because we won the TED City 2.0 Prize ! The ten winners were awarded for “innovative ideas in urban transformation.” On Wednesday I went to Rutgers University in New Jersey to speak on a panel about the roles new technologies play in ending gender-based violence. Big thanks to the Center for Women’s Global Leadership for hosting this event. Also, Debjani, our Deputy Director spoke on a panel hosted by the UN Secretary General’s UNITE campaign, on the subject of youth engagement in combating gender based violence. Thanks to Jimmie Briggs of the Man Up Campaign for inviting us!
Here’s what our Hollaback sites have been up to this week:
Hollaback Croatia wants your street harassment slogans and images! They are holding a competition from 12/1-1/31 for the best work in both categories. The winner gets cash and lots of Holla love. Check out their website for more details.
Hollaback Baltimore‘s Shawna Potter was on a roll this week. First, she did a fantastic job as a panelist at George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute event. Check her out starting at 24:35. She was also interviewed on Escape Velocity Radio.
Hollaback Alberta is co-hosting the screening of The Invisible War, a documentary on sexual assault in the US military, at the University of Alberta.
Lastly, we are sad to announce that Justine Dowden, our International Movement Intern, completes her internship this week. Justine was critical in helping to compile these updates, and gathering news and information about our site leaders and the movement at large. We are grateful to her — and to all of you — for your incredible efforts to keep this movement moving.
HOLLA and out,
Guy walking by me on Fort Totten Metro platform: You are so pretty. You sexy too.
(I give him the stink-eye. He keeps walking.)
Harasser: I was just giving you a compliment.
Me: That’s not a compliment.
Harasser: I just said you’re pretty.
Me: That’s not a compliment.
Harasser (walks back over to me): I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.
Me: When you comment on a woman’s looks without her asking you, it’s disrespectful.
Harasser: It was a compliment. You’re supposed to say, “thank you”.
Me: That’s not a compliment. When you comment on a woman’s looks without her asking, it’s disrespectful, it’s not a compliment.
Harasser: Where you from?
Me: I don’t have to talk to you.
Harasser: When someone gives you a compliment, you’re supposed to say “thank you”.
Me: That’s not a compliment when you comment on a woman’s body without her asking you.
Harasser: How many women you think ask “How do I look today?” Next time say thank you.
Me: No. It’s not a compliment.
(Harasser starts to walk away)
Harasser: Just because you pretty don’t mean you smart. Think before you speak next time. Dumb bitch.
I’ve been harassed on the street many, many times, and it felt good to respond in that moment. But he got the last word. Until now.
My best friend and I were at Union Station taking photos for her school project when a man yelled across a large aisle to us, asking if we were photographers in an obviously mocking voice. We immediately became hesitant, but I answered and said we were just taking pictures for school. He then came closer and asked us if we’d take a picture of him, we told him some reason why we couldn’t and he followed us as we headed to the ballroom area, asking us questions the entire way. When we got back to ballroom entrance, we found that we were completely alone with the man, who was easily 4 years older than us and 50 pounds larger. He asked us if we had boyfriends, if we wanted to hang with him and his friends, have a drink, etc, and when we said no to all of it, he said something along the lines of “Y’all are good girls then, huh?” and stepped closer. I don’t remember what made him leave, but finally he wandered off. We haven’t been back there since, but if I do go back, at least now I’m old enough to carry the pepper spray that would have helped me feel safer in that situation.
BY RITA PASARELL
When I heard of Hollaback a few years ago, my first thought was: “finally!” I was so glad to see a place for people to share their stories and speak out against street harassment— a place where the issue was taken seriously.
I remember thinking back to when I was repeatedly, loudly,aggressively street harassed for almost two years by a neighbor who was more than twice my age. After many confrontations where I told him to leave me alone,I became so fed up that I decided to report him to the police.The first time I described his behavior, the police would not take a report. No crime had taken place, they said. I told the police how this man had pulled his rusty, broken-windowed van next to me as I walked down the sidewalk, shouting “get in!” after months of explicitly shouting comments about my body. I told them he had been harassing other women, that I was embarrassed to walk in my own neighborhood, and that I was worried he would escalate. Ok, but did he touch you, they wanted to know. He hadn’t. I went home.
It wasn’t until after my third visit to the police station, many months later, that this man was finally charged – with stalking. I had given the police detailed lists of the street harassment I’d experienced, and I remember thinking “it shouldn’t be this difficult.” The charge was ultimately dismissed.
Although I am frustrated that the legal system failed to hold a serial street harasser accountable for his inappropriate behavior, Hollaback’s work gives me hope that in speaking out against street harassment, our voices do have an impact, even if not immediately.Every shared story of street harassment says I do not accept this and joins with other stories to make it clear that street harassment will not be tolerated. Hollaback reminds us that we don’t have to be silent, that our experiences deserve to be taken seriously, and also reminds the world to listen.
In August of 2011, my city held a “clean commuting challenge” to encourage people to walk, bike, carpool, etc. to work. Having recently moved from a city where walking was very much a part of my lifestyle, I was excited for the opportunity to get into the habit again — exercise, fresh air, saving my gas money. So all week long, I walked the one mile each way to and from work. And I felt great.
But on Friday, everything changed.
I was about a third of the way home when I crossed the railroad tracks, and a young man came out of the barbershop nearby. He watched me pass, whistled, and said something derogatory. I ignored him and kept walking, as I always did in such instances. But this time was different. This time, he followed me, and continued to “talk” to me, with increasingly angry comments. “Too good for me huh,” “White girl with her nose in the air,” and some other, more personal things too profane to repeat here.
I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I had no mace, no self-defense training. Didn’t know anybody in the area yet. Cars zoomed by on Grand River Avenue, but nobody was paying any attention. I felt completely powerless.
Finally, he stopped talking. But he kept following me. I tried walking faster. He sped up, too. I tried slowing down to let him pass me. He slowed down, too. Finally I turned down my street, thinking he wouldn’t dare turn and follow me, not with an elementary school right there on the corner. But the schoolyard was empty, and no one was around on my street. And he kept following me.
A few doors down from my house, I walked up the driveway of a neighbor’s house and hid behind it, imagining that he would think this was my house and his little game would end there. I waited, watching the time. Five minutes passed. I peeked out from the side of the house — and there he was, standing on the sidewalk, arms folded. Watching me. Waiting.
I finally called 911 and when the police came, he tried to run away. They caught him and took him in, but had to let him go the next day. I was told I couldn’t press charges because he hadn’t actually done anything to me.
But he did do something to me.
I never walked to work again. I never felt safe in my neighborhood again, or even in my own house — as close as I was to the street, I kept imagining he, or someone like him, might be waiting outside for me.
Eventually, I moved to a different neighborhood. But I still don’t walk anywhere by myself. And I feel angry about it. A man can walk around practically anywhere he wants and have no fear. But a woman has to be told, has to feel, it’s not safe.
It’s not fair.
I was leaving a store, and I saw a man staring at me, sitting in his car parked next to mine. Then I realized he was masturbating. Called the police; by the time they got there he had stopped. They didn’t even file a report. I would have liked to press charges, but I don’t know who he was, and they didn’t bother to take down his info.