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I walk the same few blocks in my city almost daily, and had never felt unsafe until a few weeks ago. I was on my normal route, with my music playing in my ears. I keep it low just to be aware of noises around me, which allowed me to hear vague yelling. I pulled one earbud out and looked around. There was a silver sports car with two guys in it right behind me, and the driver was yelling something out of his window. I didn’t hear much except “… fine ass, baby!!” Not knowing what else to do, I put the earbud back in and kept walking. The car then pulled into a driveway a few metres ahead of me. I did not know what to do. I stopped in my tracks, took my earbuds out, and waited for their next move. This was in broad daylight on a fairly busy street! The passenger door opened, and I glanced at the houses around me trying to assess where I could potentially go for safety. Thankfully, a door opened in a house across the street and a man stood on his porch pointedly staring at the car. The driver must have seen the man, as he yelled to the passenger to “get in the car!” The passenger got back in the car and the car sped away. I waved at the man on the porch and continued on my way, albeit with my heart pounding a little harder and a much more wary eye on the street.
I was delighted to hear of your website – what a wonderful idea.
I also thought it would be so freeing to share my stories. Don’t know if they will be very relevant, because it is a collection, but I decided to share anyhow. Keep in mind that I am an ordinary looking girl, quiet and modest in dress and demeanor. I am only reporting incidents that took place in the street or on public transport.
As a child of age 7-8:
• Two boys of about 10-11 followed me home along the road and tried to pull down my pants (I was wearing a dress). My parents later tracked them down and spanked them!!
As a teenager aged 13-16:
• while buying something at a roadside kiosk, a young man behind me reached between my legs;
• when at farmers markets I had men try to put hand on my backside (more than once);
• when walking down the street on my way home after school, a young man blocked my way, and asked where I was going. I said, “home”. He said, “where is home?” I randomly pointed to a stranger’s house across the street and said, “there!” I proceeded to march across the street while the man grabbed and slightly tore a frill on my blouse, and also tried to grab my hair. I opened the garden gate (fortunately unlocked), and walked right into the backyard of the unknown house. The young man finally let go when I pushed inside the gate. A surprised child was playing in the yard, and his kind mother let me call my mom to come get me and drive me home. After hearing the story my mom was very angry and wanted to track down the man who had harassed me, but I was terrified and begged her not to.
As a young adult (‘20s):
• Was flashed when walking the gardens of a public park.
• When riding in crowded tram, standing and holding onto an overhead grip, felt man press his body against mine from behind – uggggghhh! But unable to move because it was so crowded, and I couldn’t clearly see who was doing this. Felt helpless and so angry at that disgusting man.
• When walking through the edge of a public park, a man walking towards me suddenly reached up and put his hands on my breasts as he passed me.
• (This next story has a satisfying ending): I had recently attended a 1 hour self-defense presentation at my workplace, and was reading a book as I rode the subway home (BART). I noticed out of the corner of my eye, that the man seated next to me had put his hand on the seat, and was gradually inching it closer and closer to my leg as I read. I realized he was planning to touch my leg. My first instinct would have been to move, but because of that self-defense presentation, I decided to stay put because to move would be to just give in. I watched the hand s-l-o-w-l-y move closer until finally it brushed against my leg – and at the moment I instantly slapped his hand hard, and loudly said, “Get your hands off me, you creep!!!!!” Then I went back to reading my book (of course, not seeing a word on the page! ) The man pulled his hand back and cowered into the corner of the seat, and said, “Sorry!” I hoped that my response might cause that man to think twice before doing that to another woman.
These incidents seem very minor, but the fact that they stand out so much in my memory shows that sexual harrasment is no joke and truly causes harm.
Elizabeth Swearingen, a university student in New York City, recently made a film about street harassment featuring Hollaback. As part an assignment for her Feminism, New Media and Health class, Elizabeth created the short documentary to share her own experiences which also reflect the experiences of so many Hollabackers worldwide. Thank you Elizabeth!
I was surprised yet pleased to find that a site such as this exists. I have been experiencing street harassment all my life. It almost seems normal. From the time I turned 13 I’ve had to put up with cat calls. I’d hear them every day on my way walking home from school. I’d meet the same people and hear the same calls. ‘My sexy bow foot friend’ was usually the annoying mantra I endured for years at school. It still continues to date. Whenever I pass guys on the street, I hear ridiculous statements and lame pick up lines. It happens to all women everywhere. I try my best to ignore only to be cursed, called unmannerly and rude names when I don’t respond. If I’m in a bad mood, I snap and curse back. In a few cases, this has caused the other guys watching the exchange to laugh at me and further cursing from the offender. Feels like there’s no option out of this treatment. I just feel like a victim. Besides this street harassment, there have been several instances where I have been walking along a not so busy street and had a car slow down next to me and some idiot try to pick me up. Refuse to drive off even when I try their advances. This usually happens when its dark outside. The streets are well lit but it doesn’t help me feeling violated when it happens. Whenever it does, I wonder what if the guy doubles back and tries to kidnap me. On one occasion, I was on the bus coming home after dark from university. There was this guy who was not from my country I could tell from my skin colour and hair who kept staring at me. It was the second time I caught the bus and noticed the same guy staring. I got off the bus alone and started walking up a short hill to my home. I turned around and saw this guy following me. He was staring directly at me each time I checked. After a few minutes, I saw him make a turn behind me and disappear. I made it home safe but I was still very fearful. Since that night, I stopped catching the bus late at night and got a ride instead. I have not seen the creep since, not even during the day. I’ve lived in this same area for 24 years and have never seen this guy except that night. He does not live in my area. I believe that if I continued to ride the bus, the guy would have continued to stalk and tried to rape me. Another instance on the bus, I was sitting next to this jerk who was trying to chat me up. I ignored his advances and later got up and moved further down in the bus only to hear even more jeering. His friends also in the front of bus laughed out loud to every rude statement. There was a comment that women of my complexion have foul smelling vaginas. A few other women looked embarrassed but did nothing. I don’t blame them. Don’t think I would be brave enough to make a stance either. Luckily they got off shortly with even more rude statements, laughing and glances at me for my reaction. Maybe I stop catching the bus for I have just one instance to share which occurred there. Found myself sitting next to a middle aged fat guy who propositioned me to spend a day with him and he’d pay me as much as I get at work. I also get these propositions while walking the street. I work in the heart of town and one night the taxi while is usually on time was 30 minutes late. Every guy/group of guys had a dirty comment to make as they passed. I felt like I was losing a part of me with every comment. A bit of my happiness and piece of mind drifting away. I am fed up with feeling so alone and helpless just walking ordinarily and dressed ordinarily. What do guys think will happen if I or any other woman responds to their dirty comment? It certainly won’t land them in bed. Just go away jerks.
I was walking down the street on Friday night by myself. I was on my way to a bar to meet my boyfriend and some of his friends. I was dressed like any other college girl would be dressed on a Friday night. I had on a relatively short dress and high heels. Now I’m a strong believer in the idea that what a person is wearing shouldn’t matter and doesn’t mean a woman or a man is asking to be violated. But in this case what I was wearing does have something to do with the verbal assault I endured. The dress I was wearing was black and white with horizontal stripes. As I was walking a man probably in his 50’s made a comment to the group of men he was with about the girl dressed like a referee. I ignored it and started walking faster. The man ran up to me and asked if I was a replacement referee for the football game tomorrow. I politely said no and started walking again. He proceeded to tell me he was joking, probably because he thought I was too dumb to figure it out on my own, and said “You look very pretty, good for you.” As I walked down the street I counted all of the men that said something or looked at my body as I walked past them. I counted at least 10. The street harassment that takes place at Penn State is outrageous and it happens to more women than anyone thinks. Men think its ok to comment on what a woman is wearing or how she looks, and its not. I was disgusted with the men that were commenting on my outfit and my looks, they invaded my personal space and made me feel unsafe. No woman should ever feel like this when walking down the street. The streets should be safe for everyone.
While shopping at TJ Maxx in Sherman Oaks, CA, a man was following me around the aisles. I didn’t think anything of it other than he was simply looking at the same things I was. I stopped at the edge of an aisle and he was looking at sheets near me. He was squatted and pulling sheets out of the bins. When I looked down at him, his erect penis was sticking out of his pants and he was facing my direction. He was pretending to look at a set of sheets while his penis just stuck out. I ran to a store employee and she had the manager approach him. He bolted out of the store when the manager got close enough. I couldn’t stop shaking. I’ve never felt so violated and disgusted. The store manager called the police and took my number. I never heard back from anyone.
Maybe he didn’t touch me or physically assault me. That doesn’t mean he didn’t scar me. I just thank God it was me who went through this rather than the little girl at the other side of the store. I can handle this more than that little girl could.
Whenever I go somewhere alone, someone verbally harasses me. They say disgusting things, they honk, they try to start conversation, ask for my number. I am always afraid when I am alone, and I can even tell when someone is contemplating approaching me. I glare or pretend I’m on my phone.
By Sarah Merriman
As in most countries across the world, Russia has been conservative in its’ approach to stopping street harassment. Now, however, that’s finally changing.
Thanks to the guerrilla efforts of RosNahal, an anti-sexism group, the current ruling party of Russia seems to have realized the damaging effects that street harassment has on women in their cities. RosNahal recently released a video that depicts acts of street harassment to expose its’ aggressive and hurtful nature; and this time, activism worked.
Though a fine for harassers is still in the discussion stages and the harassment must be documented, this is a huge step in Russia, a country where there is no law against verbal harassment in the workplace or otherwise. The possible law is also potentially revolutionary on the global stage.
The Duma (Russia’s legislative body) is taking more of a feminist stance on harassment than most countries. The path to formalized legislative support appears to be informal proof that street harassment compromises women’s safety. Hollaback! is encouraging that “proof” through video and text documentation every day. In Belgium, a fine was just instated for harassers after a woman documented her “day of harassment;” and recently Saudi Arabia outlawed harassment. Slowly legislation and daily realities are beginning to match up.
We shouldn’t have to work so hard prove that a phenomenon which has been happening to our grandmothers, mothers, and now our daughters and friends is truly threatening. As long as we do though, we can continue to fight for breakthroughs such as Russia’s where the actions of our lawmaking bodies match women’s need for everyday safety.
For the full story on RosNahal, click here.
My first two years of college I went to an all-women’s liberal arts school in the midwest. Boys loved to drive down the main road that goes right through the middle of campus. There’s a lot of catcalling involved, they revved their trucks up a bunch. Even today I catch myself flipping off anyone who honks at me out of habit.
My best friend and I were walking down the street to get McDonald’s around nine or ten at night. A car full of boys spotted us on the sidewalk, yelled from their windows and sped off only to turn around again on the next street. They passed us again and said “show us some skin!” and again “take it off!” By this point they had a megaphone from some high school that wasn’t Nevada’s. The fourth time, they threw change at us and sped off for the final time. Yes, change. Nickels, pennies, dimes. The rest of our trip consisted of rage and a faster pace.
We were Cottey girls, very confident and proud to be women. There was nothing we could’ve done in that situation, the only escape were unlighted back streets. I felt vulnerable, unsafe and pissed off there was nothing I could do about it, except tell my story. But believe me, if i had ANYTHING to throw at them I’d have scared the bastards past Kansas City.
Nevada isn’t full of jerks, just like all guys aren’t jerks. Being an asshole has nothing to to with gender, just your sole ability to be an asshole.
I was walking with a local guy friend of mine at night back to the school from town. A police officer stopped us and questioned him. He asked where we had been and where we were going.
“I’m taking her back to the girl’s school..”
The officer looked at me and asked “Willingly?” No sarcasm hinted, no smile. Dead serious.
He said goodnight and drove off. It’s sad the officer assumed he was a bad person because he was alone with a girl at night.
This blog, by Nicola Briggs, is part of a series on perspectives about street harassment.
A man asked me the other day, upon learning of my years of training in Tai Chi movement and meditation, “Do you know how to fight?” I told him that I would do anything I had to in order to secure my physical and psychological safety in that moment, and so would anyone else with a healthy appetite for life, and that I’ve devoted more time developing training and awareness in that area than the average person. I think he may have been disappointed in this response, perhaps expecting me to flip him over my shoulder and prove myself to him, but I wanted to make clear the implications of what he was asking.
Do I have a repertoire of techniques practiced over many years which have become instinctual by now? Yes. Do I, or does anyone else truly have what it takes to react fluidly and appropriately the moment danger is there? Hopefully, yes. But even people with many years of training in this arena can freeze, so anyone without that training has got to realize that the equalizing factor in that type of stressful situation is not necessarily experience, but mindset.
Having what it takes to survive and even take control of a threatening situation is a matter of mental preparation. This doesn’t mean that you’re looking around every corner or over your shoulder all the time in a paranoid way. It just means that you know yourself, and that you’re willing to get in touch with something I like to call your ‘Inner Tiger,’ if necessary, which I’ll explain further in future postings. It also means you are willing to become even more open to the signals that your environment is sending you at every moment: who is close to you, who has their eyes on you, and what is the nature of their intention? Only an increased sensitivity to your surroundings will provide you with the correct answers to those critical questions, and ultimately give you the best chance of staying out of harm’s way.