There have been so many times throughout my life that I’ve experienced street harassment without even realizing what it truly was. Like many women, it began around the time I reached adolescence and has only gotten worse. Unfortunately, I have too many stories to share here at once, but there is one from several years ago that still sticks out in my mind like it was yesterday, and probably always will.
I had just turned 16 and gotten my first job hostessing at a restaurant in the small town I lived in. One spring afternoon, a friend from work and I decided to go shopping at an outdoor plaza and take a walk around the park across from it. We went in and out of a few stores, having a nice time. My friend needed to make a quick stop at a store in the plaza and since I didn’t need to go in that store I told her that I’d walk across the street to the park to get some ice cream and we agreed to meet back up by the ice cream stand in a few minutes.
I did just that, but the line for ice cream was short and my friend was no-where to be seen. I sat on a bench in the park and ate my ice cream out of a little cup, waiting and watching the few people there walking around the track. I pitched my empty cup in the garbage bin beside the bench and that’s when I saw him: an elderly man, perhaps 70 or 75 years old, walking a bicycle, overtly staring at me and making a beeline in my direction. I didn’t pay him much heed until he came to a halt right in front of me. I looked up, confused, and he said, “Sure is a lovely day, isn’t it?” I replied that it was. He then backed up a bit so he and his bike were close beside me and I was beginning to feel that intuitive prickling sensation we all experience as a primitive warning system, but try to ignore. He said, “What’s a pretty girl like you doing alone in the park?” He leaned closer to me. I had been sexually assaulted less than a year before and was still slightly skittish around strange men approaching me. I tensed and began feeling like a cornered animal, prey; his body and bicycle were blocking my most immediate exit. I tried to think of an appropriate response that might discourage him. “I’m waiting for my boyfriend,” I said. “He’s just on the other side of the park.” I thought that may be enough, but it only gave him more to question me with. “Do you like to have fun with him? I don’t think there’s nothin’ wrong with two adults having fun.” I knew what he was implying and I knew there was no way he thought I was older than I was, let alone an adult. With my tiny frame and still slightly child-like face, I was often mistaken as being even younger than I was. ‘Is he a pedophile?’ I thought, and it alarmed me even further. I smiled sheepishly, uncomfortably, hoping he wouldn’t sense my unease and prey on it like a canine when it smells fear.
“So you like to have fun? I live around here, I just got this real nice place. We could walk over there if you wanna. We’ll have fun.” He smiled. Creepy. His words themselves were innocuous but the implied meaning was clear. I looked around as discreetly as I could, hoping to see my friend or another person, anyone, nearby. I didn’t, but I wanted away from him right then. “Oh look, there comes my boyfriend!” I stood up abruptly, causing him to stagger backward a step, and power-walked with no real destination in my mind; just away from him. He got on his bike and rode out of the park.
I crossed the street, heading to the store my friend was in just as she came out of the door. I called her name and she must have seen something in my eyes I was unaware of because she sounded alarmed when she asked, “What’s wrong?!”
I relayed my experience to her and we got in her car. She was determined to find the man and we circled every block in the vicinity, but we never saw him. Although the panic I felt was nearly gone, adrenaline was still pumping through my veins, and I was shaken. I told her I just wanted to go home. As I was getting out at my house, I sincerely thanked her for her concern and efforts in trying to find the man.
Only when I was alone in my bedroom at last did I allow the tears to flow unbidden. I felt ashamed, scared, powerless, sullied, but most of all I felt angry. Angry not only at this one creep, but for all the women who have to live with men like him and their lecherous glances and words that poison innocence. I was angry with myself for not standing up, not reporting him right then because I realized that with the confidence and persuasion he exuded towards me, he must have done this before and will undoubtedly do it again, perhaps to an even younger or more naive girl who will follow him home.
I realized I needed to take a stand, and I have. Not only for myself, but for every person who has ever experienced sexual harassment. I’m so thankful for organizations like Ihollaback for raising awareness for something so vitally important. From me, and I’m sure from women everywhere, thank you for showing us we have the strength to holla back!
Once when I was 16 I walked down the road i live on to do my volunteering at a thrift shop. I approached an intersection when a man in a van began to harass me. He honked repeatedly as I crossed the street. Once I crossed,and the light had gone green he made a turn and began driving and honking alongside where i was walking. I just walked to the shop and did my work. Hours later, i had completely forgotten about the incident and went on break. I sat outside and watched cars go by while i ate some crackers. Suddenly the same man in the van from hours before came “casually” walking past and approached me. He started asking me why i was sitting there and if i was hungry and wanted to get in his car to get something to eat with him. I told him no and he eventually went away. It made me feel so uncomfortable.
Dear Hollabackers —
HAPPY NEW YEAR! First and foremost, we want to big a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who donated in our December campaign. We raised $10,000 to help us achieve our big goals in 2013, including:
We’re still looking for additional funding for these projects, so if you know of anyone who would be interested in supporting us, please let us know! Otherwise, without further ado, here are our site updates:
Hollaback Jacksonville was featured in the JD news! “Street harassment happens everywhere,” Kari Raack, founder of Hollaback! Jacksonville said. “Hollaback! is a platform for men and women to have a way to ‘hollaback’ at the people who have committed street harassment against them.”
Hollaback Pathenkot published a letter to the editor in response to the recent rang rape and murder in India that has result in widespread protest. Site leader PAAYAS PANDIT writes, “The Delhi incident just goes to highlight the barbarism that prevails in our society. It would not be wrong to say that India has become a thoroughly uncivilised, patriarchal society.”
Hollaback Chandigarh launched the Pledge Project in response to the gang rape in Delhi. “It’s the pledge to speak up when we see a woman being harassed on the streets. We pledge to intervene when a woman is being raped/assaulted, pledge to simply dial 100 or 1091 to save a woman’s life and dignity,” says Rubina Singh. The project has already received over 500 pledges and was covered in the Indian Express, the Hindustan Times, and the Daily Post India. Hollaback was also cited in the Times of India article, “‘Men’s psychological troubles spur harassment of women on streets.”
Hollaback Dublin had a launch party and took super cute photos!
Last but not least, something fun for the new year from our site leader Julie Lalonde in Ottawa: the intro to this super-fun Scissor Sisters song starts off talking about harassment on public transportation.
It’s 2013: Let’s have KIKI!
HOLLA and out —
I was about 24 and biking home along East Broadway towards Burnaby. It was during rush hour traffic and another biker came up behind me and slid his hand up my buttocks. It made me stop biking almost fell into traffic. We fought a bit and drivers just honked at us! This was from out of no where. I didn’t know the person and didn’t recognize him from any previous riding experience. Didn’t make sense. No one helped and after I called 911 the police said they couldn’t do anything for me. I still had to finish riding my bike home! I would never have thought that this could happen this way. This was back in 1984.
I had just returned from a trip overseas. I was 20. I was visiting with my brother at a local Taco Bell. I used the pay phone on the street and had a young man approach me asking for directions – I gave him the directions and his way of thanking me was to come into the phone booth and assault me and grope me. I was very shocked and tried to fight back. It was about 9 p.m. and still light out. People watched and didn’t do anything. I felt very violated, but what could I do? This was back in 1980.
Every time I’ve been severely harassed from 2011 to 2012. I get the occasional “nice tits” and rudeness but this is by far the worst. I know the exact dates because of OCD journal entries.
– On July 11th 2011, I was walking to my father’s house. I was not provocatively dressed at all: Rob Zombie t-shirt and jeans. My father lives in an alright area, but you have to walk under two highway overpasses and past a bar to get there. A lot of men hang out under the overpasses, but since it was broad daylight I didn’t see a reason to be anxious. This older man rode up behind me on his bicycle and started asking me questions. “Where are you going?” “What are you doing?” A lot of it was really condescending and he referred to me as “baby”. Then when I ignored him he proceeded to physically block my way (with his bicycle) right by the highway overpass. Naturally I was uncomfortable and refused to answer his questions. He finally rode away but not before yelling “YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SCARED OF ME BECAUSE OF MY COLOR!!!” My father lives in a neighborhood predominantly made up of African Americans. I was afraid that they would assume that I had yelled some racial slur at the man or had done some great injustice by refusing to talk to him. There were people sitting at the bar who saw what he was doing but made no attempt to help me. I got to my dad’s, closed the curtains, cried and ordered pepperspray.
– On September 20th 2012, I turned 19 and wore a low cut shirt. I am pretty busty (wearing a 34 I–but actually more of a 34 K) so I am somewhat used to being looked at. I don’t mind being looked at, but I don’t like it when my body is commented on, because it is something I cannot control. I was going to class and a teacher looked me up and down and said “Looking good.” I turned red and said “thanks.” I really did not know how to respond to that situation because even though this person isn’t a professor of mine, they still had some authority over me. I really did not know how to respond or what to do. I told a friend of mine who is an RA and they encouraged me to report it, I didn’t want to stir up trouble so I didn’t report it, but I spent part of my birthday feeling dirty and cheap because of a lousy professor. The worst part, I almost stupidly registered for a class of his. Thank God I dodged that bullet. If I see him I make sure I glare at him in the halls. I stand by my decision not to report because I would of been slut shamed to hell and back for my low cut shirt.
–On September 29th 2012, I had to go to a Pagan Pride festival for my internship. Since I didn’t know where I needed to be I decided to call a cab. When I got in the cab, the driver had his young son in a carseat next to me. Then asked me where I was going. When I told him I was going to Pagan Pride for my internship, he got into the whole religion talk and how apparently pagan people are all very sexually promiscuous and bisexual. I explained that although I am not religious myself I respect everyone’s religion and sexuality, and that I myself am bisexual. He then asked me a lot of inappropriate questions about whether or not I’d been with a woman. The subject got onto how he liked my body, and he circled around the park so I would have to pay extra. He handed me his card and asked me to call him. I tore it up and threw it in the nearest trash can. It was a horrible experience because I was stuck in a vehicle with this person, and if I had jumped out of the car I would be somewhere unfamiliar. If I called the cops I would of been slut shamed because of the low cut top and semi-see through skirt I was wearing. Or in the very worse case scenario arrested for not paying. If this ever happens again, I will definitely call and complain.
–On November 5th 2012, I was walking to the post office to send off my absentee ballot. I was about a block away from my dorm and on the phone with my boyfriend when the incident took place. I stopped to tie my jacket around my waist because it was hot near where I live. A guy wearing a violet-ish jacket and really worn out pants that might of been jeans or might of been khakis crossed the street and deliberately blocked my path. I stepped to the right and he mimicked my movements with his hands up and a wild look in his eyes. I was irritated so I just walked around him, and a couple of steps later I got this bad feeling, so I spun around. He was right behind me. I told him to “Get the fuck away from me!” And he left me alone. At that moment had he come near me again I am one hundred and ten percent certain I would of gone into fight or flight and severely hurt him, I could hear my heart beat in my ears. I was in survival mode on the way to the post office, but after I left I was shakey. I stayed on the phone with my boyfriend until I found a male acquaintance who walked with me to my next errand. After that I had calmed down enough to go to report it to campus security. Then I filed a report, and was interviewed by two officers who said they thought it was aggressive panhandling. I am genuinely sure that person had more sinister intentions by the look in his eyes. Why would you attempt to rob someone so close to their campus when security guards could hear and when they were on the phone with someone who could of presumably called the police? I was really shaken by the incident and really hope that person was caught, but I doubt they were.
This is why street harassment sucks. I don’t feel safe walking around near my father’s house or university. I have other less-severe incidents where people have yelled things out of cars or made kissy faces at me. I shouldn’t have to be nice to these assholes and not make a scene. I hate how people blame it on what I wear or on how I have big boobs, or tell me that I should ignore it and move on. I have a right to be angry with this treatment, and one of my new years resolutions is to not tolerate anymore of this bullshit.
My wife and I went to a show at a club last night hoping to have fun. Instead I was assaulted by some idiot; my ass was grabbed and I was pushed down stairs. I approached club security for help. Instead of help I further harassed, asked how much I’d been drinking, and asked if I knew I was at a ska show.
The security staff told me that these things happen at shows. I told him that’s no excuse, I didn’t come to a show to get groped. As a result of this, I got kicked out of the venue. So I called the cops, hoping someone would help me find the guy who groped and pushed me. Instead of helping me find the guy who assaulted me they gave me attitude.
So I waited outside trying to id the guy myself, and a collection of security guards and cops led me back into the venue, put hands on me, and made a big show of kicking me out again. So I called the cops again and asked for female officers to respond. So two male officers responded and got all mad I asked for females and refused to give me their badge numbers and names. They refused to speak to me saying I was irrational and yelling.
Additionally I was subject to further harassment by another security member; he catcalled and taunted me as I stood on the sidewalk. For the record I was freaked out and crying, not at all irrational. The actions of all of the so-called professionals last night was a sorry sight. Yeah, I’d heard stories about the bad behavior of “Bostons Finest” but seeing is believing for sure.
Walking around through town, some guy looks me up and down. I looked at the ground and he walks off shouting “cheer up”. I was cheerful before he turned up!
Three times now, when I’ve dropped my little sister at Elementary School, I have been “hit on” by students there. All were boys under ten. One boy stared at my chest and tried to touch me. It made me feel filthy inside.
I know this is very minor compared to what other women have gone through, but these were children! They are getting it from somewhere. It has to stop!