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We are partnering with a group called METRAC to do a survey on street harassment. They are hoping to use the results to build an iPhone app in their hometown of Toronto, Canada.
Help them out by taking the survey! We’ll share the results with you in December.
Hello, my name is Grace. I live in Brooklyn and am in 11th grade in high school. Thank you so much for holding this hearing today to listen to the stories and issues faced by so many New York girls and women every day.
I cannot remember the last time I walked out of my house and returned home that night without being sexually harassed at some point during the say. Be it the slimy grin and the threatening eyes, or the erection digging into my back in a sardine-like packed train.
The subway is where I experience it the worst. My phone does not work on the subway. I cannot quickly move away or off the train. I am completely alone. But this should not have to mean that I am completely vulnerable.
The moment which I have felt most degraded, belittled, and humiliated was at 6pm on a Saturday getting onto the 1 train at Chambers heading Uptown. I got on and noticed everyone on one side of the train. I didn’t think too much about it and sat down on the two-seated bench furthest away from everyone. The doors closed and the train moved away from the station.
I suddenly noticed a man sitting across from me I hadn’ t seen before. He was white, old, and wearing a big tan jacket and a baseball cap. He had a friendly face.
His eyes flashed up to meet mine and I quickly dropped my gaze into my lap. I didn’t want to make eye contact with him, just like with any stranger; I was worried he would misinterpret the eye contact. But it is ridiculous, really, that I feel I cannot look a stranger in the eye because it would give them reason to think I may be provoking or leading them on in some way. Has it really gotten to the point where I have to watch and reserve every move I make to ensure he doesn’t make any of his own?
He shuffled his hands in his pockets.
The train stopped at Franklin Street.
No one got on.
The train doors closed and started on again.
He was fidgeting again, from what I could see from the corner of my eye.
I glanced up at him, against my better judgment.
The hands I thought were in his pockets were not. They were under the big sides of his tan coat.
I can’ t even remember what I felt at that moment. It was such a rush of so many emotions; it all washed over me and made me feel smaller than ever.
“ Don’ t look at his eyes,” I told myself, trying to keep calm, telling myself this wasn’t really happening. How could someone possibly comprehend doing this? I tried to concentrate on my hands. They were turning ghostly blue as I squeezed them so tightly for any sense of comfort or release of pain, whichever one it was. I did look up, only to realize the one thing I wished above all was not true. He was staring right back at me.
I guess I must have been angry. I don’ t think I could feel it though. My fear and shock overpowered everything else such as the shame and embarrassment. The vulnerability and victimization. The fact that I was frozen. Unable to say a thing. Unable to move. Unable to fully comprehend or at least not letting myself. The train stopped at Franklin.
“ Why me? Why now? What do I do?!” I screamed at myself inside. I thought I was going to explode. I knew that I should move or say something, anything.
The doors opened to the platform.
I wanted to get off then. I wanted to run off the train so badly. I wanted to scream at that man, who was so sick in the mind and inconsiderate, I just wanted to hurt him. I wanted to yell at the other people on the train, all huddled on the other side. They knew something was wrong, I could read right through their poker faces. I was in despair, and they did nothing. They didn’t even glance in my direction. I was in an incomprehensible state.
I stared longingly at the platform. My eyes fixated, yearning to drag my body out of this nightmare, off the train, or even onto the next car. But I was stuck. Crushed.
I did not move. I did not say a thing.
The doors closed and the train moved away from the platform again. I stared down at my hands, concentrating on their wrinkles and creases.
I blame myself for the event. I could have moved to the other side of the train. I could have yelled at the creepy man. I could have gotten off at Franklin or Canal. I could have asked for help. But in the moment, I just could not do it. I ignored the masturbation five feet in front of me and suppressed my feelings. I clenched my jaw and carried on, just the way all girls and women seem to react to the harassment they face every day.
I got off at Houston, as quick as possible. I was relieved to even be that far away from the stranger. But at the same time the relief settled in, a wave of anger and regret panged inside my chest. I almost instantly wished I could have gone back on the train and had the courage and power to stand up to the stranger and let him know, in any way possible that he was sick, that what he did was messed up, that I shouldn’t be blaming myself for it. That he was in the wrong and should be punished. It’ s basic morals, taught from when you’re a kid. He had no right. Yet he got away with it.
I walked up to the street that day and continued on. I did not think to mention it to anyone because it didn’t seem to matter. Who would care? And if they did care, what could they possibly do about it now? I cannot tell you how many times I have wished I could go back in time and done something.
I did not know what I would do for a while. But once Hollaback came to visit my class, I knew there was something I would do. I did not know that what happened to me was not unusual. That men frequently masturbated openly to girls and women on the subway. I was one of many cases. I did not experience anything out of the ordinary life of a girl living in New York City.
But how messed up does that sound? How morally contorted are we that young girls are normally subject to such degrading public embarrassment? How messed up is this system that if I hadn’t heard about the Hollaback organization, that if I hadn’ t heard about this hearing, I would still be burying these feelings inside, internalizing my pain and blaming myself for all the wrong that strange men have done to me.
I was not wearing anything that day to provoke him, just jeans and a T-shirt. But that should not have to matter. As my right, I should be able to wear what I want without having to worry about men taking advantage of me. I shouldn’t have to leave social outings early just because it’ s past 9:30 PM and it’ s considered too “ late” for a girl to be taking a long train ride by herself. I should not have to worry about the man at the Chambers Street station who every morning compliments me with a sexual subtext in his words.
Once, I was walking once just behind the playground of my school courtyard. I was not 3 feet away from the school premises when from behind, a man came up and pressed his body against mine. I could feel the heat off his skin, I could smell his hot stale breath as he blew my hair. “ NICE ASS,” he yelled in a loud, rude, and hostile voice. It was like he was putting me in my place, hammering me down, and reminding me of his authority and control over me. I felt helpless, a feeling I knew was exactly his goal, consciously or not.
I want other girls to know about organizations such as Hollaback. I want girls to know how to handle the terrible situations they encounter on the subway. I want people on the trains to help when they see something happening. I want to be able to ride the subways without having to be so constantly alert and cautious. I want to be able to wear what I want without it being an instigator for harassment. I want to be able to live in this city without having to feel below or undermined simply because I’m a girl.
I thank you for hearing me out. I thank you for listening to my stories that I have shoved to the back of my mind for so long, keeping them bottled up and disregarding them.
Please remember, that the experiences I shared are not unusual. They happen on a daily basis. I do not know one girl or woman in my life that has not experienced some form of sexual harassment in their life. I’m sure that this is true for almost every female you all know too. It is happening every day here in our city. I am only 16, and already I cannot remember half the traumatic experiences I have experienced due to male harassment. Thank you for listening, and please remember how great a help you all can be.
It was during the session with Hollaback that my eyes truly opened. The girls in my class started speaking about their past experiences with street harassment and the stories just didn’t stop. Every time one girl was finished recalling some time some guy did something to her on the street it seemed that another girl would just step in and start telling her story.
The number of stories was never-ending. It seemed as if the stories were only getting worse. I was shocked at the kinds of things that were happening to my classmates and I was more shocked as to how clueless I was during all of this. I was clueless because I never even realized how close street harassment really was to me. It made me wonder about all the women in my own personal life that had been street harassed and all the times that they never even mentioned it to me. Yet it was still those girls in my class who, upon being asked and opening up about these experiences, truly changed my ideals.
If these women have gone through traumatic experiences from which they had lasting memories, then most definitely women I know even more personally have gone through this type of harassment as well. It is scary to think that all of these things are going on without ever being called out. It’s scary to think that a man can completely get away with making a woman feel uncomfortable or unsafe on the street or subway. It made me think that I needed to say something as a male for all of those males that do not believe in street harassment and all those males who think that the rules behind these every day happenings should change. I needed to say that it shocks and appalls me too, as not all guys are like that and we want to help women and girls who have to deal with harassment on a daily basis.
Submitted by Ian, a senior in high school
Hello, I would like to thank you for taking the time to listen to our testimonies for an issue that we all find very important. My name is Olivia. I am fifteen, and a junior in high school, currently taking a feminism class.
I come to you today to discuss the issue of street harassment. Having lived in New York City all my life, I have been receiving some form of harassment since I was eight. I have had a man insinuate that I am a prostitute, and that he would like to “ purchase” me. It has never escalated further than a man following me for about a block, but even that is too much. Almost every woman I know has experienced a man masturbating on the subway, or other public place, or has been stopped against her will on the street so a man can talk to her.
The worst part is, although street harassment is illegal, nobody gets caught. Rarely anybody on the street helps the woman being harassed, neither standing up for her nor calling the police. And what would happen if they did tell the police? Most likely nothing. There must be a change to this. The threat of street harassment is escalating, because men know they can get away with it. This city has to begin taking the issue more seriously. Posting signs in the subway is not enough, clearly. Men need to know that if they commit the crime of street harassment, they will receive punishment, as will any person who commits a crime. Thank you.
My name is Meiling and I am a senior in high school. While I have only been on this earth for 17 years, I have been the victim of sexual harassment a countless number of times, in fact, too many times. Every day I either have to deal with a grown man staring creepily at me and my body, or an inappropriate comment slipped at me while walking down the street. I cannot explain how uncomfortable this makes me feel and how frightened I am when this happens to me on a
My most memorable and frightening encounter with sexual harassment occurred about a year and half ago when I was walking home from school and a large man in a heavy coat walked by me and rubbed his hand along my arm. It happened so fast I didn’ t really make sense of what had just happened and thought it might have been by accident.
However, in the following days I saw the same guy about three more times and every time he walked past me he would touch my arm. I did not know what to do at the time. I felt helpless. This man was invading my personal space and made me feel very uncomfortable. Moreover, I was extremely afraid for my personal safety. Thank goodness I have never seen this man again, but this memory will forever stick with me.
It is unfair that we women and even young girls, because yes, girls younger than I experience sexual harassment, have to deal with this issue daily. Our personal safety is put into danger every time this happens because in addition to being sexually harassed we face the possibility of being verbally attacked or even physically attacked for rejecting a man who tries to talk to us in the street. This is why I am asking for a change to happen in our city of New York where I should feel safe walking by myself in the street. More enforced actions need to take place in order to stop sexual harassment and prevent it from happening.
I thank you kindly for taking the time to read my testimony and hope it better informed you on this issue.
In honor of the first-ever NYC Council hearing on street harassment, we are posting the testimonies of high school students who couldn’t be there (the hearing is at 1pm) but were impassioned enough about the issue to submit written testimony.
Hello, my name is Taylor, I’ m a junior in high school and I’ d like to thank you for taking time out to host this hearing. This summer I was sexually harassed by a young man who eventually pulled a gun out on me when I rejected him. I was with two friends, both bigger than I, when he started hitting on me, saying things like “ Hey ma, what’ s good with you?”
My friends and I ignored him, but he continued to try, saying, “ Yo Shorty I’ m talking to you!” At one point I look so scared that my friend (a boy) intervened and told the man to “ Chill out, she’ s not interested.” The man then decided to yell at my friend and curse him out, screaming “ Yo who the f* * * are you? I’ m talking to her!” at which point he punched my friend. After me and my other friend (a girl) started freaking out and getting my friend away, we hear the guys friends go “ Yo, are you stupid what are you doing!?” When my friend and I turn around the guy was pointing a gun at me, while his friend was talking him out of doing anything too rash, at which point me and my friends ran away.
I do not expect the government to be able to stop things like this from happening, I do, however wish that they would pay more attention when women tell them a guy sexually harassed them because the man who harassed me could have done the same thing to someone else hours earlier. All I want to see happen is the government take action when someone comes in with a sexual harassment case, and for the people in our society to stand up for someone who they see is being sexually harassed.
I go to the fish market in Moss Landing about 1x a week on my way home from school. A few weeks ago, before I found this site, I was buying some fish when the fish market worker made a dumb as hell “That’s what she said” joke after I said that I thought that cut of fish was to thick. I laughed awkwardly not because I was uncomfortable but because the joke was just not that clever. Then he made another equally dumb joke (also that’s what she said). Finally, as I was paying he asked me if my breasts were real. I was stunned. Pissed and ashamed I walked out and called my boyfriend. I drove about a mile before deciding to turn around and report it to the owner of the market. I also told the owner of the repeated comments I face (and many other women I assume) from the bar tender next to the fish case about how he asks everytime if I have a boyfriend, when I am getting married, and finally it escalated to him saying he wanted to get me drunk “out back.” Enough was enough. I have not gone back and am currently trying to find a new place to buy locally caught fish.
Submitted by Elizabeth
I’m walking down the street at about 9:00 at night. I’m wearing a skirt and heels, because I am about to go out with my friends. While waiting at the intersection, a truck full of guys start whistling at me, screaming at me and generally acting like dicks. I shoot them a look, but they don’t stop. So, I kind of blew up.
“I AM NOT A PIECE OF MEAT, YOU UN-EVOLVED JERKWADS!” was exactly what I shouted at the top of my lungs. They stopped, and the car drove away.
Behind me, I hear a slow clapping sound. I turn around and there is a little old woman walking up behind me. I smiled and she smiled, nodded and walked on.
So, the moral of the story is that while the whole Mendenhall Street area is pretty bad for getting harassed, at least occasionally you will get applauded by old ladies for fighting back. :]
Submitted by Emma
I was going to the movies with my friend and he left his phone in the car, so he asked me to go back to the parking lot to get it while he bought our tickets. So I was walking in the parking lot when a car PACKED with jerks passes by me. And when the car gets beside me, they start slowing down. I was texting this whole time, so I really wasn’t paying much attention to them. Then they start shouting things at me like “HOLLA!” and being very rude and trying to get my attention. At first, I didn’t think they were talking to me. Then a lady who was walking ahead of me with her son finally turned back and shot the guys a look. They thought we were the only ones in the parking lot, but then they noticed the lady looking at them, so they were embarrassed and they sped off. That’s when I finally noticed they were talking to me.
As I passed by the lady she gave me a “those guys are such losers” type of look. I smiled. I think it was very kind of her to do that.
I had my phone in my hand, I wish I would’ve taken a photo of them!
Submitted by Vava
I think you’re really…