I was 13 years old, a dishwasher at a restaurant, and it was my first job. I loved my job, I had been going to the restaurant every Tuesday since I could remember with my mom. We knew the owner and his family, we knew the chefs, waitresses, and cooks. Then one night, the owner became way too drunk. He kissed one waitress and grabbed another by the butt. Then he came to me. First, he uncomfortably made me hug him in the hallway, and then later came and groped me from behind, all parts a 13-year-old should never have felt. I never did anything, I didn’t tell my mom until I was 19 when we went to a new restaurant in a different city, and we had to leave because that old owner was now a chef there.
I was three, and desperate to go to school. I LOVED school, so my mom put me in nursery school. Every day, at recess, a boy from the other classroom came out the door onto the playground, walked over to me and punched me, hard, in the stomach. Every day, I cried. Every day, the teachers thought it was cute. Boys will be boys. He likes her. He’s just trying to get her attention.
In order to get this to stop, my mom had to withdraw me from the school. I cried about that, too. Because I was being punished because he was hitting me. It wasn’t the last time I was harassed or assaulted. It was merely the first.
I was raped at gunpoint when I was 15 years old. A man broke into a friend’s house with a gun and basically held me hostage for an hour or so while he repeatedly raped me. He was also going to kill me but I managed to talk him out of it. I was living in foster homes at the time and was so affected by the incident but I never reported it to the police, this was back in 1979. I later went on to work in the sex trade to support myself and my sister when I was a teenager with such low self-esteem after the rape. I watched man after man buy my body, all of them could have been my Father or Grandfather. These men remind me so much of Donald Trump, and men like him who have little or no respect for women. By the age of 20 I finally got out of the sex trade but not without having done great damage to my body and soul. I also found myself with a huge drug and alcohol problem brought on my the rape and subsequent prostitution work.
I moved from Maryland to Niagara Falls when I retired in 2012. The house is wonderfully secure, and I look forward to being here the rest of my life.
One of the 10 windows in my house was open a bit to air out the guest room, and I had not engaged the little prongs on the upper sash to prevent it from being opened from the outside.
I have a propensity for staying up too late, sitting at my laptop in the kitchen. One night, I got to bed after midnight and, as usual, finished reading the daily paper. I noted the time at exactly 1:30 a.m. when I turned out the light to sleep.
Within a minute, I heard rustling. I assumed it was out on the front porch, then realized it was coming from the guest room next to mine. I saw a short man in full silhouette against the yellow window curtain across the room. I shouted.
He came around to my side of the antique double bed and leapt full-sprawl on top of me. That made me angry. I shouted for him to get off me. He rolled off to the other side of the bed beginning immediately to get between my legs.
What little reading I had done in the 1970’s about the realities of rape came back to me clearly. Locked my ankles across one another. He could not penetrate the block either with his groin or his hands. He started to touch a breast. I realized I’d better lock my arms across my chest, because having anyone touch my breasts is too emotionally intimate. He stopped trying to touch me there.
He then took my hand and directed me to masterbate him. I acquiesced in the masterbation for a bit and his penis became erect. I withdrew and resumed the lock across my chest. He spent TWO AND A HALF HOURS mostly trying to use my body to reach ejaculation.
The man had obviously showered before coming to my house. He smelled fresh and he was perfectly clean. No sign of tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana. He wore a navy T-shirt, no underwear, and those long ugly nylon-ish basketball shorts with elastic waist. He’d clearly planned the whole thing.
He said very little, always directly in my ear, “Where your purse? Where your purse?” Very deep, very soft. Although at one point I had a long opportunity to study the profile of his face against the street light coming through the yellow curtain, I recognized neither his face nor his voice.
But I’d recognize that torso again: He had two long scars, one very straight and “clean” directly from the naval toward his genitals, the other parallel but off to one side a bit and with a rough scar. His arms were distinctly muscular and well-defined. He was a little taller than I. I still did not recognize him.
When he left, I called 9-1-1, and report an attempted rape. He was arrested on Tuesday morning outside the house of my lawn man, where he was reporting for work. He never made bail. He pled guilty. I hope I never see him again. But if we cross paths, I’m going to be so damned angry, I may not contain myself.
I have two stories that stand out for me while I worked at Mercury Marine as a mechanical designer. Five women worked in the building with about 150 guys. All the other women worked there as secretaries. One guy called me over to a spot where he was standing with a group of guys I did not know. He asked if I was wearing a bra. They were all wondering. I felt so humiliated. Another guy told me within a job interview for a different position within the company that he felt I had penis envy and questioned that I had the skills needed to do the job. Despite that I had been working there about eight years doing that very job with a different group with in the company. There was lots of sexual innuendos, lots of comments about my appearance that I laughed off or ignored. One guy hung a calendar of nude women by his desk which I found offensive. I went out and got a calendar of nude men and hung it by my desk. He thought I was being silly and causing problems.
I was in my class one day and I was chosen to answer a question. I answered and it was wrong. Then these two boys in my class decided they wanted to make a comment about how I’m Asian and therefore am supposed to be really smart. They called me a stupid Asian since I didn’t know the answer. This went on for a while and they chose to use other harsh stereotypes at points in the school year. My friend stood up for me and then the teacher yelled at her to stop being so loud. I told the teacher what they had said to me and she said they were just joking and not to make a big deal about it. When I told my parents this, they didn’t want me in this environment so they chose to put me in a different class with a different teacher.
A man made me feel sick by calling out friendly comments and then whispering gross, disturbing ones under his breath. I turned around and swore angrily (gut reaction, for better or worse) only to have him repeat this each time I walked away. It ruined my walk home and left me with a little less faith in humanity.
Me and 11 girls from my class were on a weekend in London from Sweden. We went to the restaurant Chiquito to eat, however, in the middle of dinner, a complete strangers approached our table and started to make really offensive comments about the fact that 8/12 of us were blondes and Swedish. We tried to make him understand that we did not want to talk to him so we began talking in Swedish, however he stayed and ordered a glass of water and refused to leave. We had to ask the waiter to get him to go away. It completely destroyed the happy mood of the dinner because if a big group of girls sit together, they probably want to stay there together and talk to each other not strangers that makes sexist jokes about stupid blonde Swedish girls.
Dear Hollaback! community,
This has been a hard week for us, and we wanted to reach out because we imagine it’s been a hard week for you too.
If you’re not caught up on the news, here’s a quick rundown: Donald Trump is minimizing the violent and degrading words recorded in 2005 as mere posturing and harmless banter. As women have come forward this week to describe their experiences of assault at his hands, Donald has vehemently denied their claims and attempted to cast himself as a victim.
Watching this play out takes its toll on all of us—especially those of us who have been the subject of demeaning, violent speech; who have been harassed in the workplace; who have been groped by strangers. We’ve heard from many of you—our most ardent supporters—that these news cycles have triggered anxiety, depression, fear, and rage. We at Hollaback! want to recognize and validate every one of you who are struggling. We are with you.
We want to recognize the courage, vulnerability, and power of the women who have come forward this week to tell their stories—and of those throughout this election cycle who have stood up to racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and ableist language and actions, telling the world that this is #notokay. We see you, we hear you, and we believe you.
As we see this ugly dance unfold on a national stage, the stories we’re hearing are all too familiar. Over the past 10 years you’ve told us your stories, and we’ve listened. You showed us how “locker room talk” can escalate quickly. You showed us that men in suits really do grope women between their legs. And in our research with Cornell University you showed us that groping and fondling are the forms of street harassment most likely to lead to long-term feelings of depression and low self-esteem.
Here’s the thing: telling your story can help you understand, process, and feel validated in everything you’re going through. It shows other people that they aren’t alone, and it inspires them to speak up too. Right now, thanks in part to the women speaking up about their experiences with Donald, other people are coming forward about their experiences. If you feel like you’re able to join them in solidarity, we encourage you to share your story now.
By sharing these experiences, we work through our pain and toward a world where hatred, discrimination, and harassment are unacceptable. We can build a world where all of us are able to travel, work, and live freely in shared and public spaces without fearing each other. We can stand with each other, instead of against each other.
If you only remember one thing from this letter, remember this: you’re not alone. So tell us, how have you been handling the past week? What do you need? Leave a comment below to check in with us and share your thoughts. It’s so important right now that we’re in touch— connected — and standing strong together.
With love and solidarity,
The Hollaback! team
Beach week: a week for post-graduate, high-school seniors to go to their beach of choice for a week during the summer for their last “hurrah” before reality strikes and everyone has to start college. I was in a house with five other girls; all six of us were eighteen, best friends, and couldn’t wait to take on the week together. It was our first night in Myrtle Beach and, of course, everyone in our grade wanted to find the best party to start our week off. My friends and I had spent all day at the beach and had come in to get ready for the big night ahead. Once everyone was ready we all decided on a place to meet up with everyone else in our grade, and headed out. It was about a twenty-minute walk from our house to where we were meeting up with our other friends. Never did it cross our naïve minds that six, eighteen year old girls would be put in a situation that could’ve been deemed unsafe that night at the beach. We had been walking for a few minutes when the first catcalling perpetrator began shouting at us to come with him, because he would show us “a fun time.” Slightly spooked, we all linked up and continued walking. A few minutes later a group of guys, maybe mid-twenties, were on the other side of the road shouting at us again. These men were obviously under the influence of alcohol and were screaming incredibly inappropriate comments about our legs, outfits, skin color, etc. Although these men didn’t physically harm us, we were very scared, and this is my problem with this type of harassment. There is no reason, whatsoever, why six girls couldn’t engage in a beach week of their own, without the crude remarks of men having a “fun time,” while deliberately degrading us girls.