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It’s hard for me to tell this story because I was so shamed and distressed by it, but it’s good too, to share.
This happened a long time ago, but I think it’s helpful because it shows how this sort of harassment can hurt for a long time.
When I was 12 I was at the Winter Fair at Landsdowne Park in Ottawa with my 6th grade class. We were all running around being silly, having escaped teacher supervision. At that age I had already developed as a woman. As I was running past this old man who looked like a farmer, he yelled at me, “Nice tits!”. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It scared me and I still feel scared as I type this. The rest of the day was blur, except when he yelled it at me again, about 20 minutes later. That night I went to a family gathering at my Grandma’s and I felt depressed, anxious, withdrawn, dirty, moody and ashamed. I honestly felt like I would never feel safe and comfortable with my body or my self again. It took time but I healed from this; however, my body still feels the fear and shame today when I think of this.
I was sensitive as a pre-teen about my sexuality and it’s taken me a long time to become confident in it; it’s something I’m still working on at age 31.
I don’t know why a man would need to say something like that to a young girl, but anything we can do to stop this sort of action is important and valuable. I want the world to be a place where people feel good, confident, safe and respected. Thanks for creating this site!!
Submitted by Charlotte
I was visiting a friend in Chicago last July, but while he was at work I decided to explore the city. I was sitting on a bench in Chinatown, reading a paper, when this old man comes up to me. I move my things so he can sit. I was 20 at the time. I have dark brown skin, dark curly hair, and was wearing an orange tank, brown flip-flops, and baggy khakis slightly above the knee.
He starts talking to me, and even though I felt something strange, I ignored it. After all, you’re supposed to be respectful of elders, right? He keeps chatting, and I nod and answer his questions and keep trying to read my paper. He asks if I live here. He puts his arm around me. I freeze. And now I know something’s wrong. He asks me how tall I am and I tell him, then he says “I don’t believe you stand up.” So I do, and he stands up and hugs me. He tries to kiss me but I turn my head so it lands on my cheek, and then he presses himself against me and I can feel him. His hands slide down my waist to my ass and I try to push him away, but my brain’s gone all fuzzy and he won’t let go and I’m frozen. I look around to see if anyone’s coming to help- it’s the middle of the day, and there are people all around me. But no one seems to know what’s going on. He’s laughing and I finally manage to get him off me, but not before his fingers brush my breast and I grab his hand and turn it into a handshake. He acts like nothing happened, laughs again, and asks if we met again would I say hello to him. I just want him to go away, so I sit down and stare at the ground and nod. He says “I’m leaving now. I’ll be at so-and-so place, then I’ll head home. It’s going to rain soon. You should go inside.” Then he leaves, looking behind him and waiting like he expects me to follow. As soon as he turns the corner it pours. I call my friend and insist he comes to get me, but he can’t get to me for another hour, so I am forced to wait in the train station, sobbing, while four other random men corner me and attempt to get my number. Apparently creeps can smell vulnerability.
Submitted by Miga
1. I was 17, well before cell phones. Walking down the street in Cambridge with two girlfriends. A car slowed behind us, rolled along for a short while. There was a bar up ahead and we thought perhaps they were going there. The car pulled into a parking spot in front of the bar and two men got out and began walking behind us. “Hey, what’s your name? Where are you going? Hey pretty…” non-stop, though we brushed them off. Crossed the street, they did too. Soon we realized we were headed towards the Charles River, not a good place to have two creepy men follow you at night.
Kept crossing streets, turning, picking up speed, and they just kept up with us, calling after us. We came across a cab at a streetlight and dove into the back, asking the driver to drive anywhere.
2. Walking to school in London, 8am. A van pulls up at a traffic light and a man opens the side door, “hey beautiful, get in!” “No.” “You ugly bitch, get in the van.” “Fuck off.” “Awwww, c’mon pretty. Don’t you want to go for a ride?” My cross light turned, they were stuck at the light, I managed to slip away.
3. Also walking to school in London. Pass by a buss stop with a group of middle school boys waiting at it. “Hey gorgeous, nice legs.” Are you kidding me? A child!? I asked him where his mother was, which shut him up.
4. Late night London, two men in a car pull up as a friend and I are walking to the bus. They say all sorts of nasty things and try to coerce us into the car. Follow us along for blocks until we found an open kebab shop to duck into. One followed us in. We watched our bus stop and made a run for it when the bus pulled up.
5. Also was followed home in London, no comments, just followed and then he banged on the door of the apartment building for awhile. After that every time we were followed (not uncommon) we kept walking up the street to a night club where we knew the bouncer.
6. Seattle: Waiting outside a bar for a friend. A man walking down the street swerves towards me, comes right up in my face and hisses: “pull my panties off with your teeth…” Ugh.
7. Seattle: Walking to the bus (again!). Man standing on street: “Hey, are you a guy or a girl?” I opt not to respond. As I get closer, “oh look, a girl. Hey, you’re really pretty.” I stay silent, keep walking. As I pass him, “Hey, you should grow your hair out.” Keep walking; hear from a distance as I go, “hey, you should gain some weight though.” Thanks man.
8. Seattle: A man is standing talking to a another man, who I know. I give them a look as I pass by them as I caught them talking about someone being cute. As I pass the man says to my acquaintance, “she’s cute too.” My acquaintance says, “yeah she is. She’s married though.” (Thanks. I love being talked about like I’m not even there.)
9. Seattle: A man starts hitting on a friend outside a club. Won’t take no for an answer. Grabs her arm and tries to pull her into a cab. I jumped in, pulled him off her, yelled, and the two of us retreated back inside. A crowd of people watched this, including a bouncer. No one said anything.
10. Bonus, San Francisco style: Walking with my husband. A man says “hey, why you with that guy? Why don’t you give this a try?” My husband thought that was pretty rude. I wrote it off as yet another day where I left my house.
And those are just a start. Reading this site I am flooded with memories over the past 20 years and how angry, vulnerable, and diminished it always makes me feel.
Submitted by KM
I wish I’d found this site weeks ago. My roommate and I had gone out for drinks at our favorite pub, hoping to chat with a few of the regulars we’ve become close to while studying abroad. As we’re sitting there, this group of Belfast men, most old enough to be my father, begin beckoning me over. I refuse and try to ignore them, but every time the come up to the bar, they plant themselves on either side of my chair and press close. I continue to try to ignore them, only keeping my hand on my purse, because the area we’re living (and drinking) in has had a recent spike in pickpocketing. By now, my regular friends are beginning to get annoyed. One has been telling them off and another takes up fighting stance when two of them decide it’ll be a good time to spin me around. I tell my friends to ignore them, they aren’t worth it and try to return to my conversation when the youngest throws his arms around my shoulders and my roommate’s and starts begging us for kisses and both of us are telling him about the boyfriends we’ve left back in the states (convenient fibs about guys who we’ve both just recently turned down). These jerks just won’t let up, though and when I lean across the bar to tell the bartender (another friend and woman) that they’re all mad and I’m getting freaked, one tries to shove his fingers up my rear through my (knee-length, 3/4 sleeve) dress and black tights. I scream and nearly jump the bar and promptly hide and then the youngest tries to come around the bar when my roommate has finally told him that it he doesn’t get off, she’ll break his nose (she could and would do it, too). When I tell him he and his friends are making me uncomfortable and I don’t appreciate having my butt grabbed, he makes a grab for me and I jump away. He only managed to get my hip. At this point, the bartender kicks them all out (except for one drunken lout who’s so hammered he passes out and cuts his head open on the bar). I wish I’d said more. I wish I’d told them what pathetic, dirty little toads they all were.
I found out later that week they were living in our building. We both avoid the courtyard like there’s a 20 starving Komodo Dragons living out there, except I think these guys are scarier!
Submitted by Alicia
I’m a New Yorker, but was living in Paris seven years ago. I guess I felt pretty confident in my street smarts because I had endured countless cat calls/random verbal harassment for years.
I was walking home late at night after my friends left me off of a cab a few blocks from my house, and two somewhat thuggy looking guys in their 20s approached me. They were looking to “party” and wanted me to have a drink with them. I told them no thanks, and went on my way. They could tell I wasn’t French via my accent and followed after me, cajoling and cat calling. I tried to ignore them and kept walking but they were really being persistent, so I told them to “piss off” while looking down and trying to find my keys and hurry away. One grabbed me and shoved me against the wall — at this point I had turned a corner onto a not so well lit street (stupid) about a block from my apartment, and there was no one around. The friend said something like “leave her be” and then ran off. I was struggling with the main guy, who was big (I’m not tiny either, 5’6″/130lbs) and he had me pinned to the wall with his hands like vice grips on my arms and his body pressing against me, I have no idea how long that went on, but he kept getting angrier and all I can really remember is how strong he was and him trying to kiss me (violently…so I guess more like head-butting my face) and how he kept saying how pretty I was.
I was absolutely terrified and have never had an adrenaline rush like that. The rest just happened so fast I barely remember the sequence, instinct took over (I had taken kick boxing and martial arts on and off for years): I managed to get my knee up and kneed him in the groin. He let go, and I elbowed him from above in the back of the neck, coming down with most of my weight — like they teach you to. I remember him on the ground but moving and guess I must have ran, and fast. It was only then I noticed I had been screaming. I had lost a shoe in the scuffle but I got to my door very quickly. I buzzed all the bells and someone let me in because I was crying and shaking too hard to get my keys out. I had a fat split lip, a bruised/scraped cheekbone, arms and bloody scraped elbows. But beyond that, I was a nervous wreck. I would jump at anything and was so jittery and on edge. I was 23 and it took about 6 months to feel safe enough to go out at night again, even with friends. Nothing happened, they never found the guy and as soon as I told the cops I had been drinking and walked home alone they were like: “Oh, you’re OK, no big deal.” As though somehow it was par for the course.
I’m 30 now, and back in NYC. I tell all my friends to take self-defense classes or some kind of martial art. It’s really so so so important to know how to defend yourself. It’s best not to put yourself in stupid situations, yes, take a cab all the way to your door. But inevitably I find myself every now and again on a dark/empty street at night and get chilled thinking about what could happen if…
As women, we are smaller than men and need to know how to defend ourselves, end of story. Even psychologically it’s important not to feel like a victim. I don’t know what would have/could have happened that night or what that guy thought he was going to do on the street like that, but I was so thankful to have had some defensive training that took over, like auto-pilot. I had thought that martial arts were “fun”, I did karate instead of ballet as a kid and then took up kickboxing in college. Before my attack, I really didn’t appreciate how insanely important it is to know how to defend yourself.
I’m glad to see a forum like this and I hope that we can give/get strength in numbers and shared experiences. Be strong ladies!
Submitted by Sarah
Dear Hollaback Community,
I apologize for using this submit feature for something other than reporting an incident, but I’m wondering if it’s time to up the ante in fighting harassment.
Following the story of the awesome woman on the subway who confronted her assaulter, I have read story after story of women who were harassed and assaulted and turned to the police or transit workers who made it very clear that they were not going to do anything. This is utter bullshit. These people are getting paid to serve and protect and yet so often they treat these stories with indifference.
I’d like to suggest that we don’t just shame the perpetrators of assault and harassment, but also those who choose to aid and abet them by doing nothing. Next time a cop refuses to do anything? Take his/her name, rank and badge number (you should always do this anyway) and post it up. Let the world know who the cops are who don’t give a damn what happens to the people they are supposed to protect. Same goes for transit workers, security officers, etc.
If they can’t be bothered to do anything because they care or because it’s their job, maybe a little shame and public pressure will get them off their asses.
Submitted by Stop Police Complacency
Just found out about this site via the radio, and it’s motivated to finally share my story.
A few years ago when I had just turned 18, I stopped at the gas station on the corner near my house on my way to work. There was only one older gas attendant, 56 I would later learn, working. He kept glancing over his shoulder which I thought was really weird, but I just kept my music on and pretended not to notice. Then, when the last car in the station was gone he leaned against my car and started asking questions/making comments – did I have a boyfriend, I was very pretty…
I was incredibly nervous but figured i’d be out of there in a minute, i’d only asked for $5 worth of gas to make it to work and back. Instead, he mumbled something I didn’t understand…and then stuck his hand DOWN my shirt and into my bra. Without even thinking I floored it and drove away, with him hanging half out of my window. I was appalled that he shouted, “call me!” while I was driving away.
It wasn’t until I called my mom in tears that I realized I had to do something. I went with my dad to the police station, which ironically is positioned directly across the street from the gas station, to make a report. I was beyond mortified to have to explain to both the cop and my dad what had happened – was it a grope or a fondle…inside the clothes or outside…how long was it? After a million questions I was taken in the back of a cop car to identify him, and then had to listen as he made up excuse after excuse while the cops questioned him.
Thankfully I didn’t have to go to court myself, the cop testified for me. My initial decision directly after the incident was to just pretend it didn’t happen, but i’m glad I took action. I found out that this guy already had a restraining order against him because he had done the SAME thing to another girl only a few towns over. It’s been 6 years and I still take someone with me to get gas and only lower my window a crack to slip the money through.
Submitted by Brittany
This story isn’t recent, but three years later I am still annoyed and disgusted thinking about it. I wish Hollaback had been around then, so I would have thought to get a photo of the jerk who verbally harassed me or in some way react to the guy rather than just letting it happen. I can’t go back, but I can at least share my story and think about how I’ll respond next time.
In 2007, I worked for a big company in northwest Washington, DC. I lived in Arlington, Virginia and commuted every day by walking, through a pretty nice residential neighborhood to the metro.
One morning, about 7:30 AM, I was taking my usual walk to the metro near the Court House station (orange line). I was dressed in pretty formal business attire, with a heavy coat on over my clothes because it was spring and still cold. I had huge sunglasses on that seriously took up most of my face. Nothing was tight-fitting, hell, I barely had any color on. I was pretty much dressed in all black with my black peacoat and black slacks on. That, the fact that it was broad daylight, or that the sun had barely been up an hour, or that I was walking through a nice family neighborhood and right next to an elementary school, didn’t stop some jerk from harassing me. (But we’re always “asking for attention,” or these things wouldn’t happen, right? Ugh.)
Just a few blocks from the metro, a guy pulled up next to me in a red pickup truck. He slowed down, rolled down his window, and proceeded to whistle, hoot and holler at me. “Hey baby! What you doing? Hey baby! Looking good!” [Smooch noises, kissy faces.] I just looked straight on and kept walking. He kept at it another minute, then revved his engine and drove off. I flicked him off and kept walking to the metro.
It bothered me all morning. I felt angry, violated, confused, embarrassed. It was so unexpected that early in the morning and in the kind of setting I was in when it happened. I felt completely caught off guard and like I was powerless to stop it. If I felt all that just from some creep yelling at me from his vehicle, I can’t imagine how violated other people must feel when men choose to actually physically violate them, flash them or direct hateful slurs at them.
Submitted by Angelina
Last summer I was at the park by Valley River Center (the local mall) babysitting my two year old nephew. I was pushing him in a stroller when a man on a bike started to coast right next to me. I tried to speed up my walking, but since he was on his bike there was no way to lose him. He was asking me all sorts of questions about the child I was with, such as his name and if we lived nearby. Finally he asked me if he could touch my boobs and I instinctively stopped and said no. In less than a second he grabbed my breast and rode off. It was so fast that I had very little time to react.
Obviously I wasn’t physically injured, but the fact that he had asked me before groping me is sicking. He was getting off on the non-consensual aspect of it, and that is terrifying. It was also terrifying because I was with my two year old nephew. He had specifically targeted a woman with a baby.
Submitted by Barbara Ann
This occurred back in July and although I wanted to write about it then, I wanted to forget it even more. In having to choose what category of harassment it falls into in order to send this story in, I’m even now embarrassed at my difficulty in labeling it. I don’t know that it counts as assault, even though it definitely didn’t feel like groping.
It was 10pm on a Friday night and I was waiting on a well lit block, in front of an active open restaurant, for the bus that I take everyday. Instead of heading to or from work, I was on my way to a small joint birthday party for two friends. Since I knew I’d be traveling there and back alone, I’d already decided to leave a little earlier than I needed to and had consciously decided to leave my bag at home and travel light so I’d be less of a target for theft. I’d also chosen to wear a more conservatively cut and oversized shirt than I would otherwise have worn on such a warm night.
Ten minutes into my wait for the bus, I was watching traffic to see if it was approaching my stop. I suddenly felt something slam against my backside. It didn’t feel like someone tried to cop a feel, and it didn’t feel like someone slapped my ass as they were passing by. It felt like someone wound up and hit me as hard as they could with something flat. I imagined a stack of books or a box and instantly thought maybe I was in the way of someone making a delivery to the diner or moving something out of the apartment entrance next door. I glanced around, embarrassed and blushing, and realized that none of the many other people walking across the street or crossing at the corner were paying attention, even though the smack had sounded obvious and loud to me. I spun around and realized that the only other people close to me were three guys who looked to be in their early 20′s, dressed for a night out. They were two feet away from me at that point and were continuing up the block laughing, the one in the middle of the group looking back at me and grinning.
I pointed at them and shouted “hey,fuck you!” feeling suddenly ashamed and angry. I’m not usually shy about addressing comments or gestures that are aimed at me or other women in public, but as soon as the group slowed their pace a little, I realized just how much bigger and heavier than me each of those guys was and how little attention was being paid to the situation by passers by. The middle guy waved me over and smiled, “yeah, fuck me!” and kept walking away as his friends laughed.
I waited the next ten minutes for the bus, with my hands shaking, still physically hurting and trying not to cry. Until the bus arrived I debated whether or not to walk to the police station that is three blocks away from that intersection, but imagined being laughed at by police officers once I described that a stranger had essentially spanked me. I also realized that I didn’t see any of the guys’ faces straight on and they were pretty nondescript young brown haired white guys with accents very common in my area. I wouldn’t have hesitated to report it if he had hit me that hard on any other part of my body, but this felt much more mortifying and even harder to verbalize to a stranger. And feeling that way made me even angrier.
I debated going home, but was worried that I’d run into the group of guys on the way to my nearby apartment. I wasn’t in the mood for a party and didn’t want to explain why and spoil the mood for the birthday friends, since I knew they’d be livid. But, I was too upset to want to be alone. I got on the bus when it came, and got off a stop early when I saw that two friends of mine were closing up the shop where we worked. I told them what had happened and sat and talked with them for a while before walking over to the party, where I hung back until feeling better and could walk home with some neighbors.
After that I worried that the guys who did it would recognize me in the neighborhood but that I wouldn’t recognize them. In writing this I realize I haven’t taken the bus alone at night since then, even though it was just a spanking. In other neighborhoods and cities I’ve been followed on my walk home, verbally threatened, flashed and groped but never felt as embarrassed or ashamed as this had made me feel.
Submitted by Laura