I had just turned fourteen when I went to London, England with my cathedral choir. On a free day, my family and another family decided to visit the Nottinghill carnival parade, which is supposed to duplicate the carnivals found in South America and the Caribbean in areas where immigrants settled. One of the main attractions are the bright, colourful and revealing costumes women wear. Often costumes are a bikini, a large headpiece, with jewellery and accessories to decorate the material-lacking costume.
The carnival is fueled by music, dancing, secretive alcohol, and energy. Maybe because I was so young and had grown up with Caribbean parents, I did not find Carnival explicitly sexual. I stood beside my mother and another chorister my age right in front against the fence to bar off the audience from the performers. I watched dancing bodies and floats pass by and was enjoying myself.
I had realized there was a man behind me the entire time, slowly inching up towards the fence to get a better view. Or so I believed until I felt his hard penis against my ass. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, nor did I feel particularly unsafe since – this would be my first interaction with a penis and didn’t even know if what I was feeling was his penis.
I kept silent about it and kept telling myself it wasn’t his junk touching me. Eventually, he was pushing into me so hard that my torso was starting hurt from being pushed into the fence. When he started swaying slightly, I became confident it what I was feeling. I stopped underplaying my situation and told my mother. She put her elbow in between me and the man and pushing him away. After that I couldn’t feel anything hard on my ass again.
When the parade was over, my parents didn’t make a big deal of it or have much of a reaction, so I followed their lead. I remember being confused and wondering if it had been a man’s hard body part rubbing up on me. I was sure it was, but if it was, wouldn’t my parents been more concerned?
Growing up, I have realized that it was a hard penis on me, and that I had in fact been sexual assaulted.
I am not sure if my story fits the hollaback-movement, but I think it does. the situation was not on a street but in a kind of a semi-public place: in a dormitory of the university in bochum.
I have lived in the dormitory for the last three years. we have 5 floors with about 12 one-bed-rooms. all inhabitants of one floor use the kitchen, two showers and two restrooms together. in the past sometimes somebody tried to flirt with me but in a nice way. but some weeks ago a new inhabitant moved to our floor. I had a strange feeling about him but I thought “dont be so sensitive”. but my feelings were right. we spoke with each other twice, I felt again a little bit strange because his behaviour was strange. for example once it was obviously I wanted to leave the room but he didn`t give the way free. But again I said to me “okay, you are to sensitive. trust more!”. the next day I met him again in the kitchen. he told me the following: he saw me the night before (about 1:30) when I went to the restroom. and he had the idea to terrify me. but then he thought that “the poor little girl” (I am 30 years old) would be scared of it and he didn`t do it. at this point I started to tremble. and i am proud that I told him the first thing I thought: that if he had terrified “the poor little girl” I would have smashed his face in. at this point he stopped talking to me, some minutes later he asked only “are you angry?”. Yes, I was!
The problem now ist, that I feel very uncomfortable in my dormitory. luckily I will move in some weeks. But it is definitly a men`s world!
I was in eighth grade, when I was groped by a middle-aged man at a skating rink. I had been standing with a group of friends listening to a story when the man passed by me and grabbed me by my hips from behind – in an attempt to make it appear as if he were just trying to squeeze by. I turned around just as he continued on and noted the large space between me and those surrounding me. I only remember feeling completely embarrassed. I was thirteen years old the first time a strange grown man objectified me, and without my permission placed his hands on me.
I was walking down the street and a somewhat but noticeably irrational man decided to start walking and talking with me. He incoherently told me how well he treats women, and how he would take them out, basically trying to convince me hes a good guy for me. He continues to rant absurdities, and I continue to walk my way. He is slightly under 6ft and above 200lb, I had no intention of agitating him. I tell him I have to take the train now and he has no intention of leaving the boundary of the park we’re in. I don’t remember what he said to me, but he asks for a hug, and decidedly pulls me in for a great big bear hug. There were people around, but apparently no one found it slightly suspicious. I’m all of 5’3″ 104lbs.
Sya Groosman is a talented, passionate college student and photographer in London who has big dreams to make an artistic impact to fight sexual/street harassment. With her culminating project at the University of Arts, she hopes to raise people’s awareness of the low conviction rates of sexual harassment while channeling her interest in fashion. She brings to light some of the most common experiences of young women everywhere through an artistic protest. Read on for a special and fascinating interview with Sya herself and learn about how to get involved.
Was there an event that served as the breaking point for wanting to explore sexual harassment more?
About a month ago a man followed me home after a night out while shouting out things like “I want to go home with you, you’re so beautiful.” Thank God it never became violent, but this event did make me realize: I have to do this project, even if it only creates awareness on a small level. Before this, I’ve always used my photography to criticize the roles of women in our society, yet I didn’t how to turn it into a project. I always thought of it as a very important but very sensitive subject and so decided to wait until it was the right timing for me and society. There is a lot going on about this in the news now, which makes it so much more interesting to explore.
How did you get into photography? Was this always a medium you wanted to use?
Yes, my love for photography started around the age of 15 when I got my first digital camera. And when I started my BA in Photography at the University of the Arts in Utrecht 3 years later, I found that this was a medium that I could use to express my opinion. You could make beautiful images that you may want to buy for your living room but that never loses that underlying critical concept. Hopefully it makes the viewer think about what is going on in our society.
Who do you want to influence with your finished project? Who is your target audience for this?
Sexual harassment survivors and their friends and family, as well as all the other people that have a strong opinion about sexual harassment without ever experiencing it. I’m definitely not targeting rapists or offenders, because these are just sick people and I know that an art project won’t change that. But I do hope that by creating awareness, girls realize that it is not something to be ashamed of.
Why do you think people assume that clothing always serves as an invite for unwanted sexual attention?
It seems to be the easiest excuse. By coincidence, I spoke to a guy in a club in London last weekend, and he sincerely asked me “Why are all the English girls dressed as sluts but don’t act like it?” I don’t know what he said to the girls he approached, but I told him clearly, if you approach a girl like she is a slut, why would she ever feel flattered and actually like you? She may dress in the clothes she likes but it doesn’t mean she takes them off just as easily. Likewise I wasn’t dressed provocatively after my night out when the guy followed me home, and most women in the street, during daylight, aren’t wearing such clothing either. In my opinion every form of sexual harassment is an expression of power, about intimidating and having control over women.
Any empowering words of advice for young women all around the world?
Please do go to the police and tell your story. You never asked to be harassed, even if you are wearing that short skirt. You are not the offender and you didn’t do anything wrong–nothing gives a man the right to harass you. We’re not pieces of meat, we’re human beings.
Contact Sya or message her on Facebook to get involved with her amazing project:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +44 (0)7585934641
I’m not entirely sure if this counts, but I decided to try. I’m fairly young – 15 – and I have a rather large bust. I have gotten negative attention for it since I was in sixth grade, but this is something that has continuously brought me down when I remember it.
I was sitting in my seat before my French class started, wearing a tank top that wasn’t low-cut hidden with a slightly open button-up blouse. I was feeling awesome that day, because I love that outfit and it makes me feel gorgeous. A boy that I’ve known since elementary school walked in, and my seat’s back is to the door, so I didn’t realize it. He was holding his keys for some reason; they were on a lanyard (that’s important). He had been poking me and being perverted for a while, so he decided to walk in and put his keys down my shirt. He held them by the lanyard and slid them down my shirt, then back up. That’s one of the most brazen things anybody’s ever done to me, so I was shocked. He started laughing, and I told him I could report him for that. He simply laughed again and said, “No you can’t, it wasn’t my hand.”
I told my teacher, who reported it and said they would call me to the office to take a statement. That was five months before school ended. School is out and they STILL haven’t addressed it.
My CCRB Report for today:
At 12:01PM – Queens Blvd and Union Turnpike, besides the train station. The officer was driving a patrol car in uniform. Lic plate#8612 Black hair, dark eyes, strong built, about 190 lbs, looks mid twenties. I was walking towards Union Turnpike on an errand for my supervisor when the Police Officer used the sound system of this NYPD van to state: I like your booty You are who Im looking at. No other car with sound system was around. The van then made a right unto Union Turnpike towards the highway. The statement was sexual harassment and completely inappropriate for a uniformed police officer on patrol or on court duty.
Note: This is the second complaint to the CCRB that I have to make on sexual harrassment by an NYPD Officer on duty. The first time, the CCRB followed up by having the Detective’s supervisor call me. The supervisor proceeded by letting me know that it was just a misunderstanding, the Detective did not mean to lean on my desk and stop the flow of my work by hovering over my computer and texting with his hands almost on my face. My expectation of this experience: Just about anything irrelevant to really addressing the issue that NYPD officers sexually harrass women on the streets and in work places.
I was walking back from Ikea with one of my friends, and these two creepy teenagers were following us. We were only about 13 or 14 at the time and they must have been at least 18, but one of them reached out and grabbed my butt, then leered at me and was like “I’m coming home with you, doll.”
Suffice to say me and my friend legged it back to her house away from the creeps.
Up the River Endeavors! Last week I went to Martha’s Vineyard for a retreat with our incredible funder — Up the River Endeavors. The head of the foundation, Mal Jones (pictured left) is a feminist social entrepreneur who is interested in women internationally working collectively to impact the root causes of the major social problems facing us today.
One-on-one calls with new site leaders! This week we spoke with our Class 6 site leaders and strategized with them on how to make their Hollaback sites a success. The sites are scheduled to launch in September.
Partnerships galore. This week we spoke with Wagner College and Sisters on the Runway, an organization that has raised over $50,000 toward ending domestic violence. We also got a shout-out from our partners at SPARK, check it out.
“I have been groped a few times on the streets of Chennai. What troubles me is that these incidents are not taken seriously. It takes someone to die (Sarika from the famous 1998 “eve teasing” case) or for something to involve a mob and a video camera for the nation to be outraged about these things.
“Truth is, it happens to thousands of women everyday. What I would like to see is sustained conversation on this issue beyond the general short-livedness of public memory, and for street harassment to be treated like the crime it is by the police, in everyday situations, beyond asking us to ‘be careful’.”
History has always been made by badasses, and our site leaders are no exception. Need more proof? Check out Hollaback Boston’s recent workshop.
HOLLA and out —
While I was riding my bike from the Louisenring onto the Kurpfalz-Bridge in Mannheim there was a car with three of four youngster in it passing me by. On the right side of the car the passenger, who wore a polo shirt and had black-ish hair all spiked up, had the car window pulled down and while I drove by he was sticking out his tongue and did a movement of licking, as if he wanted to “lick me”…
I was speechless for second and simply showed him my middle finger.
They drove off laughing hysterically.