Maria’s Story: “The kind of look that makes you feel you’d rather be somewhere else”

I was 17 and had traveled to Boston from South America with a couple of friends to learn English. My language school was near Cambridge square, and we had class until 1pm, and then we had an hour or so to have lunch before classes resumed.

One day I decided to go to some random restaurant because I wanted to eat something different, my friends didn’t want to come with me so I went there by myself.

I sat at a table, and after I ordered. A guy sitting at a different table started to talk to me. He said “how come such a lovely lady is eating all by herself?” I was very naive then and didn’t expect sexual harassment to take place in the U.S. (little did I know), so I just answered his question and explained that my friends didn’t want to come with me. I still answered with a particular tone to show that I was uncomfortable and would rather not talk.

The guy later asked me if I liked my food, I said it was alright and then I took some random thing from my bag to pretend I was reading so he wouldn’t talk to me. He had a strange look, the kind of look that makes you feel you’d rather be somewhere else.

He kept talking to me, and I told him that I was sorry, that I couldn’t understand what he was saying because I was still learning English. I thought that would be a good thing to say to end the conversation.

I asked the waitress to bring the bill, and she said the guy had paid for what I had ordered. I wasn’t sure I had understood what had happened, I was nervous and wanted to leave, so I asked again, and she said the guy had payed my bill. Confused, I asked her why??? She said she didn’t know why but he had indeed payed my bill. She gave me a piece of paper that the guy had sent to me, which said something like I was beautiful or something. Then she said, “apparently he likes you”.

I asked the waitress if I could leave, she said yes. The guy was staring at me. I (sigh…) said “Thank you”, then left the restaurant and staring running towards the language school. My heart was pounding, I was terrified and wondered if the guy would be following me. I thought that was unlikely because I was running really fast.

I was very annoyed and confused. One thing that bothered me was the lack of female solidarity, if I had been the waitress, I wouldn’t have let a random guy in his fifties pay the bill of a 17 year old without asking her first.

I never ate alone again during the rest of my stay.

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Chelsea’s Story: They laughed at my discomfort

I am 22 years old and have, like most women, been verbally harassed since I hit puberty. When I hear a “God damn you’re hot,” or a whistle, or even a simple “Hey” from men, I sometimes smile, always feel awkward, and continue on like it didn’t happen. But today, I was walking the block from the lot I park in to where I work in Detroit and had to pass by a construction crew. I couldn’t see the men. Perhaps they were behind a large green plastic sheet that blocked my view or standing within the building on which they worked. But I heard them. They whistled, and yelled. I felt uncomfortable, they could see it in my movements, my lowered head, and quickened pace, and then they laughed. It was the laughing at my obvious discomfort that I find the most disturbing and that I can’t stop thinking about.

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Taylor’s story: “I do not want or need your attention”

Every Tuesday and Wednesday when I’m walking along the road to the train station and again when I’m walking home the same truck with the same 2 men drives past honks and yells things out the window.. I’m wearing black pants and usually a warm jacket.. I do not want or need your attention.. I don’t understand why some men have to be such pigs.. They are most likely double my age.. Its just not right..

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Anonymous’s story: Standing up to harassers

when i was 11 years old, i was living in Dubai. I was anxious about going to public places because of threatening stares. One time, i was at the supermarket, waiting in line to pay for groceries when this man, probably in his thirties decides to stare and smile repeatedly. I tried to frown at him, and express my anger non-verbally,but all he did was laugh at me. it pissed me off even more… the fact that he thought it was amusing!! like the baby i used to be i started crying!! then when i told my mom the story i laughed at myself for feeling threatened by some immature asshole with no real purpose in life. Later that same year i was with a couple of friends at a public park and it was really crowded, full of adolescent guys with no respect whatsoever. they were making gestures and noises and lewd comments but we ignored them annoyingly. then there was this guy who looked like he was in his late teens. he approaches us with his peeps behind him as if he’s the boss and asked us our names, where we’re from …etc i got really pissed!! how dare he think he could hit on kids with that smug on his face!! i was really scared but i wanted to do something!! so i turned toward him and yelled ” GET LOST!!” he felt
so threatened that he ran away. it feels good! like i gained power back from them ;) now i’m 16 and whoever dares harrass me will be called out on the spot!!

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Amber’s Story: Harassed in the grocery store

Last fall was my first semester at college. On a weekend trip home, my mom and I went grocery shopping together. We’d split up in the store, and I was just sort of wandering around on my own. I kept noticing this group of three or four young men. They kept looking at me and talking among themselves, and it made me uncomfortable. I was standing in an empty part of the store, looking at something on a shelf when one of them appeared a few feet away from me to my right. He gestured for me to come towards him. Being the nice, accommodating girl that I am, I did. I was standing a few feet in front of him. He started questioning me.

“You got a man?”


“How old are you?”


“What you doin’?”

“Look, man, I don’t even live in Columbia…”

“Where you live, then?”

“Rock Hill.”

At that point, his friends came up. Now, I was blocked in. There was one guy in front of me with another behind him, one to my right, and a shelf on my left. Alarm bells started going off in my head. They were all about a foot taller than me with muscular builds, and there was no one else around.

One of the other men asked me if I had a man. I said, “No,” and started to walk away. Over my shoulder, I tossed back, “And I don’t want one either!”

I’ve been followed around in stores before. I’ve been approached by random guys a few times who asked for my number without even a proper introduction (I forgive them for that because they’re young and stupid). But I never felt threatened by anyone in public until that day. I carry pepper spray with me everywhere I go these days, and I don’t ever make eye contact with strange men in grocery stores. The world’s a dangerous place.

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Sadie’s Story: “I love my Hollaback-Mom”

I just got honked at while driving home with my mom by a couple of high school kids. At first I thought that they’d just mistaken me for someone they knew(I’m only 23 and I often get asked if I want the kids menu when I go out to eat), but after I looked over at them they paralleled our car for a few moments and stared at me (or us) while grinning/laughing before merging ahead of us. When I noticed that they kept turning around to look I busted out my phone and snapped a picture of their car while explaining what just happened to my mom who thought maybe she’d done something to tick them off while driving.

I told her all about Hollaback and how I was going to post their picture to the site. She immediately suggested that we follow them home to get a picture of their house and stop so she could have a word with their mother about her son and his friend being “sexist assholes”. We didn’t, but I think it’s awesome that she even thought of it. I love my Hollaback-Mom!

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Rose’s Story: None of his business

I was on a physics internship at a university in a small town, where there was a large majority of men (not uncommon). I was having a somewhat intense conversation (incidentally, about sexism) with one of the only female professors. We were just wrapping up when an older male professor knocked on the door and entered, saying he had something important to talk to her about, and he had to head out soon. As we were basically done, I got up to go and said goodbye. Now, I’d just been sitting down, leaning forward intently. My jeans needed to be pulled up a bit. This man, who I’d never meet before, decides to tell me to pull up my jeans! I was taken aback, but as I had been planning on doing it anyway, I adjusted them, feeling uncomfortable but not sure how to react. He chuckled a little, and then pointed out how I was blushing. At this point, I was pissed, but now really uncomfortable, so I made some remark about blushing easily and left quickly.

Why did he feel it was appropriate to tell me that? He’s not my mother, or my friend who thought I might not have noticed, or even an acquaintance who might whisper a helpful comment. I didn’t intend to be showing skin between shirt and jeans — but so what? How is that any of his business? And what if that was just how I dressed? That criticism was the first thing out of his mouth directed at me. Looking back, I was really feeling the pressure to be polite. Why? He certainly wasn’t being polite to me.

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Marissa’s Story: “I feel uncomfortable going out there now”

I’m 14. I live in East Tennessee. At my high school, It’s not uncommon for guys to whistle at girls walking around, but as I’m not the most attractive girl or “well-blessed” in the development department, I’ve never experienced it.
I live in a relatively small neighborhood, with a few teenagers that are all my age there. One is a year younger than me and lives right across the street. I see him out a lot, but I only talked to him the day he moved in.
Today, I was skateboarding down my driveway and around my neighborhood, and while I was making my way up my driveway, he came out. About half-way up my driveway, I glanced over my shoulder and he was turned toward me, and starting making screeching noises and rolling his tongue at me. He made noises like that until I got up to my garage and when I got inside, I looked out the window and he was standing in the same spot, looking at my house.
I feel uncomfortable going out there now. I just want to skateboard, but I’m really easily embarrassed and I feel awkward.


Steph’s Story: “He had no respect for my personal boundaries

I was at the Bethesda metro station on my way back home from work. Ordinarily, I would only have to wait a couple of minutes to catch my train, but track maintenance was causing delays of up to 20 minutes between trains. I was sitting on the bench, texting a friend, when a man sat down next to me, uncomfortably close, and started asking a flurry of questions, like what my name was, if I had a boyfriend, what was I doing in Bethesda, etc. I was stunned, and so I answered that yes, I did have a boyfriend, hoping that it would make him back off. Instead, he started asking if I had any female friends that would want to date him, if I was “in love, or just playing around” with my boyfriend, and if I thought he was attractive. Other passengers waiting around were looking at us, but made no motion to interfere, even though I’m sure I looked visibly uncomfortable. I gave him only negative answers, that no, all my female friends had boyfriends, yes I was in love and didn’t want to date him, but he still persisted.
I thought it would be over when the train arrived, but when I found a seat, he sat down right next to me and began asking me for my phone number. My phone was still in my hand, and when I said no, he grabbed my phone and put in his number and called himself. At that point, I was too shocked to do anything. This guy was clearly not getting the hint, and he had no respect for my personal boundaries. I left the train at the next stop (Thankfully it was mine!) and he said he would call me. I didn’t give any indication that I had heard him.
I felt panicked the whole way home. I kept checking behind me as I exited the station, and I practically sprinted until I reached my front door. I relayed all this to my boyfriend, and he was furious. When the man called, as promised, my boyfriend chewed him out about harassing women on the metro. I felt so weak that I had to have my boyfriend stand up for me, but at the time, I was just so confused and shocked that I felt powerless to do anything, let alone hollaback. I’ve learned a lot from this experience, namely, that this treatment is absolutely unacceptable, and other people won’t get involved; you have to make a stand for yourself.
A note to any unaccompanied female metro travelers in the DC area: If a man in his early 30s named Carl or Carlton approaches you like this, remind him that his harassment is unwelcome and unwanted!


Leah’s Story: Holy land isn’t so holy

I was in a gap year program in Jerusalem last year, and one day I went on a day trip to Tel Aviv with four(female) friends. On the bus ride back I was sitting in a window seat. It was a pretty crowded bus and I didn’t think anything of it when a man sat down next to me, I just continued listening to my ipod and staring out the window. Some time into the bus ride I felt something on my leg, the man had his hand under my dress and was rubbing his knuckles in a circular motion on my thigh. I looked up at him shocked. He looked surprised, I guess he wasn’t expecting me to notice! and then quickly dropped his hand and pretended to be asleep! seriously! It was the first time I had harassed physically, and I felt panicked. My first instinct was to get away from him, which was actually pretty difficult. I had to climb over him because I was in the window seat, and it was such a crowded bus that there were people sitting on the floor. I managed to make my way towards a clearing in the middle of the bus though, where I was able to collect myself somewhat. When the bus stopped in Jerusalem and everybody got out, I waited by the door for the man who assaulted me. He was maybe in his late twenties, tall and lanky wearing, a white button down shirt with the top buttons undone and black suit jacket and dark pants, he had a buzz hair cut, five a clock shadow, bags under his eyes and a shifty expression. He just looked seedy. When he got off I followed him and said to him loudly that he was “a dirt rotten pervert.” I didn’t know if he understood English and I didn’t care, I was furious. When he mumbled “what’d I do” in  English I told him where he could go and I hit him with my bag. I’m glad I spoke up, I hope that maybe I embarrassed him enough that he will fear his next victim will also raise a fuss. At the time I was really distraught though, I felt sick every time I had to get on a bus for a long time after that. I bought a can of pepper spray and almost used it a couple of times, but I’ve never quite felt safe in a public place since that day.

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