Megan’s Story: Taking back control

Instead of talking about all the horrible situations where I was helpless (stalking, harassment, even being run over by a cyclist!) I want to talk about the time I had had enough. I don’t want to talk about the ones who laughed and sped off. I want to talk about the one where I took back control, and wound up getting a child molester arrested.

It was in 2009 or 2010, and I was in my final year of school at Sheridan College, a prestigious animation school in a well-to-do suburban town outside of Toronto. I and a friend from university rented a very nice townhouse in a small, secluded cul-de-sac near the school. It was early afternoon on a springy Saturday, and my boss had just dropped me off from work. I was puttering in the front yard, talking with my sweetheart on the phone and weeding the garden. Several neighbours and their children were out.

Our house backs on to a heavily wooded ravine, and has a few shaded areas not easily seen from the street. I was aware of a man milling about, but thought he was one of the neighbours, and so I ignored him. He hung around harmlessly enough for about 45 minutes. Because I figured he belonged there, I didn’t find him remarkable until he slunk up from beside my house and gestured to me. I realized that he was waving his limp penis at me and gesturing for me to come over –out of view of the street, back into the trees.

Something in me snapped. I didn’t think at all. I didn’t feel any fear. It was like all the horrible instances of harassment and stalking that had happened in the past went by me in a flash. I felt TOUGH. I felt ANGRY. This was MY HOUSE, MY YARD and MY STREET.

The first thing I shouted was “Olivia, lock the door” (My roommate was assaulted as a teen. For whatever reason my first instinct was to keep her out of the situation) The next thing I did was scream “Get the f*ck out of here! I don’t want to see that! What do you think you’re doing! You filthy pervert! I’m calling the cops”

A lot happened at once here. My poor boyfriend on the phone has no idea what’s happening as I inform him that there’s a pervert and I have to hang up and call the police. The man turns and saunters away from me –through the gate into my backyard! My three-year-old neighbour comes running over to see what’s going on. I snatched her up and took her with me back out into the street, and called 911.

The adrenaline finally started to wear off and I began to shake. My neighbour and landlady came out, and went to check the treeline. The police arrived. My boyfriend (now fiance!) showed up, out of breathe and barefoot (when I hung up on him to call 911, he dropped his phone and ran straight out of his apartment to my house, not even stopping to put shoes on –he thought a rapist had broken in). He was too winded to speak, and it took a few minutes to explain to the police that they didn’t need to arrest him!

My roommate (she’d gone to the back door when I yelled for her to lock the house, and watched our perv make his way through the yard) and I filed police reports, and incident reports with the property manager. She and our next door neighbour recognized my description, and the flasher was arrested a few blocks away. It turned out he had a history of this behaviour.

Here’s the real kicker, though — As the police are pulling up, Some sleazy young man (clearly drunk or high) had the gall to come up to me and say “He doesn’t mean it. It’s just my friend. he’s like this when he’s drunk! You don’t need to call the cops or anything. It’s no big deal” I looked him in the eye and asked if he had ever been assaulted. I said “It’s threatening. It’s a sexual threat. It’s not funny for us.” He shrugged and proceeded to hit on my roommate (SERIOUSLY?!).

Later on I was informed that our perv had been jailed. Following our report, they looked into the bastard’s history, and started asking his family some questions. He was the somewhat estranged father of a little girl on my street. When they questioned her about any “weird things” he might have done, she answered yes to every question.

Looking back, I’m glad I got angry instead of helpless. I had a lot of elements in my favour that day –it was daylight, I was on my own turf, and I had backup handy. I wish I’d gotten angrier. I wish I’d been using a shovel in the garden that day (self defence! I didn’t mean to castrate him!). It breaks my heart to think of what that little girl endured.

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Tati’s story: patriarchy, you can’t pin this shit on me

In the space of two minutes: “nice tits!” “sweetheart, do you have a jacket? Because you need a jacket,” and “Hey mama, what’s up?”

A) You’re an asshole, clearly.
B) It might be cloudy, but you might have noticed that I’m carrying a gigantic, heavy satchel, and I just ran up some stairs. Because of this, I am feeling very warm, and have taken off my hoodie. You may be concerned about my short-sleeved shirt, but I assure you I know what’s best for me, and what makes me comfortable. Also, I’m not your sweetheart you fucking dickpenis.
C) Really? Why would I even respond to being called “mama” by a stranger? Not really into the Oedipal thing. I will say, though, your confused expression as I began to vigorously pick my nose and make eye contact was amusing.

And for all the “what were you wearing” haters, cargo pants. Baggy cargo pants, a long, not-low cut tank top with one-inch wide straps, a stained hoodie wrapped around my waist, disheveled hair, glasses, and a gigantic messenger bag-probably the size of an English bulldog. I shit you not. Fuck you, patriarchy, you can’t pin this shit on me, and I swear to god I WILL take you down.

Here’s to safe streets for all.

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A week in our shoes: March 23, 2012

Annie from Councilmember Ferreras' office and Natalie, our intern.

Hello Hollabackers!

We’ve had an incredible week. Our sites internationally have been moving and shaking for international anti-street harassment week, and we launched our ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ bystander campaign this week! You can read about the how the initiative got started hereAnd we need your help!  Take a second to:

1. Check out the resources we developed with Green Dot here (they have been translated into 9 languages!)

2. Download the new Droid app today (the new iPhone app is still being approved).

3. Click the button. One of our exciting new website features includes the ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ button which you can now click as a show of support when people post their experiences with street harassment. For example, Veronica and I got harassed this week (doing this work professionally doesn’t prevent it unfortunately!), check it out.WARNING: clicking the ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ button is super addictive.

4. Promote our campaign to your friends! Tag us ( in your tweet and we’ll retweet it, or post our new resources page on Facebook!

5. If you don’t do anything else, please, please, take a moment to share stories of when you’ve stood up for others being street harassed. We need to show people that this is possible! And if you haven’t tried to help some who’s been harassed yet, read our resources page and then get to it!

To celebrate the launch of this campaign (which we’ve been working on for a year!) we had an ‘I’ve Got Your Back!’ campaign launch party at the Branded Saloon in Brooklyn! If you couldn’t make it, you definitely missed out and were missed by us all! It was a great night of music, food (lovingly prepared by fellow Hollabackers), karaoke, street harassment trivia presented by the best trivia moderator, ever, and a bar filled with awesome folks and volunteers who are all about turning bystanders into walking advocates on the street! A big thank you to everyone who turned out last night, Branded Saloon, Miss Mona Mour, DJs Miss Bliss and Shuo and Tell, Dolly Trolly, as well as everyone who has helped us with this launch, especially Jill Dimond, Kevin Finity, Josephine Hall, the wonderful folks of Green Dot and our donors who helped make this launch possible!

From left to right: our board members Allison Sesso and Sam Carter, me, Natalie, and Veronica at the "Engendering Progress" Awards

We Got an Award! We were one of the Manhattan Young Democrat honorees on Wednesday night for an “Engendering progress” award! It was an honor to be amongst so many awesome New Yorkers who are fighting for gender justice!

We met with partners! We skyped with the amazing folks at METRAC in Canada this week about how to do community safety audits. They more-or-less invented them back in the 80s, and now they are considered a UN best practice for dealing with street harassment! We’re partnering with Councilmember Ferreras’ office to do them in Queens this spring!

We got press!  Their is an article in Today’s Zaman about our site leader in Istanbul, Kacie Kocher. Also, Julia Grey from Hollaback! London was quoted in this article about anti-street harassment week, Aishwarya S. and Hamsini Ravi from Hollaback! Chennai wrote this article about their project to photograph unsafe spaces, I did podcast for PreventConnect (listen here!) about the new bystander campaign, and The Afro also wrote a nice little piece about it. 

We spoke with kids! I was invited to do a panel on misogyny at Brooklyn Bridge High School in Canarsie this week with Charlotte Trouper from Women’s Enews, Amy Klein from Permanent Wave, and others!

Thanks for your support this week.  And remember, there’s still time to take part in International Anti-Street Harassment week! Find out where and how you can participate!

HOLLA and out!


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Briana’s story: everyday heroes that remind you that you’re not alone

(I shared a story yesterday and was shocked when it was posted as the first bystander story, so I thought I share a few incidences where I was the victim and people had MY back)

I was waiting for the lightrail to go to work when a man came and sat beside me. He started asking pretty sexual questions and I tried to deflect him, and eventually asked him to leave. When he didn’t, I moved to stand closer to a group of people. He got up to follow me, a security guard approached me and the man walked away. That same security guard stood and waited with me every morning from that day on. We became rather good friends and I’ve always been grateful for his care and concern.

I was sitting on the lightrail, headed to work, when a homeless man came up behind me and started petting my hair. He was murmuring how “pretty” I was and how shiny my hair clip was. I was paralyzed with indecision, the car was mostly empty and the man was obviously a few cards short of a full deck. He was behind me and touching me, and I could see in the reflective glass that he was much bigger than me. What if I upset him and he lashed out to hurt me? There was a tough “gangster” looking guy sitting across the isle from me a couple seats down who stood up and growled at the man to get his (expletive) hands off of me and to “leave the girl alone”. The homeless man moved to the back of the car and got off at the next stop. The “gangster” looking guy moved to the seat across the isle from me and “mean mugged” anyone who came near me until I reached my stop. We never exchanged words, but I sent him a thankful glance and had the feeling he was warning people away from me to give me time to recover and collect myself. I wish I had been less shaken and able to properly express my gratitude.

I was headed home from work and got off the lightrail to change trains. A few steps out a man behind me tried to get my attention by saying something along the lines of “Hey baby, where you headed?” I turned my head and saw him moving towards me, when a police officer blocked his path and told him to leave me alone. I kept walking but heard the people around me. Some were laughing, but I heard one girl talking to a friend saying she couldn’t believe that just happened – what right did a cop have to tell a guy not to talk to some girl?

I could keep going. If I go somewhere I’m normally walking or taking public transportation. I even have stories from walking home from the bus stop in middle school. Being a victim of street harassment makes you feel vulnerable and in constant danger every time you step outside your front door, but sometimes there are everyday heroes that remind you that you’re not alone and if you are lucky someone will be there to have your back.

There are a few things that have kept me unmolested for the most part that I’d like to share with you.

*Vary your routine, if at all possible make the routes you walk random.
*If possible, walk with a friend. Sometimes this may be as simple as striking up a conversation with another female traveling in the same direction as you and walking together.
*Stay close to groups, if they’re around stay near law enforcement or security. Isolating yourself makes you an easy target.
*Be aware of your surroundings, walk with confidence, and don’t slow down when someone tries to talk to you.
*Don’t be afraid to ask for help, people are usually more than happy to provide it.

Good luck, stay safe, and remember to have each other’s backs.

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Susan’s bystander story: I had to step up to him

I have experienced more instances of harassment in Amherst than I could recount so I’ll share the most recent, which happened to a friend of mine.
We were out at a bar for her 21st birthday, she’d had a lot to drink, we were sitting outside at around 12:30am. She was sitting on the ground next to a bench, with about 6 friends (men and women) around, visibly intoxicated. A man walked up and, ignoring all of us standing and talking around her, pulled out some cheesy pick-up line. I let him know she wasn’t interested and he walked away, only to walk in a small circle around us and return to stand in front of my friend. He repeated this lurking, zeroing in and slimy line routine 4-5 times, and each time I told him that she was fine and he needed to leave her alone. I had to step up to him (I being an average-sized woman and he being a very tall, large man who I believe works the door) and tell him he needed to back off right away, and he finally did and skulked off into the bar.
I can’t imagine what would make a person think they could act that way, especially with so many people around, and what made every other person stand there and pretend they weren’t seeing this man try to take advantage of their petite, incapacitated friend. Unfortunately, this is a scene that plays out over and over here and most other places…all I ask is that more people hollaback and help each other stay safe!

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‘I’ve Got Your Back’ campaign launches today!


Since starting to map street harassment in 2010, we’ve seen a flood of little pink dots popping up all over the world. People are holla’ing back everywhere, and our collective voices grow louder with each one.

But over time the map also became a constant reminder that, despite our best efforts, street harassment is at epidemic proportions. It seems more common across cultures than access to drinking water. And with each dot, and each moment of resistance, comes another incident of violence.

“The stories are amazing, but our map is a bit depressing,” I said to our volunteer, Esty. “We need to map something happy, too.  We need to show people they can end this.”

We brainstormed about what kinds of happiness could come from being street harassed. Not much, is the truth. But after throwing out a bunch of ideas for ways to get people involved, Esty said, “What about when people stand up for you? You know, when people have your back?”

And so it was born.

In most of the stories on our site where bystanders are present, they either fail to act or do something that further traumatizes the victim (i.e. “you shouldn’t have worn that”, “where is your boyfriend?”, type stuff).  We wanted to build a platform where people didn’t feel like they had to strap on superhero spandex and swoop down and beat everyone up when they saw street harassment happen. We knew that the only good way to provide real-time relief to people who are harassed is to get bystanders engaged, but we also knew that bystanders wouldn’t act unless we showed them how.

Our concept was this: we’d develop resources, trainings, and we’d start mapping bystander stories in green dots. Then, we’d build an ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ button which users can click to show support. At the end of each day, the person who submitted their story will get an email telling them how many people have their backs.

We thought we’d map these stories in green dots, because you know, green looks good with pink (these things are important!). And then we found out there was a whole organization called Green Dot ( that trained people how to intervene, but didn’t do the mapping part.  We called them, attended their training, and fell in love with them.

Our plan was off to a great start. Only one snag: we needed funding to partner with them. We applied to one foundation and got turned down. So we applied to five more foundations, and got turned down again.  Not liking to be told ‘no’, I did what any self-respecting executive director would do: I called them and begged.  And it worked!  A month later, Green Dot was on a plane to New York.  We spent a week conceptualizing the project, and although some things are still on hold, pending additional support, we got a lot of pieces up and running.

Thanks to Green Dot, 268 donors, and our pro-bono team of developers which include Jill Dimond, Kevin Finity, and Josephine Hall, we’ve revamped Hollaback!’s website with bystander resources and are working to train Hollaback!’s 150 sites leaders in 44 cities and 16 countries on how to do bystander workshops in their communities. Successful bystander stories are now collected through and Hollaback!’s newly re-released iPhone and Droid apps, and the ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ button is awesome and being clicked as we speak.

This campaign is still in its infancy, but we’re pretty confident: the ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ campaign is going to put a serious dent into street harassment by shifting the culture that’s made it OK for way too long.  Everyone has a role in this movement — so start intervening and share your story today at

Join us at our “I’ve Got Your Back” event tonight in Brooklyn, details are here.


This is what street harassment looks like.

Street harassment makes us rage, but don’t forget: we have solutions.

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Article, demonstration

Briana’s story: I’ve got your back!

We are proud to announce this is our first-ever bystander story submitted! Yipppeeee! For more information on our ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ bystander campaign, click here.

I was about 15 years old and I saw a young woman being screamed at by a man who I think may have been her boyfriend. He was alternately shoving her and grabbing her by her arm. It was a weekend during the summer, busy and hot, the street was full of people (mostly tourists I think) who had nothing better to do than browse shops or wander through museums. I stood there for a moment just watching the scene, amazed at all the people walking by and ignoring what was happening. People were actually crossing the street so they didn’t have to come near them.

When I realized no one else was going to do anything to stop this from happening, I decided to. So I walked up to them and said something like “Hey, get your hands off of her!” Then pulled the young woman aside and asked if she wanted my help. She said yes and I asked if she wanted that man to go away, and she said that she did. I told the man to leave, he was angry and I thought for a moment he might hit me or something – but my involvement in the scene for some reason made people stop and watch while they’d been ignoring it before. The man turned away and stomped off.

I walked some distance away and sat with the young woman until she’d calmed down, offered her buss fair, and ended up lending her my phone so she could call for a ride.

Looking back I still can’t believe how apathetic those other bystanders were, and I hope it shamed them a little that a lone young girl had the balls to stand up and do the right thing while grown men and women (some in fairly large groups) turned away from another’s pain or twiddled their thumbs in indecision.

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Cats Against Catcalls!

This is cross posted from Hollaback Ottawa!  They said:

Today’s creative response to street harassment comes from an anonymous source with a penchant for internet memes! We dig.

Every day for International Anti-Street Harassment Week, we’re collecting your creative responses to street harassment and posting them here and on our social media to inspire others to hollaback, too!

Send yours to [email protected]

Do it! The revolution needs more kitty cats and puppy dogs.

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