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Hi Holla Back,
The incident I’m writing to you about happened a few months ago. I wish I had known about your site at the time- I just read about it today on Jezebel. After reading through many entries on your website I decided to write in and tell what happened to me. My story is very similar to Sarah’s from December 4, 2009. I wonder if perhaps it was the same man.
I was commuting to work one morning last winter on the downtown W train between 59th and 23rd. The train wasn’t packed tightly, but it was rush hour so it was standing room only. I had a seat on the bench. I vaguely took note of a man standing a couple of feet away. Not sure why exactly, but I suppose subconsciously alarm bells were going off in my head. He wasn’t really dressed appropriately for the season, and he wasn’t carrying a bag or anything. He was wearing jeans and a very large baggy hooded sweatshirt with one of those kangaroo pockets in front. When the woman sitting next to me got off he immediately, very quickly, took her seat with his hands in the pocket of his sweatshirt, He sat there, just like that, with his hands on his lap in the pocket of his sweatshirt, the whole time. Out of the corner of my eye I observe his hands moving in his pocket. His head tilts back, his facial expression almost pained, and he moans several times very faintly. Now, a more experienced NYer would have seen this coming a mile ahead. I had only been in the city for about a year at that time and was still incredibly naive. As it slowly dawned on my stupid, sleepy, brain what was happening, I stood up, shocked, and waited by the door for my stop. Still reeling, I continued to observe him. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind he was masturbating. With an entire train of commuters around him. I look back and think what an idiot I was to have done nothing. I should have said something. I should have yelled. I should have taken a picture. I should have immediately gotten off the train and found a cop or told an MTA employee. But in that moment I felt totally powerless by the shock, disbelief, and humiliation. And somewhere in the back of my brainwashed-girl-head I didn’t want to embarrass HIM. What the fuck?! I have since observed this same technique of public masturbation on another occasion. I want the women of this city to be aware that this is happening. To know this is unacceptable. And to REACT.
I hope my story can help someone else. It took me far to long to realize what was happening, and I was so shocked by it I couldn’t act. I know better now. I’m going to pass along the link to your website to all my lady friends. Hopefully we can make a difference.
The interview answers all the hard questions that it’s taken us five years to sort out: what is street harassment? What’s up with that anti-racism policy? What about the men?
Check it out, here.
I was taking the D train at Coney Island with a friend of mine. We were sitting and chatting, waiting for the train to move. Suddenly a man in his late 50s or early 60s to mid 60s came on the train and sat right across from me and my friend. We didn’t take note of it, even though there were clearly many other available seats. So we just ignored it. Anyways, we continued to chat until a few moments later, I felt I was being watched. So I looked across from me and I saw the old guy staring at me. Then I noticed his legs were spread wide open and he had his hands down by his crotch, so I wondered why and looked down. I was disgusted and shocked at the same time. His penis was hanging out of his pants and he was furiously rubbing the head. I freaked out and screamed. My friend asked me what happened cause she wasn’t facing the guy. So I told her what I saw and she freaked out as well, too scared to look. We both quickly ran to the end of the train. But still, the guy had his eyes on us and was staring back. In fact, his expression appeared as if he was ready to ” release. ” After we got to a stop, my friend and I ran to another cart. Thankfully, the old guy didn’t follow us. After we got off our stop, I was emotionally and visually scarred for the rest of the day. I can’t understand why it happened. I didn’t wear anything relieving at all. In fact, I was covered head to toe, the only thing exposed was my face. My clothes were also not form fitting either. It was around winter, in mid February, so I wore lots of layers. I had gloves and hat on. Ever since then, I became even more paranoid about taking the train.. I really wish something could’ve been done. I’m glad I’m not the only one in NY that has experienced this kind of situation. Better now, we can all work together and fight against this.
I really wish I knew about this website before the incident happened. I wish I did something at the time, but like many other women here, it’s a powerless situation.
Submitted by Virginia
Something bizarre and scary happened to me yesterday. I’ve spoken to the police, but there’s nothing they can do. I feel like people need to know that this happened so that, if it happens again, perhaps they’ll think more quickly than me and someone can catch the person who hurt me.
On Sunday, May 2, somewhere between 11 and 11:15 am, I was walking up the steps to the 7 train subway platform on 46th Street in Sunnyside, Queens. I noticed a man who I felt was walking too close to me, but didn’t think much of it.
I then felt a burning and a thick dripping on the back of my right thigh. This is gross, but the only way I can explain it is it felt like I’d shat my pants and it was aflame somehow. I reached back and felt that my jeans were not wet but had become partially solid. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it didn’t make sense to me either. All I could think was “someone threw hot wax on me” or “could something in my jeans have spontaneously melted?” I looked for the man who had been too close, but he was gone. I was alarmed, but mostly confused.. I can’t really explain what it felt like, but all I kept thinking was “why did someone throw wax on me?” and wondering how they could have done that, short of carrying around a lit candle.
I was traveling to the LIRR station at Woodside to commute to work on Long Island so I couldn’t go home to change my pants. I was extremely uncomfortable the entire ride and when I got to work I told a friend what had happened. He pointed out that if my jeans had a polyester content, a flame or acid could have caused them to melt and solidify. His first guess was that someone had held a lighter or cigarette to my pants. When I took off my pants I found two raised singe/burn marks on the back of my leg. There was no hole in my jeans. I believe that someone threw a chemical on me which burned me through my pants and also caused my pants to melt/solidify where the chemical had been.
I didn’t get back to the city until around 11 pm and so couldn’t call 311 until this morning. When I told them what happened they forwarded me to 911 who sent two officers to my apartment. The policemen agreed that it seemed like I’d been attacked with a chemical. They said that I was welcome to file a report but that since I didn’t actually see anything it didn’t make a lot of sense. They said what they usually do in such a situation is spread the word through their precinct so that people will keep their eyes and ears open.
Much as I wish they’d taken my pants to forensics or something, I do agree that filing a report is kind of pointless beyond recording that it happened, and I’m frustrated and confused. All I can think to do to make myself feel better is to spread the word myself. Maybe if another woman feels a strange burning through her clothes, she’ll think faster than I did. It was just such a strange thing (whose pants burn and solidify as they walk down the street?) that I couldn’t even process that this was any sort of attack until I was able to remove my pants and check my skin.. but unfortunately, by that time it was hours later and I was in another county.
I wish I had been paying more attention to the guy (not that I can say for sure it was him, but I don’t know who else could have done it..), or snapped him with my camera, or something.. he was almost completely nondescript: mid-height, mid-weight, probably in his 30s, wearing a red shirt. I’ve attached pictures of my jeans, and also one of my burn (which has proven virtually impossible to photograph.. the attached photo is after I removed my bandaid).
Thank you so much for helping me warn other women!
Submitted by Shoshanna
We’ve come a long way, baby. We’ve come so far that it’s time for Hollaback to move from being a blog to a full fledged organization. You can get a sneak peak of our new site on ihollaback.org.
You have the power to end street harassment, and it starts right here.
This is the eighth video in the “Why I Hollaback” series. “Why I Hollaback” tells the story of how and why folks decide to take the leap, speak up, and start Holla’ing back. We will release a new story every Monday and accept submissions from all over the world. So tell us your story — Why do you Hollaback?
Check out this great piece on our re-launch! It has a short video with Oraia and I in it too. Awesome.
Also, I did a guest blog post for the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault that was published today.
This happened on the F train on Wednesday morning, April 14, I think this guy got on at Roosevelt (I guess around 7 or 7:05?), and he got off at Union Turnpike at 7:15 or 7:20. The lady next to him was sleeping and leaning on him and her arm was slipping over her leg next to his, so he moved his arm over hers and was trying to hold her hand. I was looking at him b/c I’m like aren’t they strangers, why is he trying to touch her?
Then he just kept staring at me, and eventually put his hands down his pants for like 10 seconds. When we rolled into Union Turnpike he looked like he was getting ready to get up and so did I b/c that was my stop too so he hesitated and kept sitting there and would stand up. When I stepped off the train and looked back, he of course got off the train without her b/c he didn’t actually know her. I turned around and got back on the train and woke her up like hey wake up don’t miss your stop, and the guy next to you was practically holding your hand while you slept – but she was so sleepy it didn’t register.
Then I tried to report the incident to that hotline that the MTA has been advertising for sexual misconduct, and the lady that took my call was stone cold, couldn’t give two shits, and just told me that if the lady was an adult she has to report it herself. When I called right back to ask if that guy had touched himself in front of everyone, why can’t I report it, and she said that lady has to report it. I called back the next day and it was another operator, and she told me I could submit the picture to any precinct, and she told me where the nearest one is.
Take a few minutes and remember his face and if you see him on the train or in the neighborhood, stay away from him or get a cop or something if one is nearby.
Submitted by Christine
This is the seventh video in the “Why I Hollaback” series. “Why I Hollaback” tells the story of how and why folks decide to take the leap, speak up, and start Holla’ing back. We will release a new story every Monday and accept submissions from all over the world. So tell us your story — Why do you Hollaback?
One of the most frustrating things about living in a big city is the feeling that I can’t walk outside without being harassed on the street at least once a day. When I first started experiencing this I found it annoying, but as the years pass I become increasingly furious. Not a day goes by that I don’t experience one or more of the following: cat-calling, whistling, kissing noises, intensely seductive stares, or pointed glances up and down my body. Contrary to what many men think, this attention is not appreciated and not flattering, and I’m sure most women agree with me. This kind of attention is not like being given a complement …it’s not like being told, “you are beautiful.” It actually feels horrible; it makes me feel degraded and violated, but most of all, it makes me feel utterly powerless. I feel as if my body doesn’t belong to me, and this infuriates me more than anything I’ve ever experienced.
I have tried a variety of things to deal with this situation: I’ve tried saying things like, “what are you looking at?”, I’ve tried using my worst glares, evil eyes, and disgusted faces, I’ve tried looking through men to make them feel invisible, and I’ve tried ignoring them and staring straight ahead. When I talk back to men in a nasty tone of voice, they either pretend that they weren’t cat calling me (as if I was making it up and I should be so lucky to get their attention), or they get equally mad back at me. Glaring, staring through them, and ignoring them doesn’t prevent the harassment either, and it doesn’t make me feel better. No matter what I do, I never feel in control of the situation. I feel imprisoned—I am overly self-conscious about what I wear, and I dread the hot days when I have no choice but to wear semi-revealing clothing.
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