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I am a student at UMass Amherst and am now 21. I have been accosted on this street several times. This is pretty shocking considering how open minded, feminist, and family friendly this town is and considering the fact that this is the town center, where the town feels the safest. I have a few stories from the past couple years and thought I would share them in one post rather than a few.
I also want to point out that while some of these stories are about homeless men harassing me, this is not representative of most homeless men and women in this area. I have had friendly and respectful exchanges with people who are homeless in Amherst and the stories following are about the few who, despite their situation, were incredibly disrespectful to me as a woman and made me feel unsafe. This is not due to their circumstances. This is due to their behavior.
The first of these stories is from a few years ago. I was a freshman and on a bus to visit home. We stopped in Amherst Center and a man got on the bus and sat beside me. He smelled pretty terrible, but I didn’t want to be rude so I just breathed through my mouth and tried to be polite. I don’t know if he was homeless or what, but I figured he wasn’t dangerous, that I was safe in the front seat of a bus. He had some food with him (the smell of it wafted to me, it wasn’t my taste) and offered me some. I smiled and politely declined but thanked him for offering. A couple minutes later, I felt his hand snaking its way between my legs and up my thigh. I immediately tensed up and said (pretty loudly) “WHAT are you doing?” He stopped, took his hand back and got off at the next stop.
The second was a year later in my sophomore year. It was on Halloween night and I was on a date with a girl I liked. Some pretty hilarious things happened earlier in the night with guys yelling after me (in a harmless and nonsexual way) since I was dressed as Wonder Woman and running to catch a bus with my cape billowing out behind me. Some cars literally stopped and I heard things like, “GREAT SCOTT! IT’S WONDER WOMAN!” To which I would start laughing hysterically. The girl I was out with was dressed as Catwoman. We were holding hands near the end of the night and walking down the street toward her place. The streets were packed with drunk and happy college students as well as sober and serious (but slightly entertained) police officers keeping things safe. We were hand in hand and I was wary of those around us. Suddenly, a guy ran up beside us and matched our pace.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hi.” my date said.
“What are you girls up to?”
“Just walking” my date said and stared straight ahead.
“I like your costumes. I’m going to a thing in Central. Is that where you live? Central?”
We didn’t respond.
“Well, it’s a party. I mean, it should be fun. Do you two wanna come with me?”
“No thanks,” my date said, “I’m with her.”
“Ok, cool cool. So, what are you two gonna be up to? I’m (forgot the name) by the way. So, what are you two gonna be doing?”
By this point, we were trying to outwalk him.
“Just hanging out.” my date replied, walking faster.
He ran to keep up with us.
“You guys walk fast! So what building are you going to? In Central, right?” he said, losing his breath.
“We walk fast when we’re being bothered by someone and want to lose them.” one of us said (I can’t remember who).
The guy slowed down, saying, “What? but. Oh.”
I think he said something else, I don’t remember, but it freaked us both out a bit.
The third was on the same street. It was about one in the morning. the street was almost empty, it was a weekend, and it was very well lit. I was made-up and walking back from a party for the LGBT group on campus. Three guys walked behind me, about my age. They were talking among themselves, but I immediately became wary of their presence, seeing as there was almost no one else on the street. I was walking quickly with my head up, and did not face them once during the following encounter. I was very clearly trying to keep to myself. One of the guys ran up to me (Not cool to do that to a woman who is walking alone in the middle of the night).
“Hey” he said.
I didn’t reply or look at him. I kept walking and he matched my speed. He tried a few more times to grab my attention. I ignored him some more until he straight up asked me if I was angry.
“Yes.” I replied.
“Why?” he asked.
At this point, I was very nervous about the fact that there was one strange man next to me and two flanking me from behind on an empty street at one in the morning.
“I’m angry because I’m being bothered by someone when I just want to get back to my room.” I said, still not looking at him.
“I didn’t mean to bother you, I just think you’re very attractive and wanted to meet you.” he said in the most friendly tone he could manage.
“Great. I’m flattered, but I just want to walk alone. And frankly, I’m a little creeped out.”
“Because a man I don’t know is bothering me in the middle of the night when I’m walking alone. That’s why.”
“Oh! You don’t have to be nervous with me, I’m an RA, you can trust me.”
“Yeah, ok, just leave me alone. I’m not interested. I’m coming back from an lgbt dance. I’m not into guys. Sorry.”
” Oh yeah, that’s fine. I’m an RA, so I have residents who are gay or trans. I’m totally cool with it. Where are you headed?”
I didn’t respond.
“We’re headed up the hill to my apartment. Are you headed to Puffton?”
I stayed silent and kept walking.
“Sylvan? Do you live in Sylvan? That’s on our way, you know.”
I stayed quiet and walked faster.
“Hey! Where are you goi–”
I interrupted him and yelled, “Leave me the F**K alone.”
He put his hands up and backed off.
He went up the hill that I was supposed to go up. I had to take the long way to avoid him and his friends. Easily the scariest encounter.
The last was during the day. I was walking down the street and saw a man with a can out to collect change. I grabbed some change I had left and dropped it in and smiled at him. Most people in Amherst know or at least recognize the homeless men and women in town, so I wanted to be friendly. He leaned toward me and said something to the effect of, “What would I have to do for a date?” I rolled my eyes, made a grossed out face, said, “Gross” and walked off.
These things happened on North Pleasant Street, which goes through Amherst Center and into the UMass campus. It is normally pretty crowded with college, high school, middle school, and elementary school students as well as several local families. These incidents made me feel incredibly unsafe in this otherwise very friendly and small community. No one stepped in during any of these encounters. I was even driving down this street recently when I stopped at a light and a PVTA bus pulled up next to me. I looked up at the driver, I kind looking grey haired man, and smiled politely. He smirked and winked at me in a surprisingly sleazy way. I made a disgusted expression and he smiled wider, staring at me until the light changed. That still makes me really angry.
This story happened a couple months ago. I was walking home from a friends house in the dark. I live near a busy commercial street in an “artsy” neighborhood. As I got near the end of the street a guy – in his teens or twenties – started shouting at me, “hey baby girl” and “can I get your number” etc. I ignored it because he was on the other side of the street. Then he ran across the street and was walking behind me and I was really scared.
I didn’t know what to do and I saw a girl walk up to the corner, and I decided it didn’t matter who she was I was going to tell her this guy was following me and walk with her. It ended up being a girl that I am acquainted with, she told me to walk with her to the drug store which was out of my way but I followed. The guy was still talking to me and I said “you need to go away” “don’t talk to me” and she told him to leave us alone too.
We went inside the store and when we came out I didn’t see him anymore. I was still nervous so I called my friend and he rode his bike to meet me and walk the rest of the way home with me.
This I was walking around the same corner and in broad daylight a man was standing on his apartment balcony and shouting “hey baby” and I looked over and he was rubbing his penis under his shorts and waving at me. I didn’t even know what to do. I just walked away. I’m so disgusted.
I was riding the commuter rail on the way back from a function in Boston. I’ve taken the rail several times before and typically put my headphones in and write songs or poetry and put my purse or my legs on the rest of the seat to ensure my personal space. The day this happened, the train was very crowded and the only seats free were on the sideways seats, one row facing the other.
I was listening to music and writing a song in my notebook when I noticed a couple boys (about 18ish, maybe early 20s) staring at me. I tried to ignore them and write, but they kept staring. Finally, I heard one start shouting at me.
I ignored him.
“Hey! What are you writing. Hey! C’mon. Tell me.”
This continued a few more minutes. Not one man or woman on that train stepped in. I rolled my eyes and responded very calmly.
“I’m writing a song about castration. Why?”
The boys looked a bit shocked to say the least. I kept a straight face and stared them down until they lowered their eyes to the floor. I noticed a couple people around me smirking to themselves.
Needless to say, they didn’t bother me the rest of the train ride.
Also, for the record, the song I was writing was not about castration.
So ,umm something happened while I was on the bus yesterday around 8pm and I told one of my guy friends but I’m not able to talk about it to anyone else…and I haven’t got the guts to tell my parents. So here it goes: I was sitting in the bus like I do every day. This guy gets in and sits next to me but not directly. Like there’s a mini-passage between our seats (1 meter approx.). Halfway through the bus ride, I glance at the window and I could see his reflection (because it’s dark outside and there is light inside the bus). What I saw REALLY shocked me. This guy had his dick out and was MASTURBATING. Like really masturbating very openly. I never looked at him directly but I could see everything through the glass window. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was scared he would cum on me or something plus I was VERY uncomfortable so I changed seats. One minute later, another woman comes and sits next to me traumatized. The f**king pervert got off the bus like 5 minutes after I realized what he was doing.
Now, I don’t want to scare my parents by telling them this story (I’m 21 but still). I thought it wasn’t a big deal (disturbing but no big deal) but I was wrong. Its been like 2 hours and I’m still a little bit shaken by this. I told my friend and asked me if I’m ok and everything but seriously WHO THE HELL does that!!
Thanks for listening. I didn’t know who else to turn to and I HAD to get it off my chest. <3
I’ve had long hair all my life, waist/hip length. Unfortunately, around when I turned into a teen it became a bit of a burden. Cat-callers would address me by my hair, calling me Blondie along with other lewd things. There’s been times where strangers, behind my back, have stroked my hair. Some from the top to the very ends (at my butt), then vanishing from sight. I used to think I was imagining things, until my friend who was shopping with me verified it.
On my sixteenth birthday (July 2006) at a restaurant in the Springfield,MA Marriott hotel, the manager came out and chatted up my mother and I. As he was doing this, he was also stroking my hair and said to me, unbeknownst to my mother, “men love long hair…” in my ear. He was a larger man in his 50’s. I wish I reported it. He still worked there as of the second incident described below.
A couple years later (July 2008) there was another incident at this same hotel, same restaurant, where a couple of older business men were asking my mother inappropriate questions. The waitstaff (men and a woman) witnessed this and did nothing, said nothing. We reported it to the front desk and my mother was in tears. The hotel security, a very nice woman, assured us she’d fix this. But she then said she couldn’t/didn’t because these men belonged to a company(unknown) that frequently puts its employees up at the hotel. They gave us the dinner free, threw in a couple of ice cream bars, and sent us back to our room. That’s when I realized how easy it is for people to get away with sexual harassment. Especially at this hotel. Ruined my birthday, twice.
Listen up Hollafollowers the Violence Against Women Act is up for reauthorization and we at Hollaback! implore you to contact your Senators to make sure the bill gets their support.
Since its inception 1994, the VAWA has saved countless lives, providing a lifeline for those that find themselves in situations of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. It has vastly improved the federal system to meet the needs of victims, BUT, there is more to be done.
The reauthorization of the bill will build upon the act’s existing successes and continue to work toward breaking the cycle and culture of violence. Yesterday Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Crapo introduced a bipartisan bill to reauthorize and improve the VAWA and they need our help by getting other Senators excited about the bill.
Call your Senator(s) TODAY and ask for them to be original co-sponsors of VAWA. Let’s keep their phones ringing! Here’s the numbers for all the Senators, so let’s get dialing and release our inner change maker!
Sessions, Jeff – (202) 224-4124
Shelby, Richard – (202) 224-5744
Boozman, John – (202) 224-4843
Murkowski, Lisa – (202) 224-6665
McCain, John – (202) 224-2235
Kyl, Jon – (202) 224-4521
Rubio, Marco – (202) 224-3041
Chambliss, Saxby – (202) 224-3521
Isakson, Johnny – (202) 224-3643
Crapo, Mike – (202) 224-6142 – (thank him!)
Risch, James – (202) 224-2752
Kirk, Mark – (202) 224-2854
Lugar, Richard – (202) 224-4814
Coats, Daniel – (202) 224-5623
Grassley, Chuck – (202) 224-3744
Vitter, David – (202) 224-4623
Moran, Jerry – (202) 224-6521
Roberts, Pat – (202) 224-4774
McConnell, Mitch – (202) 224-2541
Paul, Rand – (202) 224-4343
Collins, Susan – (202) 224-2523
Snowe, Olympia – (202) 224-5344
Brown, Scott – (202) 224-4543
Cochran, Thad – (202) 224-5054
Wicker, Roger – (202) 224-6253
Blunt, Roy – (202) 224-5721
Johanns, Mike – (202) 224-4224
Heller, Dean – (202) 224-6244
Ayotte, Kelly – (202) 224-3324
Burr, Richard – (202) 224-3154
Hoeven, John – (202) 224-2551
Portman, Rob – (202) 224-3353
Coburn, Tom – (202) 224-5754
Inhofe, James – (202) 224-4721
Toomey, Patrick – (202) 224-4254
DeMint, Jim – (202) 224-6121
Graham, Lindsey – (202) 224-5972
Thune, John – (202) 224-2321
Alexander, Lamar – (202) 224-4944
Corker, Bob – (202) 224-3344
Cornyn, John – (202) 224-2934
Hutchison, Kay Bailey – (202) 224-5922
Hatch, Orrin – (202) 224-5251
Lee, Mike – (202) 224-5444
Johnson, Ron – (202) 224-5323
Enzi, Michael – (202) 224-3424
Barrasso, John – (202) 224-6441
I was walking to school, a car stopped,
the man inside told me: “Come here, I want to suck it”
(oral sex). I wanted to cry, but I was brave, and got far from there.
I was 13 years old.
Everyone says Holland is so liberal, so open-minded. Also that sexist harassment is nil here.
Combine Sexist with Racist. Happy Racists.
This happens to me where I live, once a week, but here’s a specific example:
I am on my bicycle on my way to the grocery store. Two teenage boys ride on either side and make mocking “ChingChong” noises.
And they stay there, riding alongside me.
I tell them to go away, (Racists!) – they say, in English, “We’re not racists.”
Yes, I am Asian. No, I am not from China, or of Chinese descent. No, even if I were from China this is not OK.
More often, it’s less but the same:
I am on an errand — someone bikes by and sing-songs “China!” and “NiHao!” at me, and they’re gone. Happy smiling racists.
It ruins my whole walk. It’s racist, and also sexist. Because racism is how they get sexist, and worse.
By Rebecca Katherine Hirsch
On July 14 of this year, co-founder of Young Women for Change, Noorjahan Akbar and 25 others prepared to embark on a rare journey through the streets of Kabul: the organization’s first march against Street Harassment.
Student Noorjahan wrote in her New York Times Opinion Pages blog:
“Every woman I know, whether she wears a burqa or simply dresses conservatively, has told me stories of being harassed in Afghanistan. The harassment ranges from comments on appearance to groping and pushing. Even my mother, who is a 40-plus teacher always dressed in her school uniform, arrives home upset almost every day because of the disgusting comments she receives, sometimes from youth half her age and sometimes from white-bearded men who sit by the roads.”
So, with a scant 10 police officers for protection and armed with a healthy dose of hope, pride and solidarity, Akbar and 25 others marched from the Afghan Culture House, past the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission to Kabul University, where they were joined by more than 50 more supporters and a flurry of media coverage. In the face of criticism these brave activists brandished banners saying “Islam and the law forbid the harassment of women” and “I have the right to walk in my city safely!” The events of July 14 left Akbar brimming with pride she said:
“Thursday, July 14, 2011 was the first day I felt like I belonged to the city I have lived in for most of my life. I realized that the women who were walking in their high heels and headscarves–as well as their male supporters–had so much strength and power waiting to be unleashed, and it made me so proud to be among them.”
Reading about these events reminded me of SlutWalk, the worldwide series of protests against sexual and domestic violence. I helped to organize the NYC protest and news of this Afghan protest struck me as similar. While this protest doesn’t use clothes as the pretext to introduce the topic of sexual discrimination, the feminist goals of SlutWalk and Young Women for Change are similar: To fight for a world where people are treated with dignity–regardless of appearance, regardless of identity. As these young women and men in Kabul have shown, harassment is not going to be accepted without a fight—or a protest.
I am reminded of the criticism that SlutWalk received: that it was an ignorant parade that unknowingly promulgated the sexist patriarchy by wearing “sexy” clothes or that the protesters were privileged white people who weren’t inclusive of or respectful of the qualms and realities of people of color or that the protesters were disinterested in gender-based violence that occurred in non-Western parts of the world.
Well, I would say that this protest and this kind of sober-minded rebellion against oppression is a great example of people taking a public stand and operating on their own terms, using their own methods. To me, whichever methods people use are ultimately interchangeable. The goal is to draw awareness to an issue that needs correcting. So whether a feminist protest uses flashy clothing, strong chants, meaningful signs or silent solemnity or simply walks in opposition, we’re all challenging the status quo by upsetting the present order with a protest.
SlutWalk was never about provocative clothing, instead it used provocative clothing to draw attention to the culture of victim-blaming, just as Young Women for Change’s march was not just about street harassment. It is about fighting a greater culture that blames victims, and both trivializes and denies the impact of abuse.
Whatever anyone wears, of course, is never an excuse for violence and harassment. These Afghan women are bravely fighting a worldwide system that belittles and ignores harassment. Whether in Afghanistan or New York, we are all fighting the same fight—to retain our dignity and feel confident, safe and free in our homelands.
Sisters Martha and Lorena Reyes arrived at the Hyatt Santa Clara, where Lorena had been employed for 24 years and Martha for 7, during “Housekeeper Appreciation Week” to find degrading, sexually suggestive images of their faces photoshopped onto bikini-wearing cartoon women.
Humiliated and outraged, Martha removed the offending articles and refused to return them to a coworker that was insistent on hanging them back up.
Regardless of both sisters’ exemplary records, a few weeks later they were terminated from their jobs at the hotel.
Now, humiliated, furious and jobless, Martha and Lorena are fighting back and they need your help. They’ve started a Change.org petition demanding reinstatement in their former jobs, along with back pay for the hours they’ve missed since being fired. Click here to sign Martha and Lorena’s petition now.
You have the power to make a change today, sign Martha and Lorena’s campaign to get them reinstated in their jobs at the Hyatt Santa Clara with back pay.