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BY EMILY MAY
A few months ago I got invited to go out to Bushwick Community High School to speak with a group of their students about street harassment. They told me that they were concerned about sexual violence in their community — and as a former Bushwick resident and community activist — their concern struck a very personal cord with me. When I lived in Bushwick in 2003, I would get off at a subway stop that was farther away from my home just because I thought it was safer. And I learned (months after moving in) that I was the first resident of my six-person-loft to not get mugged in the neighborhood.
After I moved out of the neighborhood, I continued to work in it at a community based organization that helped young folks that dropped out of high school get jobs and GEDs. Their stories, and challenges, reminded how privileged I was in so many ways. Many of them had kids, mental illness, trauma histories, and broken homes. But what I found so inspiring is that all of them had hope. They were resilient.
And when I spoke with the students at Bushwick Community High School, I was struck again by resilience. They could have done this documentary about anything. They could have kept silent, or tried to ignore what was happening around them. But they didn’t. They took the harder road – and the result is a powerful documentary.
In the film they talk about sexual violence stemming from culture — and I couldn’t agree with them more. But how to we change culture? There are a lot of answers to this questions, but I think one of the most important ones is that we change culture by making culture. These students have used the power of the brains and their video cameras to help us imagine a world without sexual violence. And thanks to them, we are one step closer to getting there.
I was at a local anime convention with a friend and we happened to notice an older man filming girls in costume…not that big of a deal at first considering there were a lot of photographers around but he kept aiming his camera at the butts of some of the girls in costume especially when they were going up some stairs. Most of these cosplayers are just 14.
We watched him for a bit just to be sure and then took a photo of him to show the security guys on site who dealt with him right away.
Next year we plan to really be on watch for people like this and try to make the convention a safer place to be.
I know this site is mainly for street harassment, but I really needed to get this off my chest. Last summer, my brother, a family friend, and I were watching a movie while our parents were out. I put a blanket over me because it was cold. The family friend was sitting next to me and started trying to hold my hand. I leaned over and whispered that we were just friends. Because I mean, I’ve held hands with plenty of people that I wasn’t romantically involved with, so I didn’t think it was too big a deal. Just kind of awkward, you know? But then he started rubbing my legs and before I could even say anything his hands were under my shirt and I didn’t know what to do because my little brother was right there. It was so awful.
Luckily, my Mom walked in before it got any worse. Of course, she didn’t notice anything because of the blanket.
I told her about it just last week, because I’m having to see him again this summer. She told me it wasn’t my fault but she acted like it was okay for him to touch me like that when I know it isn’t. I’m really scared that he will try to touch me again this summer.
I will fight back this time though. He’s not going to take advantage of me like that again without a fight.
This has been a pretty shitty month. From an ex-gay friend/one time girlfriend sending me harassing e-mails to a male from my past engaging in some, so called, “mild” stalking. I keep telling myself that’s why I didn’t fight back. This was one thing more than I could handle, and I froze. The truth is I’m angry with myself for reacting so passively.
I was taking the bus to class. A guy was standing at my stop and he asked a question about the bus time. I took one headphone out to answer him. After I answered my question he wouldn’t stop talking to me. I answered politely, looking for a way to end the conversation so as not to be rude. He said he was Cherokee and asked for my e-mail. I had my doubts, thinking: “right and I bet your great great grandma was an NDN ‘princess’ too”, but I have fair skin and light eyes, so I didn’t want to make judgments. I know how hurtful ‘not native enough’ comments can be. I know how hard it can be in the city, separated from land and community and often dealing with racism. I politely gave him a fake e-mail.
I began to get suspicious when he followed me onto my bus instead of the one he was waiting for. He proceeded to follow me onto the 2 when I transferred. I kept looking away but I couldn’t think of a polite way to end the conversation. So far he had been completely respectful. I though my misgivings were because I was on edge about the stalking incidents earlier in the month. I’d dealt with them assertively and I didn’t want to give the people harassing me the victory of making me afraid of strangers. When he went to get off the buss he offered me his hand. I don’t know why I took it. It’s programed in I guess. He garbed my hand and pulled me, off balance, towards him and kissed me. Then he got off the bus before I had time to process what had just happened.
I’ve been spending the last few months experimenting with my gender presentation. Gaining confidence to take up space and chose how I want to present myself. This was helping me regain my power after leaving a verbally and spiritually abusive relationship with a closeted friend. With one action I was placed back in the role of a sexual object. The worst part is I was the one who felt dirty after. Like he’d gotten his dirt all over me and I couldn’t get it off.
I know if I report the incident I will only be blamed for it. After all what was I doing talking to him if I wanted him to leave me alone? By giving him a fake e-mail wasn’t I “asking for it”? I’m a two-spirited Ansihinaabe Ikwe, and therefore considered unrapeable. I didn’t fight back. But none of that matters. My politeness was not an invitation for him to touch me in any way. The moment he touched me sexually without my consent he assaulted me. That isn’t complicated. There’s no gray area. No consent = assault. Everyone reacts differently, but freezing doesn’t mean I deserved what happened. For any one else who experienced this. NOTHING you can do means you’re asking to be assaulted or harassed. Let your abuser carry the blame, none of it should ever be yours.
Next time I trust I’ll fight back. Thank you for letting me share my story and speaking up to say that this is never acceptable.
I just have to get this off my chest because I’m too ashamed to tell anyone else.
Today, around 4:30pm, I was walking home from lunch with my friends when I heard a car, blasting rap music, pull up next to me. It stopped at a stop sign but I kept walking to cross the street parallel to the car.
The car honked twice. I ignored it. Three more honks, I ignored it. They kept honking but I ignored it. Then the car turned onto the street I was crossing and cut me off. I went around the back of the car and kept walking, realizing they (the two young men driving) were targeting me. I kept walking down the sidewalk but the car kept driving slowly, steadily, next to me. They then turned into a driveway in front of me, cutting me off once again. The two guys smiled at me. “What?” I yelled. Now I was pissed. I wanted to get home and I didn’t know what to do. I turned back around and began to walk to the house on the corner. A girl from my school lived there that I barely knew, but I was desperate. As I walked away they called, “Hey sweetie, where you goin?” I walked up to her front steps and rang her doorbell. No one answered, but thank god, the guys drove away. I quickly walked home, checking over my shoulder every two minutes
I am angry that I can’t walk comfortably in my own neighborhood without getting harassed. I’m embarrassed because I felt vulnerable. I’m scared to walk by myself now and I hate street harassment.
Last night I was walking to the train from a movie with my friend Mia. As we were waiting at a corner to cross the street a guy came jogging up beside us and startled me. Once the light changed he jogged off.
A few blocks later I was grabbed from behind by the jogger [who apparently circled around to follow us] while I was talking and walking with Mia. At first I thought it was another friend, Dan, who had left a little earlier to try and catch a bus.
But then the guy grabbed my breast and started choking me. Mia started to scream. And I fought back. I elbowed him and just started to yell at him all of my feelings, telling him to FUCK OFF and to GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.
And after he let me go, he just SAUNTERED AWAY like it wasn’t a big FUCKING deal that he just decided he could grab me and choke me on the FUCKING STREET. Like it was ok that touched me – like I was some FUCKING PIECE OF PROPERTY THAT HE COULD GRAB because HE FELT LIKE IT. It made me so angry that I started to chase after him for a couple of steps before I caught myself. He only started running when I started to scream that I was going to call the cops if he didn’t get THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME RIGHT NOW.
Mia and I went to the closest safe area and I was shaking. Mia convinced me to call the cops. We waited for them and once they arrived I gave them a very detailed description, showed them where it was at and where he ran off to, and they drove us home.
So. I have a lot of feelings. I’m proud that I fought back. I’m thankful that I took a self-defense class that taught me not to freeze. I’m thankful that Mia was there and I wasn’t alone. I’m so fucking angry that he thought he could touch me. I’m angry that he knew that I saw and noticed him before and still decided to come after us. I’m thankful for the two police officers who were compassionate, understanding, and not condemning – definitely not what I’ve come to expect from the CPD. But most of all I’m furious that I had to re-learn that no where is safe. Ever. Because I’m a female.
I live in southern Colorado and until recently have not had to deal with much street harassment. I generally commute using my personal vehicle and therefore am not on on the streets very often. However, recently a friend and I have taken up jogging at the Riverwalk, a very pretty newer development to our downtown area. In the last couple of weeks, we have been honked at and whistled at by people driving past, which happens so quickly there’s no chance to respond. Yesterday though, I finally got a chance. We had just started our run when a group of about 6 boys standing around with their bicycles (yes, boys, maybe around 12-13 years old) began yelling at us from across the river. They were shouting to get our attention and doing the classic “my friend wants your number!” and other things I didn’t quite catch. My friend and I initially kept going, but then it suddenly dawned on me that I had my phone. So I stopped dead in my tracks and walked back over. I pulled my phone out and told them I wanted to take their picture. They got nervous looks on their faces and asked why. I started yelling back that shouting at women (my friend and I are in our 20s) was not appropriate and I was going to tell their parents what they were doing. They quickly ran behind some trees so I couldn’t get their picture. I then yelled at them, asking them if they were so big and tough to holler at women in public why were they hiding now? They got pretty quiet then and my friend and I continued our run. I didn’t feel threatened at all, but I did want to embarrass them by loudly calling attention to their inappropriate behavior to all the other pedestrians around. It must have worked, because we did not see them anywhere around again as we finished our run. One thing that did bother me, though, was that immediately afterward I felt like I needed reassurance that I had not overreacted. My friend was very supportive, which helped. But it wasn’t until I told the story to my husband and he agreed that my reaction was okay that I felt better about it. I knew in my head that I did the right thing in calling out harassing behavior, but it was uncomfortable to realize that the social pressure to stay quiet, not make a scene, etc. is still so ingrained. I don’t think this one incident will change the behavior of those boys overnight, but I hope that next time they will think twice and be nervous that their target will react like I did and not let them get away with it. I only wish I could have actually talked to their parents. Unfortunately, I suspect that as long as I continue jogging in public (which I fully intend to do) I will have plenty of opportunities to continue to hollaback.
I used to work in downtown San Francisco. As anyone who has lived or visited here knows, having a car is generally more trouble than its worth. I take the bus or walk everywhere. A big part of my commute every day was the 38L bus. This particular line is massively overcrowded during commute hours. I was on my way home from work and the bus was so crowded everyone standing was pressed up against each other. All the sudden I felt something rubbing up and down on my thigh. It took me a second to realize that this big guy standing behind me was slowly humping me. I started to move back further on the bus and try to get away from him. He followed me and started doing it again. I finally managed to slip off the bus at the next stop and waited for the next one. I’m lucky he didn’t follow me off the bus. To this day, I refuse to get on a bus that crowded if I can help it. I will wait for the next one if I can. When I have to take it no matter how crowded, I am hyper aware of everything going on around me and have had minor anxiety attacks until I can get off the bus.
CNN reports that police in Oakland, California are searching for the man seen in a cell-phone captured video, who reportedly assaulted the woman whose home he was burglarizing shortly after she captured 13 seconds of footage.
Please share with anyone in the Oakland area who may recognize this perpetrator.
I attend a small college in New Hampshire which is close to the local high school. The high school students are always around campus, trying to convince the undergrads to buy them alcohol, and one day I was unfortunately subject to this request, which quickly escalated into sexual harassment.
I was walking back to my dormitory when I passed a group of five high school students, one girl and four tall boys. They immediately asked me for alcohol, and when I told them they should just go back to school or back home and leave me alone, they changed their objective from alcohol to me.
I told them to leave me alone and that I had a boyfriend, and “how dare you talk to a woman this way?” and they continued to harass me. I walked faster to get away from them, and told them to “fuck off,” “kiss my ass,” “go back to grade school,” etc, but they continued to harass me. (God have mercy on that poor girl who chose these boys as her friends.) After awhile, as I finally got away from them into my dorm building, I bid them adieu, saying “Suck my cock, you assholes, I’m calling the police.”
I promptly contacted our campus’ security office and delivered a statement, and they asked me if I wanted to contact the local police, so I did, and I delivered them a statement as well. Luckily, I had taken note of one of the boys’ appearance, and the police actually picked him up!
We didn’t have a strong enough case to press charges, but the police officer did deliver the harasser to my doorstep and allow me to lecture him on what poor life choices he had made, and “how would your mother feel about you treating me like this? how would you feel if some man harassed or assaulted your little sister?” He looked quite scared and ready to shit his pants, and I think I got my point across.
The best part is, because he was underage, the police man had to deliver him directly to his parents, and the boy had to explain to his mother and father how he got picked up for sexually harassing college women. I’m sure that his friends heard the story, and I think it’s safe to say that they won’t be harassing any women on my campus again any time soon.