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As many of you know, we are an all-volunteer team that work long hours above and beyond our regular jobs to make Hollaback happen. We are inspired and invigorated by each and every post that comes in, and we respond personally to all the fan mail. The letter below was too honest, too beautiful, and too important to keep to ourselves. I hope you enjoy it, and remember: keep holla’ing back!
Thank you so much for what you do, I really hope that your website continues to grow and create more awareness for as long as possible.
I’m only 17 years old, and I moved to the city 2 months ago. Every day I’ve been getting unwanted and unsolicited attention from strange men. I didn’t want to tell my parents because I knew they’d either think I was exaggerating or want me to come home as we come from a very small, sweet town where nothing like this has happened in twenty years.
Thankfully, I don’t have any horror stories, but I feel like I’m always dealing with ‘Hey Beautiful’ or ‘That’s a real nice dress you got there’ or ‘seductive’ stares or ‘accidental’ subway touching. I’m a ballet dancer and whenever I walk back home beet red and sweaty I always get comments and uncomfortably sexual gestures directed at me.Until I came across your website I didn’t know that this constituted as sexual harassment. It’s amazing how extensively they cover plagiarism in high school, but not sexual harassment. I knew it made me very uncomfortable, especially men in groups, but I felt like I was making a big deal out of nothing because the words were ‘nice’ (I’ve never been sworn at) even though the intent wasn’t.
I’m an extremely quiet, shy, insecure person and I feel like these jerks can sense that and prey on girls like me. But when I came across your website, I felt a sense of empowerment and comfort in the knowledge that others recognized that this was really happening and that it was wrong. I feel like a lot of people write off street harassment like it’s no big deal, so I was worried that if I told someone, they would just say I was being oversensitive and silly.
God (or whichever deity you do/don’t believe in) bless you, what you’re doing takes incredible courage. I really can’t thank you enough for helping for me to feel justified in my discomfort, to know that I wasn’t being oversensitive. Sorry if this is kind of rambling, I just wanted to let you know how much I truly appreciated the work you do.
Submitted by Elsa
Shouted at every woman he passed on the street. [This is my] first hollaback despite being verbally intruded upon all day, every day.
Submitted by A.
This took place at the W. 23rd St. and 9th Ave bus stop.
It may come as quite a surprise to you to hear this. It may even sting a little. It shouldn’t.
There are some places where I fully expect to be hit on (for example, at the bar). I put up with it. Sometimes, I may even enjoy it. I consider the free drinks you buy me payment for the annoyance I deal with. I will (almost) always accept a free drink. Your efforts, while usually not reciprocated, have not gone unnoticed.
However, putting up with getting hit on at a bar is quite different from being harassed in other places. You should be aware that just because I’m female and have boobs doesn’t mean that you are allowed to harass me and annoy the fuck out of me wherever I am, and no matter what I am doing. There are some things that should remain sacred.
I know it may be difficult to resist making comments to me while I’m running. I’m sure there’s just something about a young woman drenched from head to toe in sweat, hair dripping, breathing heavily and with a face the color of a ripe tomato that you find irresistible. I can only imagine how hard it is for you to hold back when you see me running past in an over-sized sweat stained t-shirt. I sympathize. I really do.
Please, men. I put up with your shit at work. I put up with it at school. I put up with it when I’m driving, and when I’m eating, and when I buy my coffee. I have learned to be prepared when I go to the bar to be approached at least once, usually more. At this point, I pretty much expect it. All women do. But for the LOVE OF GOD, please leave me the fuck alone when I’m running.
P.S. The next guy who harasses me when I’m running is getting kicked in the balls. Consider that your warning.
Reposted from Save Your Wetlands blog.
I walk through what I call “the gauntlet” every day to and from work. It’s a stretch of Canal Street from the Canal Street N/Q stop West to the river. At night, it’s clogged with vendors hocking all manner of counterfeit goods and tourists getting duped. In the morning, it’s an eight block march of cat callers, each seemingly less original than the one before. I never wear headphones through this walk, since I’m constantly on alert for something that could constitute a threat. One morning, I was walking the gauntlet behind a very young woman apparently on her way to work, as she was dressed in a smart business suit. We reached the half way point, when a group of men who constantly give me trouble, started to yell out to her and move toward her on the sidewalk in a threatening manner. She put her head down and continued walking, but I stopped as I pulled up to them. I looked the ring leader in the eye, a older man, late 40′s, early 50′s around the same age as my father. And told him “have a little respect for her and for yourself. That’s not how you treat women.” He told me to “take a compliment” and that I was just jealous because I’m fat (which, for the record, I’m a size 8). I told him that despite his complete disrespect for women, I hoped his daughter and wife didn’t have to live with the daily fear of being sexually harassed by strangers on their way to work, or the movies or a date. I also explained that “it being part of the job” of a construction worker wouldn’t fly, considering my father is a construction worker and would fire and then beat the ass of any of his employees that behaved that way. His cohorts remained silent, but as I walked away, I could hear them all making fun of him by mocking me. I’ve never seen the men since and I always wondered if the woman in front of me called their employer.
This is (a sadly very blurry) photo of a subway masturbator I took on friday night at the Carroll street station. My friend (visiting from boston) and I were heading into the city to meet up with a group for drinks and dancing. Being a friday evening I knew the train would be a while so we sat down on the bench. Across the platform this man was also lounging on a bench. He had made himself comfortable- his bags were strewn around the bench and he was slouched across two seats. Upon seeing us he yelled across the platform “hello ladies” to which I gave him a nod as it had been relatively polite. As it turns out he had bothered my friend as she left the station earlier that evening- asking her where she was going, could he come along etc.
So we ignore him, talk about our new post grad lives blah blah when I hear a rustling which caused me to look at the tracks (I am terrified of getting rabies after a whole other story involving prospect park, a rabid bat and my friends vagina) to make sure nothing is climbing out (I’m aware this is crazy). As I look I notice the man across the platform masturbating furiously! I immediately blurted out, “He’s masturbating!” At first I didn’t think my friend believed me- so she looked over and I began rummaging for my phone. Of course he had heard me, and knew we saw him but it wasn’t until I got my phone out that he covered up! “No pictures” he smirked. To which I responded “no masturbating in public!”
It took me about a minute to even find the camera setting and the pictures aren’t good, but I wanted to freak him out. I then loudly told my friend about hollaback and how useful these pictures will be to the cops when I contact them. Seeing that my pictures were so bad she pulled out her own camera, snapped a few which she intends to touch up so they are more visible.
Thinking that was over, we started talking about street harassment. How common it was in the city. Her own terrifying experiences with men in cars. Then we heard some muttering and looked across the platform to find him at it again! Looking straight at us and mumbling “I like you both… Boobs… Bubble” (couldn’t really understand him). Again we yell at him- there are more people in the station now so I am hoping we can embarrass him. No such luck. We take out our cameras. He covers himself again. Still for the next 30 minutes that we wait for the train he keeps talking to us “I love you… Bubble.. Etc”. Now the normal thing would have been to move but I imagined that as backing down so we stayed, I yelled at him a few times, pretended to have reception and called the cops etc.
The train finally comes, we get to the city and I immediately try and report him. Of course no one is picking up and I keep mysteriously being redirected. My friend is on her phone trying to find the group we were meant to hang out with. It turns out that they had had to leave, as one girl had been roofied (she was thankfully with observant friends who took care of her).
Submitted by Kate
I thought I was wearing a particularly unflattering outfit to work that day, but apparently Mr. S. didn’t agree. He was sitting on a bench on the subway platform and slapped my ass as I walked past him on the subway platform. When I yelled at him, he jumped up and started screaming at me and saying he was going to throw me in front of the next train. All the men on the platform started to surround him, one woman grabbed me and pulled me back, and other passengers got two police officers. He was chasing after me screaming about how he was going to kill me when the police approached him from behind. He told the cops I was lying – why would he touch a woman he doesn’t even know? That’s a fantastic question, Mr. S.
This man will be going to the Criminal Court of the City of New York on charges of Forcible Touching (PL130.52), Sexual Abuse in the 3rd Degree (PL130.55) and Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (PL221.05).
A few months ago, I was riding my bike from my boyfriend’s house at the time in Bushwick, to my apartment in South Park Slope. We’d been packing up things in his place and it was during one of the first heat waves of the summer, so I was dripping with sweat by the time I finally climbed on my bike and headed back. It was still light out, as I won’t ride through that area at night by myself. I was pulling onto Franklin Avenue and noticed a black Cadillac SUV in front of me – all shiny and chrome and clearly not cheap. The street is wide, so I was able to pull ahead of it while it stopped for a red light and noticed two 30-ish men in the front seat. The light turned green and the SUV pulled in front. I then noticed the driver sticking his hand out of the window with a camera pointed at me. The flash flickered a few times in rapid succession while I tried to hide my face. The SUV hit another red light and I allowed my handlebars to scrape that beautiful, shiny chrome bumper while telling the drivers to “get f*cked.” The pair just laughed as I sprinted passed them and turned the corner.
Submitted by Erin
So this happened to me a couple of years ago, but it still bothers me so I felt like I should submit it. I was 17 at the time and walking down the street in my own neighborhood when two men in their mid thirties early forties pass by me and stop me. This was on a fairly crowded street during the daytime so I was a taken aback but not really scared. One of the men asks me how old I am, and without thinking I answer truthfully because I was so flustered by them stopping me. He then proceeds to say, “Oh man in a couple of months…” leers at me and walks away chuckling to his sidekick. I wish I had responded to him, and hadn’t treated it like a joke when I told people about it later. I had no clue what to do, I mean what did he think? That if I was 18 that I would magically be interested in him, go somewhere with him? Sleep with him? How is it that he thought it was acceptable to treat me like on object just because I walked by him? No one should treat another human being that way let alone someone who stated they were underage. I don’t walk on the streets for your pleasure, or dress for you, I don’t live for you so don’t interrupt my life because you feel you have the right to. If anything like that ever happens again to me that is what I hope I will say, followed by “You’re an asshole.”
Submitted by Shannon
I was walking home from work yesterday – in fact, on the very block on which I live in Astoria, Queens – when I felt a hard slap on my ass. Stunned, I watched a man whizz by me on his bike. I managed to sputter “fuck you,” but I was so shocked that it didn’t come out nearly as loudly or aggressively as I would have liked. He was on a bike, so I barely got a glimpse at him – although he did look back briefly and I flipped him off. I’ve been subject to catcalls before, but never had I been inappropriately touched by a stranger, not even on a crowded subway.
Later, I wished I’d cursed him out louder and with more anger, but I was too shocked at the time to form a coherent response. My first instinct was to just go home and lock the door against the outside world, but I realized that letting this man’s behavior affect my own wasn’t the answer. So I changed into my workout clothes and went to the gym like I’d planned, trying not to worry that another stranger would see my loose yoga pants and spandex top as an invitation to assault or harass me. I’m still furious that someone would touch me without my consent, but I’m not going to stop wearing what I like or worry about walking home by myself. I’m not the one who should have to change my behavior.
Submitted by Sara
Editor’s Note: Last summer, a man was convicted of a rash of “butt-slapping” (AKA assault) in the Crown Heights area. For more information, check out this and this. We’re hoping what happened with Sara is an isolated incident and the guy is not out and about again, but if you experience something similar please let us know.