Jess’s Story: “We had no idea where we were”

My frıend and I were out night clubbing in Istanbul.  Next thing we wake up in a taxi on a freeway, obviously leaving Istanbul. There were 2 other men in the taxi.  I started screaming and yelling; asking where are we going etc and they all just yelled in Turkish. I continued yelling and finally the driver pulled over.  My friend opened the door and we ran, kept on running until we felt like we were safe.  We had no idea where we were.  Luckily we bumped into some security guard that had a hut on the freeway and they called the police.

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Hollaback! launches 13 new sites today!

Today fifty activists from thirteen cities around the world are bringing the movement to end street harassment to their communities.

“Hollaback! isn’t just an app or a map — it’s a movement,” said Hollaback! Board Chair and co-founder, Samuel Carter. We are now in 37 cities and 15 countries, with leaders speaking more than eight different languages.

“The growth of the movement demonstrates the pervasive nature of street harassment globally,” said Hollaback! International Movement Coordinator, Veronica Pinto. “At the same time, the response of activists around the world is incredible as we see the determination of folks who are fighting for their safety, fighting for their streets, and fighting for the right to be who they are.”

Local Hollaback! site leaders run their local blog and organize their communities through advocacy, community partnerships, and direct action. Site leaders are as diverse in their backgrounds as they are in their experiences of harassment. Hollaback! reports that 44% lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer, 26% identify as people of color, 76% are under the age of 30, and 90% are women.

“If I have my way, these won’t just be the leaders of the movement to end street harassment. These will be the next leaders of the world,” said Hollaback! Executive Director Emily May.

Although most of them are less than six months old, Hollaback! international sites are already having a big impact. In Bristol, UK, the team is working on an anti-street harassment task force with local officials. In Atlanta, the team did a community safety audit, and in Buenos Aires, Tegus, and Mexico City, the teams helped to coordinate their cities’ first SlutWalks, which were designed to bring awareness to women’s right to feel safe in public space.

We are currently recruiting activists for the next launch in November. If you’d like to bring Hollaback home, email us at holla AT today.

Until then, please congratulate our new sites at

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Kathleen’s Story: Dehumanizing

While out with my sisters, I bumped into a guy that one of my sisters used to work with. He was with another guy friend of his and he stopped me and said hi, so we all chatted for a few minutes. This was outside in the smoking area in front of the bar, so back inside, I went to the bathroom and when I came back, my sister was talking to the guys at the bar. When I came over, the guys friend said, “Hey, who’s your friend with the nice tits?” and pointed right at me, while I was standing there.

Compared to others’ stories, this isn’t really that bad. But it still served the purpose…I was embarrassed and degraded, because that guy succeeded in reducing me to my sexual attributes. That’s the most frustrating part of the harassment, how dehumanizing it is. Yeah, maybe I am a girl with nice tits, but I’m also a person with thoughts and feelings, who deserves respect.

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The Movement

Nicola’s Got Nerve

Safety in Numbers for WomenShortly after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, I moved to New York City, where I went out exploring neighborhoods alone and primarily on foot. A lot of my friends from school had been from out of state, and so that first year I was pretty much on my own to experience the city. It was actually a lot of fun to walk around at my own pace, not having to worry about whether I was moving too fast or slow for someone else. I felt confident and comfortable, even though I was alone, and perhaps this showed on the outside as well. Then I made a few good girlfriends, and life became even better. We’d go out on Sunday afternoons, and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights when we weren’t working our gallery jobs. The guys we met at bars, clubs, and restaurants were sometimes really nice, and would ask us out, but we always made it clear to them that the group would be staying together for the entire night.To tell you the truth, staying safe wasn’t really the number #1 thing on our minds, just that it wasn’t right to leave our group of friends if we’d all gone out together. We just figured that if some guy liked one of us enough, he’d try to get our phone number and call us for a proper date. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were staying safe in numbers.

Whenever drinking is involved, there is more of a danger for women: “The percentage of male sexual offenders under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assault is in the high 90s, and at least three quarters of women victims had been drinking,” says Cornell University professor Andrea Parrot, PhD, coauthor of Forsaken Females: The Global Brutalization of Women. This is such a startling statement, but one that we can easily remedy by not only cutting down on our intake while in the company of men, but also sticking with our girlfriends. Drinking tends to make everybody a lot more uninhibited than they would be normally, and this is fine when we’re with friends, but can be a serious liability when you’re among guys. That’s why it’s always best to not only have a designated driver for nights of partying, but also never, EVER let a girlfriend separate from the group and go off with some hot guy she just met. She might not like it when you have to play Mommy, and remind her that she promised to go home with the group, but I have just two sad words for you to remember: Natalee Holloway. She was a beautiful, young high school student who got separated from her school group in Aruba after a wild few days of partying, and was never seen or heard from again. One way that you can curtail something like this happening, is to cut in when you see a girlfriend drinking too much. Pulling her away from the guy and into the ladies room for a few minutes usually works just fine.

Another crucial reason to stick with your girlfriends when you go out is so you can monitor each other’s intake. This means you never have to leave your drink unattended when you’re with a guy you don’t know. It’s a scary fact that 5% of sexual assault victims have been given a “roofie” or date rape drug, like rohypnol. These drugs cause dizziness and even amnesia-like symptoms, and can easily be poured in powder-form into your drink. Choices that you ordinarily wouldn’t make while you were sober, like going to another bar with that pushy guy, or even accompanying him and his friends back to his apartment, can happen in the blink of an eye when you’re under the influence. Don’t compound the danger by trusting your drink with someone (or a group of male someones) who could mean you great harm.

Predators are much less likely to see you as a target when you’re with a group. But what do you do if you’re drinking on a date with a guy, have already gotten a somewhat shady/creepy vibe from him, and you have to go to the ladies room?

  1. you can go to the rest room, and come back, pretending that you just checked your voicemail, and there is an emergency which demands your presence at home (or better yet, a friend’s house, if you don’t want to show him where you live), or
  2. if you decide to go through with the date after the restroom visit, you can take the wise precaution of ordering a fresh drink (you could say the first one didn’t taste good), or just not continue drinking. If you do this, watch for El Creepo’s reaction: Is there disappointment? Frustration? He might’ve been trying to get you drunk, or worst case scenario, even slipped you a roofie.

We’ve got to be safe out there, and watch out for each other.

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Erin’s Story: Inappropriate behavior

I’m a female of 20 years of age and I am quite attractive in the sexual senses.  On July 25th 2011 I was taking the last 97 bus home from the downtown club scene when a really creepy man started hitting on me and groping me in inappropriate ways.  This was like another time when an older man was jacking off in the back of the bus and staring at all the people in the front.  Anyway, he wouldn’t stop being rude and obnoxious and by the time I got off at my stop he followed me and was getting worse.  He told me to follow him into a nearby bush to have sex with him but I told him to go away. Eventually bad got to worse and he started groping me and I had to call the cops who didn’t show up.  I called my boyfriend and he showed up and saved me from what could have been an act of sexual molestation.

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Corinne’s Story: “I had always assumed that the presence of a male would protect me, but I am not so sure anymore.”

I was walking on the road beside the river with my father to get back to our car, and since we had both just gotten off, we were still in our swimming trunks and life jackets. Now, I would think that baggy swim shorts and a bulky life jacket wouldn’t be too sexually appealing, but it doesn’t matter to some. A truck drove by and a group of three twenty- something guys drove past wolf whistling and yelling “Nice ass!” My Father simply yelled “Thank you!” and kept walking. I’m glad that he made a joke out of it, but I was still a bit freaked out. It was frightening to me not that this happened, because I have been harassed before, but that they would be so crass to me in front of my Father. I had always assumed that the presence of a male would protect me, but I am not so sure anymore.

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Sally’s Story: “All male spaces where I am not welcome or safe”

I am sitting on a street car with my roommate, both of us women in our early twenties, recounting our day, and a man stands in the aisle behind us. The streetcar is nearly full, but not packed.

The man’s crotch grazes my arm. I suspect this is accidental, caused by the movement of the car and shift inwards a little, but the man continues to cause his crotch to make contact with my bare arm as the streetcar creeps to our destination. I shift so far inwards, that I am pressed against my roommate and twisted half sideways. She realizes what is happening and looks at the man disdainfully, he walks further down the streetcar.

I intermittently experience male sexual aggression on public transit in Toronto, making me feel like the Streetcar, the Subway and the Bus are all male spaces where I am not welcome or safe. Trapped in the small, confined cars as they move along streets and tunnels I almost never feel safe enough to say or do anything about it.

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Samantha’s Story: Harassed on the way to work

I was walking towards the courtyard of my office building in the middle of downtown. I spot two people, one man and one woman, sitting on one of the benches in the courtyard. I continue towards the building entrance and I notice that the man was angry with the woman. The woman was sitting very straight faced but looking away from him. He was inches from her face spitting as he spoke something I couldn’t quite understand until I got closer. He made eye contact with me as I was about to pass him “…I’d fuck that bitch…” (gesturing towards me). I was instantly angry. I was angry for her and myself. He was objectifying me AND her most likely. I thought I’d keep walking without creating a scene. But as I was about to go inside, I stopped. I turned around and in a defensive tone I yelled “EXCUSE ME?”. The man turned around to look at me, confused. I said “You don’t talk to me like that! You don’t say things like that to a woman.” He was shocked and began to mutter “Sorry, ma’am..” but I interrupted and hollered “Go fuck yourself!” and made my way to work.
We have a security guard at the front but he must not have noticed the incident. I walked past him and up the elevator to my office. I walked inside and looked out the window to the man and woman. She appeared to be fighting back now. A co-worker asked me what happened and I told him. He told me to inform the security guard. I went back downstairs and let the guard know there was a gentleman outside making lewd comments to young women passing by. He told me he’d take care of it and call the cops if he had to. I said it was all right. A couple female co-workers entered the building at that point and asked me if I was alright and relaxed me.
One of them told me I shouldn’t have responded to the man, saying he could have had a knife or weapon. I just thought to myself that I’d rather fight and stick up for myself then allow myself to be objectified and used.
Security came to tell me that he had kicked the man off the property and I wasn’t afraid to walk back to my car after work.

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Sophie’s Story: “Let me get through”

I was on my way back from the cinema with a (male) friend and were just getting to the Triangle. It was a Saturday night and there were a lot of rowdy drunks on the streets. I started to feel slightly apprehensive as I’ve been verbally harassed on the Triangle under the same circumstances before. There were a few men outside Illusions and as we got there one of them jumped up and blocked our path. He let my friend through but continued to block my way, forcing me into the road to try and get by. After this didn’t work I tried to get back on the pavement and firmly said “Let me get through”. He ignored this at which point my friend realised what was going on and came back for me. Apparently wishing to avoid an altercation the man begrudgingly let me get by. We walked away to the sound of him and his friends laughing at this hilarity.

I’m grateful my friend was with me because the man did not seem like he’d be willing to let me through otherwise and I don’t know what might have happened. It makes me angry that I need to be chaperoned in a city I love so much.

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Alma’s Story: Harassment at any age

Today is the gay pride festival in Amsterdam, which is widely celebrated! But every year it gets used as an excuse to party and get drunk, and not as a celebration of acceptance and lgbtq’s. So the vibes on this day are never that great, but I decided to go out for an evening stroll anyway. I wanted to go out for 15 minutes or so, but I returned after 5, because in those 5 minutes I had been made to feel like shit.

I walked past a square where a party had just ended so it was emptying out. First a group of boys walked past me, way too close for it to be acceptable, and made a comment to me in French. FIFTEEN meters further a man in his late 20s came up to me, and started asking me why I was looking so angry and where I was going to. I felt pretty uncomfortable and annoyed, but I didn’t dare to tell him to just leave me alone. So I just answered his questions vaguely, while he made some pretty sexist comments to me. He claimed that if he could get a good look at me, he would be able to see if I was a lesbian, which disgusted me even more. After a couple of minutes I cut the conversation short and headed back to my house. One minute later, a thirty year old man said something about me being hot, and that he wanted to take me home. All of this happened in a distance of 200 meters.

In the day time street harassment doesn’t occur much here, but at night it can be pretty bad, this was just one of the many examples, ranging from rude comments to being followed. And the worst part? I’m 15.

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