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As many of you may know, there is a new MTA plan in the works to change the SubTalk messages concerning sexual harassment, which will add a needed component of bystander involvement to the current message: “Sexual Harassment is a Crime in the subway, too – A crowded train is no excuse for an improper touch. Don’t stand for it or feel ashamed, or be afraid to speak up. Report it to an MTA employee or police officer.” As a frequent rider of New York City mass transit, I’ve been aware of these signs since they were put up in 2008, and my initial reaction was “Wow, how have I managed to dodge that bullet time and again? If the MTA feels the need to create a campaign like this, there must be a serious problem.” Irony, of all ironies.
The MTA’s new public service message will reportedly expand on the pithy “If you see something, say something” campaign, by asking bystanders to get involved and report cases of harassment that they witness. This new approach will be such a refreshing change from the burden always being on the victim or potential victim to protect herself.
In my own situation, I was extremely grateful and fortunate to have the support of my fellow passengers. At one point during the incident, I had to yell “Men, guard the doors!”, which I think made it very clear to everyone within earshot that we were dealing with a dangerous individual that needed to be contained until law enforcement could take over. Without the help of other passengers, the perpetrator would definitely have gotten away with it, just to do it again to someone else. Not only did bystanders help to detain him in that car, they also took my lead and photographed him, shaming him as they did so, which made me feel safer and not so alone in dealing with the situation.
But the unfortunate thing is that I had to make quite a scene, and demand the help I needed from others. It was not immediately forthcoming, and certainly not offered to me. My feeling is that someone else who would not feel as confident speaking up as I did would have had a serious problem seeing justice done on that day. And justice was indeed done, with conviction and deportation of the perpetrator. A definitive result like that shows the power of a compassionate and involved citizenry. However, this outcome was sadly not the norm. What if I hadn’t spoken up about it? Then it might have been business as usual that day, as in “let’s pretend that didn’t happen, and move on with our day.” I’m all for moving on with our day and our lives, but not for playing pretend, which doesn’t help anyone. In fact, this is how sex crimes become normalized.
Many times, an individual is being victimized on mass transit without their knowledge, and the MTA’s most recent initiative will, I believe, be a turning point in combating the problem. More eyes to see what is going on, and a greater sense of overall awareness of the immediate surroundings will no doubt help. If we are to put a stop to this egregious behavior once and for all, so that we may truly call ourselves a civilized society, bystanders must be willing to step up and take some measure of responsibility for the individuals surrounding them, whether they have a personal relationship to them or not.
If a person could just imagine themselves or their loved ones in a similarly terrible situation, they might think of their own need for support from others around them. Empathy is what is called for here. For too long, many have tried to turn the other way and ignore what has been going on right in front of their own eyes, and the MTA campaign now makes it clear, that this issue will not just go away if we continue to “play ostrich” with it. Bravo, MTA ~ you’ve made a step in the right direction.
To submit a question to Nicola for next Monday’s post, please email it to her here.
Two episodes of aggressive, shitty street harassment.
First, outside the Blue Line, this big mean looking dude took off his too-dark shades, wolf-whistled, and started walking towards me. To which I responded “can I fucking HELP YOU?” To which he responded with lots of mean aggressive things (including, but not limited to, calling me a fat bitch and using lots of homophobic slurs). And I just started walking away quickly. Fortunately he didn’t follow me into the train station.
Next, on my way home and right on that same street, some dude did that weird catcall that sounds like they’re calling a dog from his car. I, learning from my earlier lesson, didn’t get aggressive in response and instead just meanmugged as he drove past. He apparently took that as an invitation because he circled the fucking block in his red pick up truck and eventually ended up driving along side me, resuming his catcalling.
This is the point wherein I lost it. I flicked him off and started screaming about he can go to hell and should suck my dick. My face was bright red and I was gesturing aggressively at his car. It was like I was fucking possessed.
Then I saw him do what looked like he was starting to leave his car and it snapped me back to my senses. Fortunately it was a hell of busy street in the middle of the afternoon and all I had to do was walk slowly towards a group of people.
I don’t think that he actually got out of his car but I sure as hell felt weird going home. I actually got into my car and drove around for a bit before I went into my apartment. I know that I’m safe now but my heart is still pounding. I’m so mad, I’m so upset, I feel actually physically dirty.
When my son moved out of the Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio Texas, he decided to adopt a cat from the local Humane Society. The entire time we are there, this fat white guy wearing a woman’s wig and clothing, follows us from place to place. When my son wheels (he was in a wheelchair at the time) into one of the glass booths to see if he and one of his kitty choices gets along, this creep, goes into the booth directly in front of my son. smiles at him, then bends his fat ass towards my sons face where this enormous blood spot is right in the crack of his ass! After we get an eye full and pull our mouths up from the ground, this freak stands upright, looks at us with a big grin on his face then leaves. I don’t know what it meant, but it was very vulgar. This person is clearly a pervert!
I was sitting on the bus on my way home from work. A man got on and at first I thought I recognized him, so I said a bright, “Hi!” It turned out that I was wrong, but instead of doing what anyone would normally do, such as “Do I know you?” or the like, he took that opportunity to box me into my seat and put his arm around me. From then until my stop came, I endured his touching various parts of my body (my knee, pinkie, the bone of my wrist, and more) and speaking very unintelligibly, but I’m pretty I made out some sexual comments. I felt like I couldn’t ask for help or anything since everyone had seen me initiate with “Hi!”
As I was sitting in my dorm, working on homework, my roommate returned and immediately said to me, “I assume you want me to take this down.” I had no idea what he was talking about, and when I looked up from my computer I noticed he was holding my dorm name tag. Next to my name, I noticed the word “GAY” in bright green. My first thought was, “Who would do this?” As it turns out, this was not targeted at me specifically. Others in my dorm area also had signs vandalized. The timing could not have been any worse, however. I was just starting to ask myself questions regarding my own sexuality. I became paranoid. How could I possibly openly ask myself these questions if where I was living was not a safe space? Thank you, random stranger, for contributing to my insecurities. In case you stumble upon this (however unlikely that may be), I am much more confident now, despite you and others like you who make our society unwelcoming for those who dare to question or explore an identity.
Check out this article for a history lesson on dirtbags of yore. The women at the time were clearly asking for it what with their ankle-length skirts and turtleneck shirts.
Story of a girl :- One day one of my friends in P.G. got a call from here boy friend. She went out side coz there was some signal problem. When she was romaing at the tarace. A person was also roaming in the opposite building. The persons side’s lights were switched off. As my friend was talking on phone, that guy on opposite building removed all his clothes , and became naked, and started doing masterbation , facing my friend.My friend become awful, she aint was able to understand what is happining. She came running inside and told us the thing. We both went outside , and turned our tarrace light on, the guy quickly put his shorts up and went inside. I was also awful, what is this man doing. Aint he have any sister or mother. After that we share the scene with our fellow P.G. mate. One of them said, its usual that guy always became naked when i came outside on phone, i kust ignore that guy.Till date i have seen that guy doning this shameful act 4 times. I want to ask u. Is there not even single place for us girl to live. Coz of these shame ful act our parents fear to send us outside for studies…. plz do leave a coment.
Dated 19 april 2011
Two weeks earlier some guys teased my girlfriend.The were teasing here from a week before, but that day the just crossed their line. The bumped up in front of her 3 ,4 times, still she ignored. And finally they try to stop here and used rash language like “which air you are in girl” etc. She was full of fear that day.She aint replyed those basterd…s any thing. Day after the incident i went to the place where me and my girl friend used to roam. Those basterds also had a P.G. around my Girl friends P.G. , i asked here where they lived, i ponted at those bastereds. She said lets go from here.Mean while I called my friend ,so that together me and my friend cud talk to those bastereds. By the time my friend reached, those bastereds were behind me. One of those said why were u pin ponting towards us. I said wat, my G.F. was showing me ur faces. i was asking which one. Damend they were not shameful of there act. They wanted fight. Meanwhile my G.F. was awful, she was fearful. And said to those bastereds that she is comited. The scene goes on. Me and my friend solved the issue that day. But those bastereds were not seem to be over. And yesterday the strike again. Me and my girlfriend was on that place. I was there to leave her for the P.G.. We were having a normal talk. One of the bastereds from his P.G. shouted “dont stand here”. i said “what happend bro”. bastered replied “shall i come near you, to tell you not to stand here” . i said ” yes why not”. My girl friend was awful, and fearful again. She said leave, kasam and all. I said okay.
Now, i want to ask what to do. I cant go to poloice, neither does she. where to complaint against these bastereds tell me..
Dated 18 april 2011
Took my son out to the park and to visit with a friend this morning. It’s hot, so I’m wearing a vest and some baggy trousers. On the way home, a driver at the motorway junction beeped, whistled and made a kiss-face at me as I passed him.
Already pissed off (my son had been misbehaving) I stopped walking, turned to look at the “man” and shouted, “Hollaback, asshole!” then continued on my way home – feeling much better.
Only wish I’d told him to google it, too.
I’m au pairing in Nantes this year, a city full of bicycles. Riding from work tonight, I just tackled the one hill on the way home and was stoked that I’m getting better at it when two scooter twats start catcalling and riding around me. Instantly too nervous to even try to decipher insults in a language I’m struggling with at the best of times, let alone when my mind is racing with the implications of where this could lead and calculating just what my odds would be… I felt threatened til one of them kicked the other on his scooter and the other fell, stopping them both to collect a piece of scooter and fight between themselves.