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Holy cow. We knew it was a big year for anti-harassment successes but had no idea just how big until seeing it all written down in one place. Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment has compiled a recap of some of the year’s most important and fascinating stories and accomplishments, including highlights of women standing up to their harassers as submitted to her blog.
She remembers Lisa Robinson, the Welsh woman who stood on the train tracks so that her apathetic conductor was forced to call the police after she was verbally abused in front of her husband and 5-year old son throughout her ride by a group of drunken sports fans.
And she recalls that itty bitty accomplishment, the street harassment city council meeting (!), that the movement earned in October.
Congratulations, ladies, to you and to all of our male friends who have taken a stand—your hollabacks have propelled all of this. When you hollaback, your courage and your solidarity show other women in your city and around the world that it can be done, and how they can do it. When you report your harasser, it makes it that much easier for the next woman or child to report and identify her harasser. So hollaback in 2011 and pay it forward.
Here’s to even greater successes in the new year and to thousands more hollabacks from YOU.
I was riding the train with my then-partner on the way to see a movie in town, when this happened. As we boarded the train, a conductor went up to these four kids, and warned them for disruptive behaviour. My partner and I took seats near them (which looking back seems like the first mistake) and settled for the short journey. We were sitting talking, and randomly poking each other, which is usual for us, and the four kids continued shouting and messing around.
One of the girls sat behind us and asked my partner for some gum. She said she didn’t have any, though the girl remained where she sat. She then asked if we were together. My partner and I, having nothing to hide or be ashamed of, replied that we were. The one boy in the group asked if we were in love, and my partner replied the affirmative.
It descended from there. The boy joined the girl behind us and kept asking for us to kiss for him. He kept pushing, and nearly begging for us to. My partner replied no, first jokingly, and then she eventually snapped “If you want to see two girls kissing, watch porn!”.
He whined that he had seen porn and he wanted to see it in real life – I continued to remain silent. The coach we were in was not nearly empty, and I was somewhat horrified that no one had thought to do anything but look away awkwardly. Thankfully, the next stop was ours. We stood, and I followed my partner to the door. The group followed us, and as we were waiting, they kept pushing on each other, and therefore me. Once the doors opened, a lot of people got out, while this group practically pushed me off the train. My partner took my hand and while I set off at a fast pace to get away, she slowed me down.
The boy continued to follow us, and kept on with his incessant begging. My partner and I ignored him, and spoke only to each other, until he peeled off to join the girls of his group. We were left alone after that.
I am ashamed that I didn’t speak up, and that my partner was the one to deal with this harassment. I remember this incident clearly, and feel scared by it, but it was almost laughable how this boy was clearly obsessed about seeing us kiss.
Get it through your heads – we do not exist for your amusement. We are not objects to stare at, or to entertain yourself with. We are humans, with hearts and souls and feelings, and I will not be dehumanised by your fetishisms. I refuse.
Submitted by Emma
I was cycling along on the road beside Hyde Park, just before a junction and going down a really steep hill. A man in a car had pulled into a side road to do a U-turn, and while he was doing it I drew alongside on my bike, so at the point he was ready to leave return to the main road I was in the way. For, ooh, at least 10 whole seconds. I mention this because it is the only motivation I can see for his behaviour. I raised my hand to indicate my thanks for him not pulling straight out and flattening me, only to be greeted with “Hey I can see your knickers love!”
Had I not been travelling too fast and, you know, a bit put out by this I would have liked to say, “Oh can you indeed. If that is so then I suggest you look the other way, because there is literally nothing I can do about it right now, unless you would like me to cause a multi-car pile up trying to pull my skirt down as I negotiate traffic and a hill – which would in all probability involve your car and at the very least delay your journey more than the fraction of a minute I already have.”
Instead I shouted “thanks a lot you prick” and felt humiliated, flustered, self-conscious and confused. Which is how you want someone to feel ON A MOVING BIKE. IN TRAFFIC. ON A HILL. I mean, do you WANT to cause an accident?
And although he shouted it, it was in a sort of cheerful tone of voice, as though either he was pleased about it or was offering some sort of friendly heads-up. I just don’y understand.
Submitted by Het
I am 17-year-old girl living in the Midwestern United States. I was out walking my dog at dusk on January 2; my family lives in a pretty friendly neighborhood and my sisters and I have always felt comfortable with hanging out after dark around our area. As I was coming back from my hour-long walk, I registered that my dog was starting to bristle about a car that was cruising along very slowly behind us. It was now very dark and I began to feel seriously nervous. I’d had my iPod earphones in, but now I removed them in order to feel more alert.
We (all three of us) finally reached the front of my house. Relieved, I tentatively went to cross in front of the car. But before I could, the driver leaned out of the rolled-down window and started speaking softly to me. I flinched all over. You know that sick surge of adrenaline where your heart lurches into overdrive and you feel like it’s trying to tear out of your chest? My pulse was pounding in my eardrums- he’s too close, run, he’s too close, run, wrong, wrong, wrong! The sound of it literally deafened me, and it wasn’t until a few beats later that I could tell what he was saying.
Get in the car, honey. Right now. I want you to suck my cock, bitch.
There was more. I think I blocked out the rest of it. It was the eyes that scared me the most, far more than the words. He looked hungry and unfocused, and I wanted to throw up, or scream, or both. I made myself memorize his face: white, bearded, middle-aged, big.
He laughed. Then he slowly cruised away. I forced myself to take in a mental photograph of his license plate. I chanted the sequence aloud, softly, a mantra, and sprinted across the street. Somewhere in the 100-yard dash across my lawn and to my garage, my choking fear disappeared and replaced itself with a sheer and burning rage. I marched into my house and went straight for the phone. My family, gathered for dinner, watched as I dialed the number for non-emergency police calls.
After taking my initial statement and making sure that no one in the house was in imminent danger, the officer told me to stay inside my house while he ran the plate number that I rattled off to him, and that he’d be over in about twenty minutes. Sure enough, he and his partner arrived and took a formal statement from me. They had brought a photo of my harasser and I was able to identify him beyond any doubt. He was already in their records; for what, they couldn’t say but they seemed very pleased that I was a minor because the consequences would definitely be harsher.
They shook my mother’s hand. They did not shake mine. They said I was a very brave girl. They said I should be more careful.
My anger at the man carried me through for several more hours. That night in the shower, though, I broke down completely. My fear was remembered and it caught me again, mercilessly and totally.
I now grasp what my sister and mother say about this: We live in a rape culture. On the phone with my boyfriend that night (sensitive and wonderful and sweet though he is) he couldn’t understand why this was so frightening to me. He couldn’t even begin. Why should he understand? This is something that will NEVER happen to him. We as women learn how to be afraid.
Submitted by sophiecolette
An update to my situation:
I originally posted on December 23, 2009 (Bisexual men get harassed too). I have since moved to Los Angeles, CA and i yelled at elderly Italian man from my window that i was moving back to los angeles and that he can’t mess with me any more. But i have learned that he is still messing with me from ny via online, because when I go out I hear people gossiping about naked videos of me or the false slanderous stories the old italian man spread about me from NY so I am going to seek the help of WHOA (Working to Halt Online Abuse) and Jane Hitchcock. I just don’t know what to do and lucky i found out about WHOA and hopefully they can help me deal with my cyber harasser/perverted ex-neighbor.
Some people wanted to assault me due to the false slanderous stories but saw that i was good looking in person so they left me alone. I am stressed out and contemplated suicide but joining a church helped.
Submitted by Michael L.
This past summer, I submitted a harassment experience here. Recently, I told my mom about it (I’m 17) and she told me about something that happened to her and my little sister (age 10) when they were visiting me in Boston. I wanted to post it here because when children are harassed, often no one ever finds out. I wanted to make it clear that street harassment affects children too, and that my little sister is one of the lucky ones.
My mom and sister were on the Orange Line, not sure which station, when my mom noticed a youngish man staring at my little sister. She’s an exceptionally pretty little girl, so this was not altogether unusual, but my mom said that something in the way he was looking my little sister up and down made the hair stand up on the back of her neck. When the train came to the next station, my mom hustled my sister out of their car and into another car. The man followed them, still staring at my sister. At the next stop, Mom tried to switch cars again, and although the man tried to follow, they were too fast for him and escaped. My little sister never knew what was going on; Mom just told her she wanted a less crowded car.
Since then, my sister has been followed by another man here at home in Ohio on her way to and from choir practice. She was really frightened and asked my dad to drive her from now on; the stalker has since disappeared. But I’m so scared for her. Just thinking about this shit makes me want to throw up. A little girl should not have to ride a train- or walk around her own town- in fear.
Submitted by Katherine
It’s 5:15pm on New Year’s Eve. I just get off the subway from work, and I’m walking home. An older man, in his mid 50’s, looks at me and as he passes says: “Oh, she’s got hips on her — don’t let the little (something) fool you.” The man behind him, not sure if they were together, also in his mid 50’s, passes me with his elbow out to the side and says “Hey!” as he jabs me in the shoulder. I turn around, dumbfounded and unable to find words, and give him a dirty look. He says “this is New York!” as I turn the corner.
This encounter was enough to get me looking on Craigslist for a new apartment. I know that street harassment will follow me wherever I go, unfortunately, but it has never been as bad for me as it is where I live now.
Submitted by Diane
So this website has brought back all these memories through the years and given me the courage to contact offenders that I was not able to confront at the time. One was a grad school professor who stuck his finger up my butt while standing in line with him in the cafeteria. It was the grossest thing. I was so shocked and humiliated, but weirdly turned around smiling as though it was a joke and said something like “there are laws against that you know, ha ha” My response so sickens me now that I sent the following e-mail to him last week. Thanks Hollaback for giving me the courage to set the record straight.
E-mail I wrote to my long ago offender:
I should have slapped the shit out of you and started yelling at the top of my lungs “This asshole pervert just stuck his finger in my ass and I’m turning him over to the authorities.” You fucking bastard. We were in line at the cafeteria at USC. At the age of 30-something I’d not yet learned to stand up to sexual harassment in a way that was helpful. You have probably forgotten what you did to me, but if you are still sexually assaulting your female students I hope to God you’ve gotten what you deserve from at least one or two of them.
For some reason you hated me–I guess because I didn’t worship you. Your class was terrifying for me. I’d never done improv. You seemed to pick up on that, had no compassion or even the slightest interest in understanding my fear as your student of acting. You had all the power, Stephen. I know because I went on to be a university director and teacher. Then to make it worse, you made it your mission to humiliate me every chance you got.
I was in the MFA class of 1986 at USC. I took one year of your Improv class and then got released from it because it was so upsetting to me. I also remember you STILL treating me like shit year’s later at [ ]’s wedding. I don’t know why I was even at your table at the reception, but I was. What was your fucking problem with me? I should have cornered you and confronted you then.
I needed to get this off my chest because every time I get the USC alumni magazine, that memory comes back and I feel ashamed. NO MORE. You can have the shame because you are the only one who did anything wrong.
I deserve an apology and you deserve to have been reported.
I rather doubt you are man enough to even consider making amends. So be it. I’m having a damn good life surrounded by people who love and appreciate me and you, my dear, can go to hell.
Submitted by circe1223
This happened during my first fall semester at Florida State. My friend and I had gone to Pizza Hut for lunch, right down the street from our apartment. Keep in mind, my friend is Muslim and was dressed in a hijab and in very conservative clothes. I was wearing baggy shorts and an even baggier T-shirt, and I looked like somebody’s baby mama. This older man was just leaving, and he looked at me and my friend like we were two pieces of steak and he hadn’t eaten in days. He offered to pay for our lunch (whoa, big spender). We turned him down and my friend rightfully called him a creep to his face.
Some time later, me and my same friend were going to Taco Bell. There was this big gray van parked out front, and two men old enough to be my father were sitting in it. We passed the car, and the man in the passenger’s seat started yelling, “Ma’am! Ma’am! Excuse me! Come here, ma’am!” I ignored him and went inside, and did not leave until that car was gone. Looking back, I wish I had flicked him off or something, just to let him know that I did not appreciate being treated like a walking vagina.
I have a number of smaller stories, such as a friend of my roommate’s who called me ‘sweet thang,’ and a group of men at my apartment complex who made sure that I heard them compliment my ass. It’s truly disgusting behavior, and I wish that I did not have these stories to tell.
Submitted by Cheri
Wishing you and yours the merriest of Christmas and the happiest of HOLLAdays.