He said, She said, in New York City
This is the phrase most often used to describe the implied non-credibility of an allegation of sexual assault. It suggests that an accusation of this nature is either false, or dubious at the very least, because of a lack of evidence to the contrary. Now I must ask you, how many women throughout history have had to go through this special brand of humiliation after being targeted for attack? How many women do you personally know who have had to go through not just the trauma of the event itself, but then the callous aftermath? I know plenty, and thank the stars above that I was not numbered among them when I told my own story to law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office, back in September, and then the public, in November. But consider a recent event in our city:
A drunken woman was helped into her apartment by two New York City police officers, whom she later accused of raping her. Her incapacity aside, it was highly suspect for these two individuals to not only help her inside, but “cuddle” with her while she lay half-clothed in an altered state, and then to be seen (by security cameras) going back into her apartment no less than three times, with one of the officers accused of standing guard outside. Three times?!? I know I’m not alone in my disgust at this situation.
And say that the young woman did “come on” to one of the officers. We all know that inhibitions can slide when one is inebriated ~ but what were the officers’ excuses? As police officers, presumably in full control of their own faculties at the time, they needed to at the very least be concerned with even the appearanceof impropriety. In short, they left themselves open to this type of allegation by being alone with her, in the private confines of her apartment. So either A) The officers were obtuse beyond belief, or B) He/they did assault her. One of the officers did actually admit later in the trial to having protected sex with her, but witnesses who saw the young woman earlier in the evening said that she was extremely drunk and was not sober enough to consent to sex. In fraternity houses across the nation, there have always been young men who’ve seen fit to take advantage of their tipsy dates, and women know to be wary of going into a situation like that (which, by the way, still would not excuse an assault under those circumstances by one iota). But the young woman in question here was in the comfort and presumed safety of her own home. So what really happened here?
It seems to me, as well as prosecutors, that if she was that ill, an ambulance should have been called, or that EMS should have been present for the subsequent visits to her. While New York City police officers are highly capable in many respects, and do receive basic medical training, I think a hospital or at least a clinic would have been a safer environment in which to handle alcohol poisoning, if that was indeed the case.
I, as well as many others observing this case again feel afraid for being at the mercy of the “He said, She said,” and perhaps we will never know what really transpired. I know what I feel about it ~ and it’s not good. In my opinion, there is one more chance at justice here, with the woman’s $57 million dollar lawsuit against the city, and the officers.
This happened to my best friend, not me, but I have submitted personal stories here before. I was on the phone with my friend when this happened. We are both fourteen.
She lives in a fairly suburban community. She was walking down to street to go to the neighborhood’s annual festival a few days ago, and happened to be talking to me on her cell-phone. I heard this happen. She is a bit heavier than me, but very beautiful, dresses well, and wears makeup far better than I.
As she was walking, a car full of four guys in their early twenties screamed at her “FAT BITCH!” and drove away laughing.
This is not acceptable at all.
It’s disgusting that a fourteen year old girl who’s already self-conscious can have this happen to her in a seemingly “friendly” area.
SUBMITTED BY CARRIE DAVIDSON, reposted from Carried Away
There hasn’t been a single day when I’ve walked home this week and haven’t been catcalled at least once. For the first two days it was funny. By the third and fourth, it became expected.
Wait, expected? In what world is it okay to expect to be sexually harassed?
Yes, catcallers. Sexual harassment. You’re not being funny. You certainly aren’t being charming. There is nothing innocent about it.
What goes through the heads of these men? I don’t mean “I’m too good for them, so what are they thinking?” because, honestly, the guys in my age range are usually attractive. Until they open their mouths.
I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’d like to think that the thought process is something like, “My, that is a rather attractive young lady. I have taken an immediate fancy to her, and would like to get her attention. I’m going to approach her casually and strike up conversation.” But, because of some brain malfunction that’s attributed only to the Y chromosome, they accidentally say something like, “Yo, sexy! How you doin’?”
I figure it’s one of two options: A. They legitimately think that calling to a girl like she’s a dog will get them action or B. They like seeing young girls walking alone down the street look uncomfortable, because they think it’s funny.
There are so many things wrong with option B, so many ways that it contributes to the sexist attitudes of our current society, that I don’t even know where to start.
So don’t call me “Red.” Definitely don’t call me “white girl.” Let me walk the three minutes from the subway to my apartment in peace.
If, on the other hand, you’re actually an incredibly insecure boy who just doesn’t know how to handle a situation, here’s a tip. Walk up. Say “hello.” Ask my name. It’s not rocket science.
I was on my way to visit my boyfriend and stopped at a grocery store to pick us up some drinks as a surprise. It was warm out and I was feeling really good about myself that day. I was wearing a knee-length sundress with a denim vest over it and sandals with small heels.
As I was getting back into my car, a guy in an SUV pulled up behind me and called, “Excuse me, how much do you charge?” Furious, I ignored him and continued loading my things into my car. He persisted, calling, “Ma’am?”
I spun around, looked him in the eye, and yelled, “More than you could afford!” He looked sheepish and mumbled, “Oh…” before driving away.
It made me so furious. I was having such a nice day and was in a good mood and feeling good about myself, and in one fell swoop, some misogynist jerk decides to make me feel trashy? Where do people get off being so disrespectful? I’m glad I at least got a chance to put him in his place.
Check out this video from South Africa — bringing attention to street harassment, how it happens, and why it hurts. They creators also point out the links between street harassment and a culture of media and advertising that regularly objectifies women and treats them like objects. A culture that makes objectifying women OK is the gateway to a culture that makes violence against women OK.
REPOSTED FROM FEMINIST LETTERS
I am regularly inspired by the women involved in the Hollaback campaign. The work they do and the sites they run are amazing. I would recommend that every woman go onto their website, read a bit about what they do, submit your own stories of harassment (lets face it, we’ve ALL got them) and if you can, donate to help keep them going. They also have some great advice for dealing with harassers; here.
The Hollaback movement (combined with the recent warm weather – why are pervs more active in Summer?) has really brought to my attention just how regularly I experience this sort of thing. Many people say its ‘harmless’ or some sort of ‘compliment’ but I do believe that it has a real impact on women and the way they live their lives. So I wanted to start a little Hollaback diary of my own to try and keep track just how often these incidents occur.
I’m not sure if I experience this sort of harassment more or less than other women, but for me it feels like it happens bloody often.
1. Date: 8th May 2011. Time: approx 2 am. Place: City Centre, outside my girlfriends apartment building. Sleaze: As I kissed my girlfriend goodnight two men walking along the street stop and start yelling at us. Comments include I want to f*ck you two, can I join in, you’re so f*cking sexy etc etc. I hollaback (can’t help myself) and it turns really nasty. One of them starts calls us bitches etc and tells us all sorts of really disgusting things he is ‘going’ to do to us, including things I don’t want to think about, let alone write down.
2. Date: 12th May 2011. Time: 8:30 am. Place: City Centre, on the way to work. Sleaze: A small but regular occurrence when walking down the street. I walk past workmen of some sort and they stop what they are doing, collectively look at me for a moment as I approach and then say “Hi, Good Morning”. I know it sounds innocent, but in my head I am thinking; leave me the hell alone. I am walking here. Do you stop and greet everyone that goes past? How many men have you paused to greet this morning. I feel suddenly like I am no longer a person walking down the street, but a sexual object walking along.
3. Date: 20th May 2011. Time: approx 1:30 am. Place: City Centre, walking the 2 blocks from a friends party to my apartment. Sleaze: I walk out of the apartment building and onto the street. Unfortunately at the same time a group of about 5 men are also walking past. They stop, start making noises and cat calls then effectively surround me in a half circle blocking my movement. One of them moves towards me and shouts something I didnt quite catch, but that include the word ‘madame’. I stiffen, hold my head up high and push through, ignoring them as best I can. Despite having been at a great party for most of the night, by the time I get home I am so full of rage I cant sleep. (so I do some ranty writing and furious tweets.)
4. Date: 25th May 2011. Time: approx 10 am. Place: City Centre, walking along my street on the way to work. Sleaze: Another workman incident. Pretty similar to #2.
I will try and keep updating this as these events occur, which no doubt they will…
Unfortunately this is an all too regular occurrence here in Spain. On my way to work this morning, a taxi driver in a registered city cab slowed down to practically kerb crawl the pavement I was walking on and spout inappropriate sexual noises and comments at me. The street was ‘one way’ so I walked behind the cab, crossed the road and continued walking. He was going in the direction I was so he then waited higher up the road on a corner, stopping the cab to ogle me.
I showed him the middle finger as I passed behind his car again and continued with my journey walking away from him. He started shouting “Fea, fea!” (Ugly, ugly) out of his window and across the street at me. In the space of a minute I had gone from ‘sexy and gorgeous’ to ‘ugly’ in his eyes.
I shouted back that he was disgusting and had no respect.
This type of bullshit happens on pretty much a daily basis out here in Madrid and it usually comes from a generation above mine (40-60 year old men). In the last few months, I have decided to “hollaback”; inspired by the movement after an American friend of mine out here told me about it.
The last time I holla’d back before today I got called a c***. It seems you are expected to take this crap but should you even have the ‘audacity’ to respond negatively to these creeps, you get verbally abused.
I wished I had taken his photo and will do so the next time it happens. I will also report such events in the future.
yesterday i had to go to a 5 pm class, which really irritated me to no end,i just wasnt feeling very good with myself. to get to my school i have to walk like 7 minutes after i get off the bus, so i was walking on the sidewalk and i had my ipod on, because really is an off day when i dont get honked at or called at, its just freaking annoying and it makes me very angry. So im walking and 3 guys are walking towards me and i was in hurry so i was walking fast and after i walk by them one of them makes a hand movement as if he was going to touch me (but he didnt), all i could do was to raise my hand to stop his as i said asshole under my breath, one of the guys hears and laughs, which makes me mad, and it took everything in me to not turn around and yell like a maniac, so i continue walking and after i walked by a car wash where aproximately 4 guys were working they started to call me baby, mamacita and nasty stuff, i did hear them but really i had no energy to say anything(i usually turn around and start yelling at them or i tell them to fuck off or give them the finger or something, ANYTHING!) and when they didnt see any reaction from me they just yelled *you are fat* instantly my self steem was at the floor, i felt like crap, so much that i almost cried right then and there. After my class i walked to the bus stop and as im standing there waiting for it, a guy in a motorcycle passes by stares at me and i dont stare back and avert my eyes from his and when he passed right by my side he said *you are fat anyway* that day was awful i mean why do they think they have the right to say ANYTHING about a person’s body? and why do we let it affect us SO damn much?? why do we let men control us?
It’s 2:55pm and I’ve just gotten off the bus ready to get my son from school. I’m loaded down with shopping (board games in big, flat, colourful bags) and I’m clearly in a hurry.
I’m walking along in my typical “Leave me be” fashion – not making eye contact with anyone; keeping a fast, purposeful pace; trying to keep a look of determination on my face.
I pass a cook shop. There’s a guy in the doorway. “Good afternoon, Young Lady,” he says to me. Seems innocuous enough. For community’s sake, I reply “Hi” without slowing down. This was a mistake.
“Hey! Baby! Why so hurried! Get your ass back here, baby!”
I’m still processing this (In my mind, my cocky, confident persona is taking a bashing, “Does this guy know who he’s messing with?” I saying to myself in an Emergency Inner Pep Talk, “I’m going to ruin his ass come August”) as the guy immediately in front of me turns around to see what the first guy is yelling about. He stops right in front of me so suddenly I almost pile into the back of him.
Asshole #1 is still calling to me from his doorway. Asshole #2 decides to join in.
This is the first time in YEARS I’ve experienced a moment of panic; there’s no escape route. Major road to one side, buildings to my other. Harassing Guy #1 is behind and this other asshole is right in front of me. Better yet, I’m frozen in the spot wondering what the hell to do while Guy #2 is reaching his hand out toward me.
“Get the fuck away” I mumble. I move the shopping to my other hand, so it forms a barrier between me and his hand and push past him. Everything I’ve learned about rape and sexual assault is scrolling, Terminator-style, through my mind. My first thought isn’t to hurt him to defend myself; my only thought is to escape.
Five yards ahead is a shop where I go sometimes with my son. I fumble my way in there and stand with my back against the wall. Not quite sure what to do now, I wait a couple of beats while the guy behind the counter asks me if I’m okay. I am, I tell him so. I look at my watch – it’s almost time for my son to get collected.
It’s only this thought that gets me moving again. The truth is, I could have stayed in the shop for an hour, but my son needs me to be at school.
I step out, both assholes have gone: it’s just another rainy day in Bristol and while their days are continuing uninterrupted, mine has been marred. That same old feeling of powerlessness is back again, the “What Ifs” are playing in my head as I get to school and wait for my son to come out. Suddenly I can’t wait to get home, to log on and to Hollaback. And now I’ve written out what happened, I’m already feeling calmer and safer.
I’m starting a Hollaback in Bristol in August; I like to think I know enough about street harassment to remain cool and unflustered. Goes to show, you can never really be prepared – all the responses I’ve drilled in my head came to nothing. Now I’m home, fear has turned to fury – I find I’m blaming myself: did I overreact? Should I have answered the first guy? Did I really need to use that bus-stop instead of the next? Was I “asking for it” by reciprocating? Was my aggression really warranted?
The truth is, in that moment I was trapped between two guys who were giving me obviously unwanted advances: one was shouting for my attention, the other was making physical advances. I’m now feeling incredibly angry and more determined than ever to end this kind of culture that allows men to randomly surround a woman who clearly wasn’t interested in anything other than getting where she was going.
I’m more determined than ever to stop these assholes.
“I’m not your sweetheart.”
The other day, I got into a livery cab, which I often do when I travel from Washington Heights to go downtown. I indulge in this guilty pleasure especially when I’m going toward the East Side, which takes a monstrous amount of time to get to from the Heights. Typically, I do a “street hail,” because it seems to save time, as well as money. This means that I take certain precautions when getting in a cab, so that I don’t have any problems, which I’ll detail in another post. Well, this cab seemed alright, as in, the driver seemed courteous, and not creepy. So I got in and everything seemed to be going OK, when he decided to go a different way than the way that I had requested him to go, which unfortunately resulted in us missing several lights, getting caught in traffic etc. So I politely said that I really preferred to take the other route to the Harlem River Drive. He responded by calling me “sweetheart,” which, considering the circumstances, was pretty condescending.
I immediately said, “Don’t call me sweetheart!” He seemed very surprised, and perhaps had never received that response before. As an older man, I suspect that he probably had called young women that throughout his life, and was never called to task for it. And honestly, I’ve been called that so many times before by men of a certain age, that I thought I had almost become insensitive to it ~ the operative word here being “almost.” It’s so common, that it’s easy to tell yourself that “they don’t mean anything by it,” which is exactly the response I received when I spoke up to this cab driver. But just because something offensive/patronizing has become normalized, doesn’t make it in the least bit acceptable. And I don’t think I’m alone in this view.
When I told him not to call me that, I elaborated the reason ~ not with the obvious one, of him being condescending to me given the specific circumstances, but of the real reason. I told him that it was considered a term that should only be used between a husband and wife, and a boyfriend and girlfriend, and that it indicated that the man had a sexual relationship with the woman. This statement of course stopped him dead in his tracks, so to speak. Now, I know that parents sometimes call their son or daughters this as well, as a term of endearment, but I wanted to drive home to him the fact that it was a term only used between people who had an intimate relationship with one another, and that it wasn’t acceptable to use in other settings. Well, he got the message, and at that moment professed undying love to his dear wife, saying that he never meant to come on to me. It totally worked ~ he understood what I was trying to say, and did actually apologize.
When will men learn that calling women whom they’ve just met, “sweetheart” is not acceptable? When we start calling them on it, each clueless person at a time. And that’s how change works.