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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.
I was out for my birthday with a friend. My friend and I decided to step outside and take my pool stick to her car so we could start dancing. As we were exiting the building, I see a man grab my friend’s ass. She batted his hands away and kept going. I looked the fool dead in the eye and told him, “Don’t touch me.” He made a move as if to grab my crotch and I grabbed him by the thumb, gave it a twist and started pushing him and shouting. When I had him pinned into the corner with his thumb in a tight bind, I asked him loudly, “Do you want to die in that shirt?!?” Then dislocated his thumb for him. He crumpled to the floor and the bouncer, who had witnessed the whole thing, started complaining that I had acted badly. I looked him in the eye and asked, “What would you want your daughter to do?”
The groper went to the hospital and the bouncer bought me a drink. My friend and I continued our evening not only unmolested, but treated with respect and dignity.
I’m not advocating violence, but sometimes you have to break the fingers that touch you.
Submitted by Jenna
As a bartender, I am verbally harassed all night every night by men of the lowest common denominator who assume that, because I am standing behind a bar, I am available, interested, easy, slutty, a drunk, would like nothing more than to go home with them at the end of my shift, am interested in hearing their comments about my body, enjoy being called sweetheart, muffin, baby, honey, and other fun names, and really get off on being blatantly mentally undressed by strangers for hours at a time.
When they are inevitably rebuffed, I am called no fun, uptight, stuck up, a bitch, or, if the person is of color, I may even be called a racist. Sometimes people get violent, throw things, make threats at this point, and the police have to be called–and of course, by the time they get there, my assailant is long gone. Many people have told me that I should expect to be the recipient of harassment because of my profession, the clothes I wear, the shape of my body, or for not being “tough enough.”
In actuality I am just a regular woman doing her job who considers verbal harassment a form of violence and intimidation. Lately it’s gotten really bad, not just at work, but at home in my neighborhood, on the train, on the street, wherever. If I am not with my husband–and sometimes even if I am!–it feels like I get harassed non-stop. It’s enough to make me want to leave New York sometimes, which I love.
It’s really hard for me not to internalize. It just bothers me so much. On those days when I’m really upset about it, I come to this site and it makes me feel a hundred times better. Thanks for giving us an outlet for our stories to be heard.
Submitted by Jackie
Wales’ government sponsored campaign at ending a rape culture of victim-blaming scores extra points this week from Hollaback. Stop Blame defines sexual assault as “unwanted sexual behaviour directed towards another person that causes humiliation, pain, fear, shame, intimidation or mental suffering,” and asks us to stop handing perpetrators the excuses they need to justify their actions:
“The rapist and society use the same, tired old excuses, time and time again-she was promiscuous, she was drunk, her skirt was so VERY short. She was asking for it.
Well here’s news – No matter how short her skirt or whether she put up a physical fight – No woman, or any of her actions, is responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted. No woman is EVER asking for it.”