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I was in the lower level of the Century 21 Shoe Department in the Financial District a few weeks ago, where I witnessed a middle-aged man taking photos on his cell phone of a woman in a skirt trying on shoes. Being familiar with your website I tend to be aware of potentially harassing behavior, unfortunately I did not have my phone on me to snap a pic of him. I noticed the man standing behind a circular rack of rainboots doing something with his cell phone, as I looked around I continued to notice his unusual behavior. Then I noticed the woman in the skirt trying on shoes, as she stood up to look in the mirror he stuck his phone below her skirt to snap a photo, at which point I yelled “what do you think you’re doing!?!?” He pretended to be bending over to pick up a pair of boots off the rack. I told the woman what he was doing.
Just wanted to let everyone know to beware of this creep the next time you’re trying on shoes.
Submitted by Ashley
This is the ninth video in the “Why I Hollaback” series. “Why I Hollaback” tells the story of how and why folks decide to take the leap, speak up, and start Holla’ing back. We will release a new story every Monday and accept submissions from all over the world. So tell us your story — Why do you Hollaback?
Two days ago, I was walking to my car after work. A man was walking down the sidewalk in parallel, and I noticed him because he was staring at me intently. I didn’t feel comfortable, so I waited for him to pass before I continued to the parking lot. When I reached my car, I saw he had stopped at the parking lot entrance, unzipped his pants, and was shaking his penis at me, making sure I was watching.
Frankly, I’ve seen this enough times in my life that it doesn’t shock me anymore. And I’ve found it’s better not to react – men who do this seem to revel in the attention (although one time when it happened in a safe public place, I did yell out to people nearby to check out the man with the small penis – that shamed him pretty quickly! I would not recommend this in all situations, but boy, was it satisfying).
So I got in my car, followed him down the street, then slowed down long enough to take the attached picture. I didn’t really care if I got a clear shot; I just wanted him to think I did. In fact, I never thought I would even look at the photo again.
But now I can do something with this photo. Even if it’s never posted, it’s heartening to know there are people who take this seriously and are doing something about it. So thank you. Please keep doing what you’re doing!
Submitted by Erin
It was summer 2009, maybe 6pm, and I was walking back from putting my laundry in the wash at a laundry mat right off of Washington Square Park on West 4th street in NYC.
I was wearing shorts, a billowy t-shirt, and flip flops. I had my ipod on. A man who looked to be around 50 years old stood right in my walking line directly in front of me. He motioned for me to remove my headphones, and I assumed he’d ask for directions. “Yes?” I asked. And then he said, “I want to lick your asshole dry.” Not knowing what to do, after a second I yelled in his face really loud “Go fuck yourself,” and he started walking away. I starred at him and he kept looking back glaring angrily at me. He legitimately seemed surprised by my angry response.
I don’t understand why they always seem so shocked when you get pissed off. What do they really think will happen?
In retrospect I wish I had physically assaulted him in some way, and I generally don’t ever feel the urge to be violent in life, but when things like this happen, I do.
As women we get stuck in a hard position where, we can’t fight back because you never know if the sicko harrassing you is willing to kill you or physically hurt you too. I wish more passersby, men in particular, were willing to step in when they witness this crap. Not that it’s fair, but men seem to react to men differently than a woman when they step up in confrontation.
-Pissed Off in the Park
I’m sick of being harrassed. Love your site and what you’re doing for women everywhere. Really makes a difference.
Submitted by Mary
Hi Holla Back,
The incident I’m writing to you about happened a few months ago. I wish I had known about your site at the time- I just read about it today on Jezebel. After reading through many entries on your website I decided to write in and tell what happened to me. My story is very similar to Sarah’s from December 4, 2009. I wonder if perhaps it was the same man.
I was commuting to work one morning last winter on the downtown W train between 59th and 23rd. The train wasn’t packed tightly, but it was rush hour so it was standing room only. I had a seat on the bench. I vaguely took note of a man standing a couple of feet away. Not sure why exactly, but I suppose subconsciously alarm bells were going off in my head. He wasn’t really dressed appropriately for the season, and he wasn’t carrying a bag or anything. He was wearing jeans and a very large baggy hooded sweatshirt with one of those kangaroo pockets in front. When the woman sitting next to me got off he immediately, very quickly, took her seat with his hands in the pocket of his sweatshirt, He sat there, just like that, with his hands on his lap in the pocket of his sweatshirt, the whole time. Out of the corner of my eye I observe his hands moving in his pocket. His head tilts back, his facial expression almost pained, and he moans several times very faintly. Now, a more experienced NYer would have seen this coming a mile ahead. I had only been in the city for about a year at that time and was still incredibly naive. As it slowly dawned on my stupid, sleepy, brain what was happening, I stood up, shocked, and waited by the door for my stop. Still reeling, I continued to observe him. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind he was masturbating. With an entire train of commuters around him. I look back and think what an idiot I was to have done nothing. I should have said something. I should have yelled. I should have taken a picture. I should have immediately gotten off the train and found a cop or told an MTA employee. But in that moment I felt totally powerless by the shock, disbelief, and humiliation. And somewhere in the back of my brainwashed-girl-head I didn’t want to embarrass HIM. What the fuck?! I have since observed this same technique of public masturbation on another occasion. I want the women of this city to be aware that this is happening. To know this is unacceptable. And to REACT.
I hope my story can help someone else. It took me far to long to realize what was happening, and I was so shocked by it I couldn’t act. I know better now. I’m going to pass along the link to your website to all my lady friends. Hopefully we can make a difference.
The interview answers all the hard questions that it’s taken us five years to sort out: what is street harassment? What’s up with that anti-racism policy? What about the men?
Check it out, here.
I was taking the D train at Coney Island with a friend of mine. We were sitting and chatting, waiting for the train to move. Suddenly a man in his late 50s or early 60s to mid 60s came on the train and sat right across from me and my friend. We didn’t take note of it, even though there were clearly many other available seats. So we just ignored it. Anyways, we continued to chat until a few moments later, I felt I was being watched. So I looked across from me and I saw the old guy staring at me. Then I noticed his legs were spread wide open and he had his hands down by his crotch, so I wondered why and looked down. I was disgusted and shocked at the same time. His penis was hanging out of his pants and he was furiously rubbing the head. I freaked out and screamed. My friend asked me what happened cause she wasn’t facing the guy. So I told her what I saw and she freaked out as well, too scared to look. We both quickly ran to the end of the train. But still, the guy had his eyes on us and was staring back. In fact, his expression appeared as if he was ready to ” release. ” After we got to a stop, my friend and I ran to another cart. Thankfully, the old guy didn’t follow us. After we got off our stop, I was emotionally and visually scarred for the rest of the day. I can’t understand why it happened. I didn’t wear anything relieving at all. In fact, I was covered head to toe, the only thing exposed was my face. My clothes were also not form fitting either. It was around winter, in mid February, so I wore lots of layers. I had gloves and hat on. Ever since then, I became even more paranoid about taking the train.. I really wish something could’ve been done. I’m glad I’m not the only one in NY that has experienced this kind of situation. Better now, we can all work together and fight against this.
I really wish I knew about this website before the incident happened. I wish I did something at the time, but like many other women here, it’s a powerless situation.
Submitted by Virginia
Something bizarre and scary happened to me yesterday. I’ve spoken to the police, but there’s nothing they can do. I feel like people need to know that this happened so that, if it happens again, perhaps they’ll think more quickly than me and someone can catch the person who hurt me.
On Sunday, May 2, somewhere between 11 and 11:15 am, I was walking up the steps to the 7 train subway platform on 46th Street in Sunnyside, Queens. I noticed a man who I felt was walking too close to me, but didn’t think much of it.
I then felt a burning and a thick dripping on the back of my right thigh. This is gross, but the only way I can explain it is it felt like I’d shat my pants and it was aflame somehow. I reached back and felt that my jeans were not wet but had become partially solid. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it didn’t make sense to me either. All I could think was “someone threw hot wax on me” or “could something in my jeans have spontaneously melted?” I looked for the man who had been too close, but he was gone. I was alarmed, but mostly confused.. I can’t really explain what it felt like, but all I kept thinking was “why did someone throw wax on me?” and wondering how they could have done that, short of carrying around a lit candle.
I was traveling to the LIRR station at Woodside to commute to work on Long Island so I couldn’t go home to change my pants. I was extremely uncomfortable the entire ride and when I got to work I told a friend what had happened. He pointed out that if my jeans had a polyester content, a flame or acid could have caused them to melt and solidify. His first guess was that someone had held a lighter or cigarette to my pants. When I took off my pants I found two raised singe/burn marks on the back of my leg. There was no hole in my jeans. I believe that someone threw a chemical on me which burned me through my pants and also caused my pants to melt/solidify where the chemical had been.
I didn’t get back to the city until around 11 pm and so couldn’t call 311 until this morning. When I told them what happened they forwarded me to 911 who sent two officers to my apartment. The policemen agreed that it seemed like I’d been attacked with a chemical. They said that I was welcome to file a report but that since I didn’t actually see anything it didn’t make a lot of sense. They said what they usually do in such a situation is spread the word through their precinct so that people will keep their eyes and ears open.
Much as I wish they’d taken my pants to forensics or something, I do agree that filing a report is kind of pointless beyond recording that it happened, and I’m frustrated and confused. All I can think to do to make myself feel better is to spread the word myself. Maybe if another woman feels a strange burning through her clothes, she’ll think faster than I did. It was just such a strange thing (whose pants burn and solidify as they walk down the street?) that I couldn’t even process that this was any sort of attack until I was able to remove my pants and check my skin.. but unfortunately, by that time it was hours later and I was in another county.
I wish I had been paying more attention to the guy (not that I can say for sure it was him, but I don’t know who else could have done it..), or snapped him with my camera, or something.. he was almost completely nondescript: mid-height, mid-weight, probably in his 30s, wearing a red shirt. I’ve attached pictures of my jeans, and also one of my burn (which has proven virtually impossible to photograph.. the attached photo is after I removed my bandaid).
Thank you so much for helping me warn other women!
Submitted by Shoshanna
We’ve come a long way, baby. We’ve come so far that it’s time for Hollaback to move from being a blog to a full fledged organization. You can get a sneak peak of our new site on ihollaback.org.
You have the power to end street harassment, and it starts right here.