Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Denver, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Lubbock TX, Manhattan KS, Muncie IN, New Orleans, New York City, NYU, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Fernando Valley, San Francisco, SUNY Oneonta, Tucson, Twin Cities
I’m in my early 20s and a student at a community college. It was late in the evening a month or so ago, and I was on campus walking to class and passed by a group of young men who were talking and joking around with each other. As I proceeded to walk one of them started to loudly make comments like “Hey, you. Can I get your number?” I knew he was talking to me, but I ignored him hoping that wasn’t the case.
I realized that the group was now walking behind me, and I didn’t know what to do. I had never been harassed in public before. I ignored them and kept walking, not indicating that I had heard them at all, but they continued to follow me saying, “Hey, I like girls with square backpacks.” That one almost made me laugh at how ridiculous it was before he said, “Hey, you in the green shirt, I’m talking to you.” I started to get really afraid that they’d try to follow me into the parking structure that I usually cut through and began to walk faster, taking an alternate route where there were more people. Eventually I stopped hearing them behind me. The whole time I could hear the guy laughing with his friends.
A couple of weeks afterwards I was waiting for the city bus and a guy looking to be in his fifties came up to me to ask me what time the bus usually came. I answered him and he walked away. He ended up getting on my bus, and sat a few seats away. As we got closer to campus, he switched seats to sit closer to me, and after asking if I was on my way to school, to which I replied yes, he out of nowhere turned and asked me, “Hey, do you want to go out with me?” I was startled, but I calmly and clearly replied, “No.” He then asked if I was over eighteen to which I replied, without thinking, yes. He continued to try to convince me, asking if I was sure because he had “a Starbucks gift card.” I again replied no. I didn’t feel threatened at the time, just because it seemed so random and he didn’t act upset or threatening; I just thought he was weird/creepy.
However, the next week as I was boarding the bus to go home, I heard someone say hi to me. I began to say hello before I realized it was the same guy. I immediately went to a seat far away from him, but as soon as I sat down he got up and took the seat behind me. It scared me that I couldn’t see him. I immediately took out my phone and dialed the first person I thought would answer. I was really freaked out and didn’t want him to try and talk to me. I talked on the phone about anything I could think of for the entire trip. After I got off, I kept looking behind me, afraid he’d follow me. When I told my sister she told me I should just take one of the metro buses instead, but I was reluctant because the city bus drops me off much closer to home, and I thought that surely he couldn’t be on the bus at all times of the day, as I had never seen him prior to this and I had been taking that bus for years.
Even so, I took the metro bus for a few days, before the weather turned especially warm and I decided to try the city bus one more time. The bus was unusually full, and I took a seat in the front where there were no available seats around me, I thought I was in the clear before the same creep came up beside me in the aisle and presented me with a flower asking me if I wanted it. I said no, and he asked again, I again said no. He left, and I got off early at one of the busier bus stops afraid he’d try to bother me off the bus. That was over a month ago and I haven’t taken that bus since.
Before these incidents I had heard about street harassment and recognized it as an issue, but I had never experienced it myself. I wasn’t prepared for how afraid and insecure it made me feel, I wish I would have said something at the time, but I don’t know if it would have mattered. I feel like it was so obvious both guys were bothering me, and in the second case it freaked me out even more that he didn’t seem to take my answer at face value. It made me afraid that he didn’t seem to have a clear sense of what the word “no” meant. I mean I repeatedly rejected him with my words and body language. Why should I have to bluntly and loudly confront him? Ugh, it happened weeks ago and I’m still thinking I should have told him off.
It was a balmy summer evening, and I was walking home from the subway along Flatbush Avenue. Just ahead of me was a girl in her early twenties in a pair of shorts. Men started hooting, and one of them began following her down the street and aggressively asking for her number, her name, and a date. She kept walking, and he kept following. I came up next to her and asked if she’d like a walk home. She quickly said yes, and I slid my arm into her’s and we walked together. The hooting kept up, but the stalking stopped. After a block I asked if she was ok, and she smiled and said yes.
As upset as I was (and still am), it feels good to be able to do something.
15 years ago, when I was 15 years old, I got off my school bus and was walking home with my saxophone case in one hand. A young adult man came up from behind me and lifted my school uniform skirt. He looked me in the eyes to see my reaction, and when I started to chase him he started running. I had no chance to catch up to him, but I still ran for blocks. It was humiliating. People around me stared.
Later that year I was walking home from school. An older gardener man came up from behind me in his bike and grabbed my butt and sped off. I had no chance to even react. I felt muted.
A couple of months ago, I posted a success story on here regarding harassment near my workplace. I’ve been reading everyone’s stories since, and sadly there are so few where the victims are able to feel powerful after an incident.
I’ve decided to make it a point to share any successful experiences that I have, to hopefully inspire others to keep going, speak up, and take action. I believe that we can make a world of difference together. We really can.
The most recent experience occurred yesterday. This one was pretty hilarious. I was jogging down a main street in Hayward, California. At one point, I was running on a slight incline, enjoying the focus and pace. I heard a bicycle approaching in the street, alongside the sidewalk where I was. I always look when I hear a bike, to make sure the person is paying attention, not attempting to assault me, etc.
When I looked at the rider, he looked back at me in acknowledgement. Then he looked back again. And again. At that point, I asked, “What?” Not in a confrontational way, but as if you had spinach in your teeth and someone continued to stare. The dialogue was as follows:
Me: “I don’t know, man. You’re making me uncomfortable right now.”
Him: *laughs* “What?”
Me: “Wow, this is really awkward, the way you’re looking at me.”
Him: “I’m just looking at you, looking to see who you are. This is how I look at all the girls!”
Me: “You know I’m only 16, right?”
Him: *pauses and looks back in a double-take* “…Woooow. Woo, oh boy! Oh…” *throws both hands up and starts riding away with increasing speed*
Me: *laughing* “Yeah that’s right, buddy, you just keep on riding!”
He hauled ass out of there like you wouldn’t believe. I wish I had recorded his reaction, or even taken a picture. One of the best ones I’ve seen. I could still hear him in the distance as he was riding away, shaking his head and “woo!”-ing in fear of being caught for his predatory actions. He didn’t look back at me once after that!
I had so much positive energy after the incident, that I was able to jog home in half the time it would normally take me. I went home smiling, laughing, in good spirits. Because I took the power back in the situation.
The funny thing is, I’m actually 25. I mean, I’ll take the compliment, but when a grown man refers to all human females as “girls” regardless of age, I automatically get the vibe that they’re a predator. It’s offensive and insulting to women, but in this instance, I used it to my advantage. I dared to be a woman who stepped outside of her house without a man next to her, and I walked away with the power.
This week, Hollaback! was featured in The Guardian, ArtInFact Magazine, USA Today, Free Press, SheWired, MSNBC, Yahoo! Shine, Upworthy, Slate, NBC San Diego, Spotlight Magazine, Irish Independent, and The Province.
We held our second annual HOLLA::Revolution which included our Site Leader Retreat (pictured here)!! Stay tuned for an upcoming Storify and event re-cap from the Team! We also said farewell to our amazing Spring Interns, Arielle Humphries and Emily Shown, and welcomed our Summer Interns, Rebecca Ponce de Leon and Jessica Alvarez, reppin’ Duke’s Moxie Program.
Here’s what HOLLAs around the world have been up to:
Hollaback! Des Moines presented at Central Iowa Friends of Planned Parenthood’s monthly Choice on Tap Happy Hour!
Hollaback! LA was on a show called ‘Your Call’ via KALW 91.7fm public radio in San Francisco.
Hollaback! Philly‘s petition to San Diego Comic Con was dismissed by the company thus silencing over 2,000 people who said they don’t feel safe or protected with their vague, unenforced anti-harassment policy. They’re hosting three events between now and the convention where they will continue to push the petition and the effort. You can join the conversation on various social media platforms using #SDCCFAIL and #SDCCHARASSMENT. Last but not least, they will be delivering the petition in person to San Diego Comic Con to demand they hear the voices of the people telling the con they don’t feel safe or protected. You go, HB! Philly!
Til next week-
HOLLA and out!
- The Hollaback! Team
Teenage boy reached out and grabbed my vagina as he was walking past me with four of his friends and then they ran away laughing and shouted, “shut the fuck up bitch!”
Walking home from the gym, man walks behind me, shouts “I like your hair,” and I ignore him. He repeats himself, I continue ignoring so he yells, “fuck you!” This sort of thing happens every day to me in Seattle.
My phone had died at work and I had limited time so I decided to go running without it…no harm, I could manage a few miles without music.
Halfway through my run a green Subaru passed me and yelled “nice pussy” or “I want that pussy” or something to that effect. Either way, I made no reply or physical response and ran on. He then came back, passed again, and yelled further disgusting profanities.
Needless to say, I am keeping my eyes open more often as I run now… and I’m never running without music again.
I never had too much of an issue with street harassment on my campus until I lived in one of the dorms along a busier street. As soon as the weather got warm, the harassment started. I would get annoyed and tell my friends about the instances, but then didn’t think too much about exactly how frequently this was happening. After telling a friend about one particular instance, her response was “AGAIN??!” And that’s when I started keeping count.
I was harassed every day that first warm week of spring. And then several random times outside of that, including a guy in a car turning onto my campus who yelled “fa****” at my friend and I just because we were standing and chatting on a street corner.
What’s almost worse than the harassment is the fact that I want to respond (and have studied how and done research projects on street harassment), but I’m always too afraid that the guys will retaliate physically. I end up feeling so frustrated and helpless in the face of this thing I want to help stop.
I was walking alone in broad daylight along a busy street in downtown Ottawa.
“If you help me out I’ll give you free movie passes for a year.” A man appeared out of nowhere at my side with these words. I tensed up and started walking faster.
“What are you, a nervous twit?” he said.
“If you’re going to talk to me like that, I’m not going to help you,” I replied with more rationality than was necessary. I picked up my pace.
“Look at you, you nervous twit! I’m going to get my girlfriend to bang your head in!” He was walking with me now, two meters to my side.
I was horrified and veered away from him. Other pedestrians were in sight now, so he started to turn down a corner. I flipped him off as I continued walking away from him.
“You’re fucking ugly!” he yelled. I held my gesture in place for him and the oncoming pedestrians to see as I walked, and as he retreated from our incident back into the rest of the world.