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For years I was continually getting “flashed”—in parking lots, libraries, through a window I happened to pass! This happened every couple years from the time I was 14 or 15. My typical response was shock, shame, disgust, and humiliation. I’d bury my face in my hands and walk quickly away.
At one point I’d had enough. I was in my 30’s (pathetic that it took so long, I know) walking down the street of my home town (to a therapy appointment no less) and this guy across the street in an alley was standing naked holding his overcoat wide open. This time a rush of rage and a power that made me feel like the Medusa welled up in me and I started yelling at the top of my lungs: “How dare you do that to me, you stupid shit! You are sick! For heaven’s sake GO GET HELP!!” He shut up his coat in a flash, spun around, and walked away as fast as he could. I was breathless and shaken when I got to my therapists office and he didn’t seem to understand why I was so upset. I should have called him a stupid shit.
The weird thing: I was NEVER “flashed” again.
This 58 year old loves your website advocating hollering back–and is so heartened to see young women get pissed. Yell your heads off girls!
Submitted by Barbra
I am at 14th street with my daughter last week. I was talking to my daughter who is 10 and I notice this guy is flicking his tongue at me and “adjusting his jeans” directly across from me. As soon as I noticed this I took out my phone and tried to get his picture. He looked freaked out and got off at grand central! I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture but it worked and got the perv off the train. My daughter didn’t notice anything because she had her nose in her book. What balls this guy has.
Submitted by Samantha
A few weeks ago I was sexually assaulted at a company holiday party by someone I regarded as a friend. I was verbally harassed, pinned against a wall and touched inappropriately. When it happened I couldn’t move, I felt so helpless, but whether by my instincts or him releasing me, I got away. I was lucky that it wasn’t worse and have reported the incident to my superior. The issue is now being dealt with by corporate and this guy is suspended and most likely going to be terminated. I’ve also since learned that before me that night, he sexually/verbally harassed at least two other women. This guy is a pig and doesn’t even remember his attack on me, so while he gets to imagine what happened, I have to deal with this bullshit and re-build my confidence.
The day after this happened, I left my apartment once during the day to get soup and bread. I was wearing work out pants and a hoodie; as I was walking down the street, this guy walks by me tells me ‘nice body’. I wanted to scream and scream at him. I have never felt so vulnerable in my life and then I have this guy ‘compliment’ me like I am some piece of meat? It was like adding salt to the wound.
Actions and comments like this need need to be recognized as socially unacceptable and it’s important for women (or anyone!) to speak out against this behavior. No one deserves to be objectified and harassed.
Submitted by Natalie.
It was rather late, I’d say around 1 AM, and I decided to run to the 24 hour bodega around the corner. As I turned the corner I walked by two men, who I noticed were watching me walk by, nothing harmful in that. On my way back from the bodega I noticed that they were still there. As I approached their standing point, I heard one of them say “How about taking some dark chocolate home tonight, baby?” as I walked by them. Well, they were not selling any sort of food items so I realized that this was his pathetic attempt to pick me up. I simply replied “That’s okay, my saltines and orange juice will do” and kept walking.
Do guys really think saying these things to complete strangers will make a woman fall madly in love with them and accept their vulgar invitation? I really don’t understand their thinking.
Submitted by Beth
I was on the LIRR train on my way home from school when a man sat down next to me and began trying to strike up a conversation. I was cordial, but then began ignoring him as he clearly started trying to hit on me. After about 15 minutes, he took his phone out, tried to casually hold it with his right arm (the side next to me), and slanted it up so that it was angled between my legs and up my dress. This all happened in seconds. Then, I heard the distinctive click of a camera sound.
I was stunned, but after a second or two I stood up and immediately started screaming at the man in front of the other passengers. In my shock that something like this had actually happened to me, it was cathartic to stand in front of him and all the other passengers and recount what he had done. I called him a “disgusting pig” and said “how dare you take an upskirt picture of me.” I wanted all the other passengers to know what he did, in hopes that if nothing else, he would be embarrassed by his perverted act.
Being a law student, I knew that immediately I wanted to create a record of what had happened. After I told the person who had taken tickets for my car, and he alerted the conductor (who, in turn, alerted the police), I turned around and walked back towards the man. He had plugged in his phone to charge it and while he was talking on it I held up my phone and took two pictures of him, while saying “how do you like having your picture taken.”
Although he got off the train at the next stop, I gave the police his pictures and all the information the man had volunteered when he was trying to hit on me on the train. He gave me his nickname (Alejandro) and his Myspace name. I also had gotten contact information from a man sitting in front of me who had witnessed the incident.
Two days later, I took the morning train out of Jamaica on the Ronkonkoma line. A few stops before I got off, Alejandro, the SAME man who had taken a picture up my dress, came up to me and sat down right across from me. Instantly, I was fearful and started looking around to see my options if I had to get away from him or if I needed to alert someone. Remarkably, he didn’t seem to recognize me at all.
I took advantage of this, and when he hit on me, using all the same lines as he had before, I played into it. I kept my head to the side so he could only see my profile and kept my sunglasses on, in case he suddenly had a flash of recognition. I found out his full name, his job, where he lived, and his phone number. I told him fake details about my life when he asked and stared at his phone every time he took it out so that I could give the police its exact details.
When I got off the train, I immediately contacted the detective the police department had put me in touch with and gave him all the information.
I ended up setting up a fake “date” with the man and the detectives I worked with were able to catch him. He had 17 prior convictions on his record, ranging from more benign crimes to violent ones. He also had a warrant out because he had skipped out on his probation meeting. I cooperated with the Assistant District Attorney and told my story to aid in his conviction of “Unlawful Surveillance.”
Women should feel that they have the right and ability to embarrass their harassers; but, it’s also important to follow through and report the incident with the police. Use your words, use your cameras, and use your ability to share your stories.
Submitted by Emily
I had finished work early and was heading to the public library to return a book. I was walking along Cambridge Street, listening to my iPod quite loudly to drown out the sound of the cars. A man (probably late teens/early 20s) walked by me. Because my music was so loud, it was like a whisper, but I could hear him say something along the lines of “You’re beautiful.” It took a few seconds for me to process what happened, and normally in this kind of situation I would just tell him to “fuck off.”
But I decide to try something different. I stopped and turn around. He must have realized that I’d stopped, as he also turned around, and I said, “Does that ever work for you?”
He’s asking how what he said was so wrong, that it was a compliment. I told him that I’m a complete stranger walking along the street, listening to my iPod. He said, “Yeah, I saw you with your music. I can’t believe you even heard me,” and I said, “Well, I did, and I don’t need you to compliment me. That’s not why I exist.”
He said that he didn’t mean to offend me, and that he’s sorry if he did. I told him that I appreciate that he’s sorry, but I’m trying to let him know that, even though he didn’t mean to be offensive, many women (including me) do take it that way, so he should watch what he says from now on. He slinks away and says again that he’s sorry that I was offended (which is still missing the point, but it’s a start).
I then walked away feeling like maybe I had overreacted. Even writing this now, I still kind of feel that way. But at the same time I’m thinking, if you know I couldn’t hear you, why were you saying it out loud? To prove something to yourself? Hopefully next time he’s tempted to say something similar to a stranger, he’ll think about it more.
Submitted by G.
Badass subway hero Nicola Briggs is being given an award for standing up to her predator on December 16th. Briggs will receive the first “Shero” from the Professional Women of Westchester and a diamond peace sign necklace from D’Errico’s Jewelry at D’Errico Jewelry’s 25th Anniversary Celebration. Richard D’Errico, co-founder of the store, was impressed with Briggs’s bravery and wants to honor her at the celebration. Briggs, a martial arts and Tai Chi instructor in Bronxville, NY, says, “No one should feel ashamed when they are targeted by a sexual predator. The experience of shame needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator, where it belongs.” Everyone is welcome to attend. The event will take place at D’Errico’s 25th Anniversary Celebration tomorrow, December 16 at 6PM at their 509 Central Avenue log cabin store in Scarsdale, NY. So, please come out and help celebrate Nicola Briggs’s victory in the fight against street harassment!
For more information, call Tony Seideman at 914-737-8776, or e-mail [email protected].
This happened when I was 16 and in Montreal for the Just for Laughs Festival. It was crowded on the streets, more crowded than any concert I’ve ever been to. We all seemed to be migrating to the same place. I thought it was sort of funny and some older guy behind me was laughing about it. I turned around and smiled since it was nice we both found the humour in it. He had olive skin, was probably 25 years older than me, dark hair, a few inches shorter than me (I’m about 6ft). When I was facing forward I felt his hands feeling my ass, tickling, trying to get up my skirt. I was in such shock that all I could think to do was tell my twin sister who was directly in front of me. She turned her head around, glared, and told him to stop it. He stopped and acted put off like it was some innocent misunderstanding. I’m so thankful my sister was there, it made me stronger.
I’m proud to say I was raised by very strong female figures and men who respected women. Even with that, though, I still questioned what I did to get that unwanted attention. Was I wrong to be in a good mood, to smile at a stranger, did I invite the behaviour? I dismissed these ideas but it made me cautious of who I gave any sort of attention.
Even now, as a 25 yr old living alone downtown in Edmonton, I purposely avoid eye contact, listen to my iPod where ever I walk alone, wear sunglasses as long as it’s sunny enough. I think it’s smart to be aware of ones surroundings, not make yourself a target for unwanted interactions and behaviour but it’s sad that I have to be so on guard at all hours of the day. It speaks volumes of the society women live in.
Submitted by Chantelle
About 10 years ago, my sister and I were traveling to Dubrovnik on a bus from Split. She was sitting in the back row with another traveling companion, while I chose to sit a few rows up to take advantage of 2 empty seats so I could stretch out and cat nap.
I awoke to the realization that the man (about in his 20’s) seated behind me had slipped his hand between the seats and was groping my ass. I, not to mince words, freaked out. I immediately stood up and began a furious diatribe at the man in English, my only tongue, making sure it was loud enough that the whole bus could hear what I was saying. Though many on the bus may not have understood all of my words, I have found through extensive travel that English swear words usually are understood universally in most of Europe, and so peppered my righteous screed with them. I’m a carpenter’s daughter and learned the skill of spontaneous and poetic strings of profanity from an early age. As I was doing this, and without thinking, I grabbed my almost full water bottle from the seat, unscrewed the cap and proceeded to pour it out all over my harasser, who was stunned into immobility by my reaction, and obviously embarrassed and ashamed. A couple more “fuck you’s” and “don’t fucking touch me again, asshole” and I sat down. At the next stop most of the passengers got out for a leg stretch including this still soaking-wet guy, who skulked away towards the end of the bus alone to smoke. I noticed several other passengers pointing and laughing at him.
The coolest thing was my sister telling our Italian male companion during the incident decidedly that, no, I didn’t need his help. The worst was his commentary (after I explained to him exactly what happened) in essence that I was overreacting; after all, harassment like this doesn’t really harm anyone, and most men in Italy and Croatia do it so it’s okay, also European women expect it. That pissed me off more than the groping.
But I bet the jerk who grabbed me will think twice about ever trying that again, if only to avoid another “crazy American bitch”.
Submitted by Jill C.
This happened so long ago I can hardly remember the year. I’m fairly certain I was six years old. Yes, six. I went down the street with my brother to his friend’s house for a visit. My brother’s friend had some older siblings who were in junior high at the time. They got my brother and I into a shed in the backyard, shoved some porn under my nose and asked me to disrobe and mimic the poses. I said no-I’ve always been stubborn, and being raised in a feminist household meant I knew I didn’t have to take this, even at such a tender age. They threatened to beat up my brother if I didn’t comply, and continued to verbally harass me, but I didn’t buy it. My brother and I went home and told my parents, who were horrified. I got an apology from my brother’s friend, but to this day this memory hurts me. I’m twenty years old, and it still hurts me. And now, when I walk down the streets of my college town and get “Hey baby, where you going?” or “you’re sexy” or “how old are you” or “those are some nice boots *insert leer here*” or even “now THAT lady looks like she needs to get FUCKED,” it just all seems like an ongoing story, one that I wish would end. What devastates me the most is the knowledge that I’ve actually been one of the lucky ones, because I haven’t been assaulted or raped, “just” harassed and lightly touched. If this is what privilege looks like, what being lucky looks like, we have so much more work to do. Thanks so much, Hollaback, for providing this space, for a sense of solidarity and community, and thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
Submitted by Tep