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My boyfriend and I were on the 19 San Bruno bus going to Safeway. the bus was pretty full so he stood next to me in the aisle while I sat next to a stranger. the person next to me got off the bus so I moved over into the window seat and crossed my legs, putting my foot on the seat next to me to briefly save it for my boyfriend. before he could sit down, a man who had been sitting across the aisle, got out of his own seat, barged in front of my boyfriend, and sat down right on my foot! I said “excuse me I was saving this seat so my boyfriend could sit with me why did you have to get out of your own seat to sit next to me?” and also, y’know, get off my foot! he stood up, grabbed my leg hard, and roughly pulled it off the seat. then he leaned over me and literally uncrossed my legs with his hands, pulling them apart, and placing my foot on the floor. I tried to resist and keep my leg in place but he was being very rough and forceful using all of his strength to reposition me like some sort of doll. when he was done he just sat back down next to me and looked straight ahead like nothing had happened. I tried to say something but I was in shock and instead I just burst into tears. my boyfriend yelled “what the hell is wrong with you!? you don’t put your hands on her!” and then took my hand and helped me step over the guy (he made no effort to get out of my way) and into the aisle. two people in back kindly gave up their seats for us. I struggle with PTSD because I was raped in the past, and I do not like it when strangers touch me at all, but especially the way this man pulled my legs apart to uncross them while I physically resisted was very triggering to me. I couldn’t stop crying and shaking until we got off the bus. I felt so unbelievably powerless, violated, and objectified… like I was some kind of mannequin or ragdoll whose body is just an object to be posed and positioned at whim. it ruined my day.
My story is not specific, because it happens too many times a day to count. I currently live in Medellin, Colombia, currently one of the most notorious hubs for sex tourism, street trafficking, and child prostitution. Before I decided to come here to start a vegetarian food project with a friend, I traveled mostly solo or with one female friend throughout Colombia and Ecuador. Traveling on your own has its challenges, but traveling as an independent female is another story. You are always on the streets, and thus, are in a constant state of harassment. Before you set foot out of your own city, you are constantly reminded of ‘how dangerous’ it is for you, how you ‘should travel with a group, a boyfriend, or a male companion’, how you should ‘never walk alone’ because ‘you never know what horrible things could happen to you… as a woman’. Sometimes men (and women alike) like to take additional steps in making sure you don’t venture out to foreign streets. They say ‘you are being naive’ (thank you for completely undermining my intelligence), they say ‘there are safer ways to do it’, they say you could ‘just save up more money, and go someplace else’. Before I left on my trip, I had many people do everything they could to strip me of my confidence, condescend my abilities, and essentially tell me that I was setting myself up for a horrible demise. Me. It would be MY fault, if something terrible happened to me somewhere in which ‘wasn’t my place’.
Meet Colombia and Ecuador, two of the loveliest countries on Earth. Meet Colombia and Ecuador, where I didn’t manage to escape unscathed. I cannot make less than a 5 minute walk without being catcalled, hissed at, or looked up and down in any city I have been in. 5 minutes. That’s about 3 blocks. And I’m a fast walker. I have been called (translated from Spanish): my love, my heaven, my life, my sky, my little thing, my princess, my queen, my sweet, baby, girl, white girl, beautiful, pretty, delicious, and ‘wow’. While those might sound like more than compliments to some, I am not a fan of the comments. I did not ask for them. I do not want them. I do not have a choice. These men disgust me.
That’s the cakewalk. Then comes the hissing. You know that sound you make to call your dog? Well they use the same one for women. Hissing. Don’t worry, they still call their animals the same way. There’s not much of a difference. And there won’t be later either. It is symptomatic, and no one does anything about it. Women are dogs here.
What do the comments turn into? The hisses? Oh it doesn’t stop there.
I’ve been followed for blocks multiple times. I’ve had to hide. I’ve had to turn around and yell at men stalking me. They smile. Or laugh it off. Or ignore me. Or point at me and say how much they’d like to fuck me. Or ask if I have a boyfriend. Or if I will marry them. But it still doesn’t stop.
I’ve been groped in the metros. I’ve had my hips, my arms, and my ass squeezed. I’ve had every inch of my body purposefully pressed upon. I’ve had stiff dicks and sweaty hands invade my space too many times during rush hour. It never stops.
The winks, the catcalls, the hissing, the squeezing, the stalking, the sexual comments, they are everything that signifies the complete lack of respect for women where I currently reside, and that is on all levels.
At one point at a festival, I was drunk… like almost everyone else. I was talking to a guy whom I had never met. I do not know him still. I do not remember his name. I don’t know what we talked about, and I don’t know how any of it happened. I remember flashes. I remember walking into a filthy bathroom with him. Horrible things happened. One flash I have was of him pulling his pants down. No condom. My feeling of fear, disgust, entrapment, helplessness, isolation. I could do nothing. The friend I was with had no idea… I never had the heart to tell him. I was crushed. My soul was gone. I was dead for a long time.
I was so traumatized, I couldn’t feel anything for awhile. I didn’t want to exist, or move, or speak. I was a changed person. I went from vivacious, funny, friendly, and wild, to a shell in moments. No one knew what happened, but the friends I was staying with knew it was something terrible. I didn’t know if I would find any part of my old spirit again. That was the worst part. But a different me is back.
I refused to be defeated. Before, I almost always reacted to street harassment. I would yell, I would silently put up my middle finger, I would fight back. I was strong. I was vigilant, careful, and conscious. No one thought I would be the one, but 1 out of 5 is pretty staggering.
For women, going out into the street is a gamble. I lost just one time. But honestly, I’m glad it was me, and not someone else. I still react, but in different ways. I harness all of my intensity to shock men, to scare them, to let them know without a doubt, that what they are doing is wrong. Often, I am successful. But It doesn’t stop. You can’t get everyone. Street harassment is a gateway to vicious assault, denigration, and decimation of female integrity and safety. If there is anything that I have learned, it is this: IT IS ALWAYS YOUR PLACE TO SAY SOMETHING. YOUR BODY, YOUR VOICE, YOUR DIGNITY. It belongs to you. Be strong, fight back. This is your world as much as it is anyone else’s. You might not be next, but someone you love will find their time… it’s always when you least expect it.
The same night, I was followed down the street on the way to the metro by men calling after me. One of the men followed me and proceeded to try and “buy” me as if I were a prostitute. He said he had a beautiful room, comfortable bed, until another person grabbed me and said “no” (which I am still confused about). But after I tore away (as I am used to being grabbed), the fruit stand guy grabbed the guy who had been following me and stopped him. I will never forget him: someone finally helped.
Later that night, I went out clubbing and took a taxi home with friends because I was drunk. The taxi driver told me to stay in to pay, which my friend had already paid, and my drunk friends left, which is when he took advantage of my state. Sadly, this isn’t near the first time. I am tired of being raped, sexually assaulted, groped, stalked, etc. It needs to end, and people need to step up. Unfortunately, women often can’t speak out for fear of more violence. This is a moment where men can stop up and help women who are continually being victimized.
After I was molested at age 9 I went right in to MMA, I never wanted to feel that fear again. Two years ago; I was walking to a bus to go met my girlfriend and at the bus stop an old man starts hitting on me. I tell him he needs to stop and that I have a girlfriend. He stepped closer and grabbed my genitals and said he could please me a whole lot more then some Faggot girl and that he could “cure” me. I slammed my elbow in to his sternum and screamed for help but when the police got there and I told them what happened they arrested me for defending my self. The charges where dropped but I still can’t get over how all I did was try to get some old ass to let me go and yet I ended up going downtown. There were so many men watched and one even went as far to stand up for the older man saying that I was the one who flaunted in front of him and got pissy.
Two friends and I were walking in town at around midnight going to a bar when two older men started speaking loudly about us. They were walking towards us saying “which one do you think is the hottest?” ect.. One of my friends said excuse me and I don’t remember what exactly was said but one of the men and I ended up telling each other off at which point he took a run at me and raised his fist.
I asked if he was really going to hit a girl when he was about a foot from me in a fighting stance and he spat at me and walked off. I was livid. The worst part about it is that we kept walking and saw some cops whom we told, they acted like they were going to do something but we saw them 5 minutes later walking the opposite direction so they clearly didn’t.
The above link is not my story, but the story of another woman…similar to stories everywhere, including my own. The injustice. The shame. The embarrassment. The rage.
I was cursed with beauty and in my youth and had dozens of my own experiences: sexual harassment and assault, cat calls, blatant staring at my breasts or crotch, whistles, honking, men masturbating in public near me, etc. I’m thankful to be middle-aged now–I am almost invisible.
I saw a post on FB today: When a man is raped, no one talks about what he was wearing.
I was out with my friend in the city that I love so very much, and I experienced the most real sexual harassment in my 24 years, twice. We were at a bar and this guy came up to us and asked if we we wanted a drink and I said, “I’m sorry, but we’re good.” Which he didn’t like at all and didn’t understand why we didn’t want a drink. I tried to explain to him that he needed to respect the fact that we didn’t want anything, we didn’t want to be talked to or touched. He proceeded to call me a bitch because I didn’t want to talk to him, so I told him he needed to back off.
I think no one would be surprised that he wasn’t pleased by that, so he threatened me with, “What are you going to do, anyway?” And my friend and his friend said to just walk away, so I did, to not cause a scene. Then we went to another bar where the EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED! And I told a bouncer at the new bar that I had been assaulted and I didn’t want to file a complaint, I just wanted to know that there was someone looking out for the other women there, because when I left to go find a bouncer the new assaulter had a girl by the neck. The bouncer seemed to think I had made it up. More than I hate to think that women are being assaulted in the hospitality state, I hate to think that women are being shamed for sticking up for other women. I worry because I had to ask two women if they were okay because I wasn’t comfortable with the appearance of the situation, and they were both so shocked that someone would pay attention enough to be concerned.
I was walking home from work at around 5:45pm today. It was a beautiful day. I was on a normally busy public street near George Washington University. However, at that particular moment, there was a brief lull in foot traffic.
A teenager, no older than 13 or 14, was walking towards me. Three other teenagers were behind him. I really didn’t look twice at them.
As I pass by the first teenager who was walking by himself, he slaps my butt. Honestly, it took me a few seconds to register what had happened. I walked a few more steps and suddenly it registered. Apparently, the other three boys were with him and were laughing.
I whipped around and said, “What the fuck?” As they walked away laughing, I continued to get more incensed and said “Really, you can’t treat women like that!” They continued laughing—one of them made a point of pretty much laughing in my face— and told me to “shake that ass.”
I immediately started shaking and crying. I’ve been lucky in my life to not experience much street harassment. This was the first time someone ever felt entitled to touch my body in a public place. And I felt powerless. Since it never happened to me before–someone reaching out and grabbing me–I had no idea what to do. There were no cops around to tell. No one really saw. The kids were laughing in my face.
It’s been two and a half hours. I can still feel the echo of his hand slapping me.
As an American woman in Turkey, I anticipated harassment and notions of “inequality” but I never expected to be physically assaulted on the street.
I was walking from work to a nearby shopping center in the early evening when a man passed me then turned around and followed me. He caught up with me and started talking, but I didn’t know Turkish and he didn’t speak English. I continued on my way as he tried to talk to me. We were on a main street during rush hour. There were lots of trees and garden areas lining the street which proved to be his ultimate cover.
After passing a bus stop, I decided to turn down another main street as he grabbed my arm and threw me down on the ground by my neck. He strangled me as I fought for my life. I had taken self defense classes in university, so I instantly thought to try and poke his eyes out. The struggle lasted for maybe only a minute but felt like a life time. I was able to free myself and started to scream as he pushed me down again into a pile of trash. I kept trying to scream, and finally he let go and walked away.
I stepped out of the bushes, literally about 4 steps, onto the main street and saw people waiting at the bus stop. I waved down a taxi and went home. When I got out of the taxi, I left behind leaves, branches and dirt on the seat. I was in the elevator and a couple saw me, but the woman just whispered behind my back. When I looked in the mirror my hair was knotted and full of remnants from the attack.
I took a shower and laughed to myself that I had gotten away. I was empowered that I had actually fought the asshole off and survived with only a sore throat.
I didn’t call the police as I didn’t know how to, and apparently the police aren’t to be trusted in Turkey.
Ladies we must fight with all our beings. It’s the key to survival.
A 30 year old who worked at a barber shop who I had just met pressured me into kissing him. I was 16 when it happened.