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This happened in 2000, I was waiting for the mid-night train to Amsterdam in the Berlin U-bahnhof McDonald’s. This McDonald’s had two floors, the first floor was the kitchen, the second floor had bathrooms. In Europe, McDonald’s and Burger King have free bathrooms, so I took advantage of this by sitting next to them. While waiting for my train, two drunk German men walk by me and then scoot into my booth and start speaking to me. I tell them “No spreche Deutsch,” point to my watch and get out to leave. Instead of heading to the platforms I decide to use the bathroom. While I’m in the ladies room, one of the drunk German’s come in and start banging on the stall door. I proceed to scream as loud as I can and hold the door shut. Luckily he left, I waited for a few minutes grabbed something out of my bag to use as a weapon and then proceed to run out of the bathroom as fast as I could. I saw him out of the corner of my eye being consoled by his friend. I ran and hid in the baggage locker section. At midnight I caught the train to Amsterdam. Looking back I wished I had gone to the police or the manager of the McDonald’s. What I realize from this experience is there needs to be talk about these situations or how to react so as to prevent this from happening to other women.
Submitted by Blaire
I’m often verbally harassed at gas stations by customers who tell me I “look like a video girl” while wearing a work uniform of khakis and a baggy t-shirt. A gas station employee twice my age offered to pay for my gas as he was bagging trash. Homeless men frequently “holler” as well. During a road trip with a girlfriend two men approached us as we were pumping gas and asked, “What are you two sexy girls doing in the middle of nowhere all alone?” I was terrified. Once an elderly man in a wheelchair blocked my way out of a Goodwill then FOLLOWED ME TO MY CAR, harassing me for twenty minutes insisting I “leave my boyfriend for a real man”. During a walk with my boyfriend a pick-up sped by and someone screamed, “FUCK HER IN THE ASS.” I used to wear a fake wedding ring while working to avoid harassment. It was ineffective. In fact, it may have made it worse. I almost snapped recently while walking out of Publix after purchasing diapers for my newborn son, when two men started heckling me. Instead of dropping multiple f-bombs I ignored them completely. I’ve been told to smile too many times to count, touched/grabbed forcefully while waiting tables, and much much more. It’s the equivalent of beating a dead dog.
Submitted by Jimi
I was leaving Cosi when a young man (probably in his mid 20s) approached me. He said, “nice pussy” and reached out to grab mine. I simply blocked his hand and stared him down until he broke eye contact. I continued on my way, and looked back to see that he was still standing there. I guess he didn’t get the reaction he anticipated.
I didn’t speak to him, but if I could, here’s what I would say:
“Damn right, I have a nice pussy. But you will never get anywhere near it.”
Submitted by Kate
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
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.
I was out with my friends at this pub in my hometown.
We decided to go out to the courtyard out the back, so we made towards a couple of benches.
As we were walking past, a man grabbed me by my wrist and tried to kiss me.
I pushed his face away, shocked and disgusted, I said “What the-”
but before I could finish he tried to kiss me again.
I pushed his face away. Then he tried a THIRD time.
This time I pushed his face away, slapped him and threw the rest of my drink all over is face and down the front of his shirt.
It’s men like this that make me think “Who on earth do you think you are? What makes you so damn special that common manners and sexual harassment law, doesn’t apply to you?”
My friends ended up clapping me on the back and saying “That was the most bad ass thing I’ve ever seen.”
I was really quite pleased.
Submitted by Desany
While working as a hotel desk clerk, a couple in their 60s booked a room and the man loitered constantly around the front desk. Part of my job was to take down the breakfast buffet and when I was in the process he pushed me in the wash room and tried to kiss me while forcefully holding me in the tiny space. Though I am 5’9″, he was about 6’4″ and twice my body mass. He was in the cattle business and still very strong and quick. I am also strong and quick and used his momentum against him to free myself. I told the housekeepers to stay the hell away from him and his room and closed the office door, posted a sign that read employees only and told my boss. The thing is that he pursued me even more after that, even when I picked up a book and ignored him. He told me my job was customer service. I asked him if he had a customer related issue, and he said he wanted to visit. I told him I did not wish to visit with him, and that he should take that up with his wife. I am still angry with myself for not simply stating that I did not wish to speak with him because he really creeped me out by pushing me in the washroom in the attempt to force himself on me.
So many perverts use this customer service ploy against women. Why? Because it works. Even if the pervert is not a customer, he can still use the mentality against an employee at the workplace.
Once I managed a farm store, and a perverted delivery man cornered a young employee in the store room. This girl was very religious, and wore no makeup, ever. She was also a virgin. I told the sales rep from the company the pervert worked for what happened, and the same driver showed up the next week, more rude than ever. These men get a thrill out of people knowing they can get away with it. I eventually had to stop ordering from the company until they changed drivers. They were our biggest supplier, and we were one of their larger accounts, but if that had not been the case, nothing would have been done about it, and in a way nothing was. They just moved the problem to a different location.
Submitted by Becky
I’m a New Yorker, but was living in Paris seven years ago. I guess I felt pretty confident in my street smarts because I had endured countless cat calls/random verbal harassment for years.
I was walking home late at night after my friends left me off of a cab a few blocks from my house, and two somewhat thuggy looking guys in their 20s approached me. They were looking to “party” and wanted me to have a drink with them. I told them no thanks, and went on my way. They could tell I wasn’t French via my accent and followed after me, cajoling and cat calling. I tried to ignore them and kept walking but they were really being persistent, so I told them to “piss off” while looking down and trying to find my keys and hurry away. One grabbed me and shoved me against the wall — at this point I had turned a corner onto a not so well lit street (stupid) about a block from my apartment, and there was no one around. The friend said something like “leave her be” and then ran off. I was struggling with the main guy, who was big (I’m not tiny either, 5’6″/130lbs) and he had me pinned to the wall with his hands like vice grips on my arms and his body pressing against me, I have no idea how long that went on, but he kept getting angrier and all I can really remember is how strong he was and him trying to kiss me (violently…so I guess more like head-butting my face) and how he kept saying how pretty I was.
I was absolutely terrified and have never had an adrenaline rush like that. The rest just happened so fast I barely remember the sequence, instinct took over (I had taken kick boxing and martial arts on and off for years): I managed to get my knee up and kneed him in the groin. He let go, and I elbowed him from above in the back of the neck, coming down with most of my weight — like they teach you to. I remember him on the ground but moving and guess I must have ran, and fast. It was only then I noticed I had been screaming. I had lost a shoe in the scuffle but I got to my door very quickly. I buzzed all the bells and someone let me in because I was crying and shaking too hard to get my keys out. I had a fat split lip, a bruised/scraped cheekbone, arms and bloody scraped elbows. But beyond that, I was a nervous wreck. I would jump at anything and was so jittery and on edge. I was 23 and it took about 6 months to feel safe enough to go out at night again, even with friends. Nothing happened, they never found the guy and as soon as I told the cops I had been drinking and walked home alone they were like: “Oh, you’re OK, no big deal.” As though somehow it was par for the course.
I’m 30 now, and back in NYC. I tell all my friends to take self-defense classes or some kind of martial art. It’s really so so so important to know how to defend yourself. It’s best not to put yourself in stupid situations, yes, take a cab all the way to your door. But inevitably I find myself every now and again on a dark/empty street at night and get chilled thinking about what could happen if…
As women, we are smaller than men and need to know how to defend ourselves, end of story. Even psychologically it’s important not to feel like a victim. I don’t know what would have/could have happened that night or what that guy thought he was going to do on the street like that, but I was so thankful to have had some defensive training that took over, like auto-pilot. I had thought that martial arts were “fun”, I did karate instead of ballet as a kid and then took up kickboxing in college. Before my attack, I really didn’t appreciate how insanely important it is to know how to defend yourself.
I’m glad to see a forum like this and I hope that we can give/get strength in numbers and shared experiences. Be strong ladies!
Submitted by Sarah
This occurred back in July and although I wanted to write about it then, I wanted to forget it even more. In having to choose what category of harassment it falls into in order to send this story in, I’m even now embarrassed at my difficulty in labeling it. I don’t know that it counts as assault, even though it definitely didn’t feel like groping.
It was 10pm on a Friday night and I was waiting on a well lit block, in front of an active open restaurant, for the bus that I take everyday. Instead of heading to or from work, I was on my way to a small joint birthday party for two friends. Since I knew I’d be traveling there and back alone, I’d already decided to leave a little earlier than I needed to and had consciously decided to leave my bag at home and travel light so I’d be less of a target for theft. I’d also chosen to wear a more conservatively cut and oversized shirt than I would otherwise have worn on such a warm night.
Ten minutes into my wait for the bus, I was watching traffic to see if it was approaching my stop. I suddenly felt something slam against my backside. It didn’t feel like someone tried to cop a feel, and it didn’t feel like someone slapped my ass as they were passing by. It felt like someone wound up and hit me as hard as they could with something flat. I imagined a stack of books or a box and instantly thought maybe I was in the way of someone making a delivery to the diner or moving something out of the apartment entrance next door. I glanced around, embarrassed and blushing, and realized that none of the many other people walking across the street or crossing at the corner were paying attention, even though the smack had sounded obvious and loud to me. I spun around and realized that the only other people close to me were three guys who looked to be in their early 20’s, dressed for a night out. They were two feet away from me at that point and were continuing up the block laughing, the one in the middle of the group looking back at me and grinning.
I pointed at them and shouted “hey,fuck you!” feeling suddenly ashamed and angry. I’m not usually shy about addressing comments or gestures that are aimed at me or other women in public, but as soon as the group slowed their pace a little, I realized just how much bigger and heavier than me each of those guys was and how little attention was being paid to the situation by passers by. The middle guy waved me over and smiled, “yeah, fuck me!” and kept walking away as his friends laughed.
I waited the next ten minutes for the bus, with my hands shaking, still physically hurting and trying not to cry. Until the bus arrived I debated whether or not to walk to the police station that is three blocks away from that intersection, but imagined being laughed at by police officers once I described that a stranger had essentially spanked me. I also realized that I didn’t see any of the guys’ faces straight on and they were pretty nondescript young brown haired white guys with accents very common in my area. I wouldn’t have hesitated to report it if he had hit me that hard on any other part of my body, but this felt much more mortifying and even harder to verbalize to a stranger. And feeling that way made me even angrier.
I debated going home, but was worried that I’d run into the group of guys on the way to my nearby apartment. I wasn’t in the mood for a party and didn’t want to explain why and spoil the mood for the birthday friends, since I knew they’d be livid. But, I was too upset to want to be alone. I got on the bus when it came, and got off a stop early when I saw that two friends of mine were closing up the shop where we worked. I told them what had happened and sat and talked with them for a while before walking over to the party, where I hung back until feeling better and could walk home with some neighbors.
After that I worried that the guys who did it would recognize me in the neighborhood but that I wouldn’t recognize them. In writing this I realize I haven’t taken the bus alone at night since then, even though it was just a spanking. In other neighborhoods and cities I’ve been followed on my walk home, verbally threatened, flashed and groped but never felt as embarrassed or ashamed as this had made me feel.
Submitted by Laura