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
nt tried to make her his latest victim but she wasn’t having any of it. The petite Tai-Chi instructor and now Hollaback poster child has been seen by over half a million viewers giving this creep the lashing of a lifetime. Valdivia nt will serve jail time and is reportedly awaiting deportation.
“It’s about getting over the embarrassment of that circumstance and bringing the shame, taking away the shame, from you, as a woman being violated — and bringing the shame back on the perpetrator,” Briggs said, in an exclusive interview with CBS 2.
It wasn’t Valdivia
nt‘s first illegal adventure in subway sex abuse and, somewhat shockingly, wasn’t even his last—he was reported for the same offense in 2007 and yet again one month after assaulting Briggs. Oh, Mario. From us to you–please get help (but have fun in jail first).
I was riding the C train from work late a while ago. When the train reached Penn Station a bunch of rowdy guys in their late teens/early twenties hopped on. They were looking at me and talking about me, my hair, etc. I was, needless uncomfortable.
I moved and, like an idiot, I meekly smiled at the person who was sitting across from me- a man with a kind of badge around his neck (something that may have indicated he was developmentally challenged). I think I just wanted to look for a connection in another passenger. Big mistake.
When the train stopped at Spring street I noticed the guy whom I sat across from was behind me. I tried to go through the turning exit but he stopped the gate from moving. He held me there with his forearm. I was frightened and tried to call for help. No one in metro station seemed to be alert. But a voice came from the far end of my platform. “HEY!” a youngish man yelled “Are you okay?”. With that, the guy who had pinned me looked shocked and jumped on the next train that was passing by.
Just someone noticing helps so much. In so many of these stories no one noticing, no one baring witness, is a common theme. Having just one person bare witness to accosting can make such a great difference.
How can people be living, working, traveling about in a city and not pay attention to what is going on around them? Maybe assault on someone else is just too surreal for many people to grasp or feel they can affect.
Submitted by Sarah
Mario Valdiviant, the man literally caught with his pants down (with a condom on, to boot?), will serve time in jail. Hey look! That whole “can’t masturbate or show your ding dong in public” law thing is being enforced! Way to go, New York City! A long overdue HIP HIP HOORAY!
Check out the warning Hollaback gives to other would-be flashers on tonight’s ABC Eyewitness News. And then find us on Facebook and share your thoughts on the city’s response to this incident.
But Mario Valdivia clearly doesn’t. The 51 year old Queens subway flasher picked the wrong tree, and after footage of his illegal adventure was captured by a bystander and published to YouTube, this monkey got busted. The video went viral, and Mr. Valdivia has been charged with forcible touching, public lewdness, and sex abuse. Insert slow clap with loud, strong, rising crescendo applause and hour-long standing ovation here.
HollaHERO, hear us ROAR. This story has several heros, and let us thank them for their good work: the amazing woman, who has become a voice for all that is HollaFabulous, the quick and timely investigative work on the part of the bystanders (and the cameraman’s request to ‘hey man, let me see your penis!’), and finally and very importantly, the serious NYPD action.
We hope all instances of sexual assault and abuse such as this one won’t require a viral video and subsequent prime time television coverage in order to be taken seriously, but we can celebrate a good thing when we see it.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. Enjoy the CBS report here:
My two girlfriends and I were walking toward the Hotel Rivington on Friday night. We passed by a group of three guys who were catcalling at us and one of them grabbed my arm as I walked by. I said, “Ew” and shook him off. When we walked away, one of them shouted, “Go study for your SATs fucking Chinese bitch.”
I marched up to him and his friends and told them not to call me a bitch. The one who called me a Chinese bitch, who was probably about 6’2″ and over 200 pounds (I am just over 100 pounds) shoved me two or three times – hard. I was yelling things like, “Oh, you’re going to push me? You’re going to push a girl?” He kept threatening to hit me, and he threatened to sic his professional boxer friend on me who he said would basically beat me to a pulp.
Then he spat in my face and bolted.
My biggest regret is not getting his name or photo.
Submitted by Andrea
I was celebrating my birthday at a bar with friends, and over the course of the night many people unknown to me would come up to say hello or to wish me a happy birthday. Near the end of the night, I was sitting in a booth with a male friend when some guy came over to our table. He eyed me and leaned forward, and since his lips were moving I thought he was trying to talk and I couldn’t hear him because of the loud noise in the bar. I also leaned forward, with my finger to my ear, when he reached over, climbing over my friend, and started kissing me, using his free hand to move my face so he could make out with me. I pushed him away and said “no”, but he leaned in again, making kissing gestures. The next time I said “no”, I put my hand in his face. My friend inched closer to me and put his arm around me, hoping to give the guy a hint, but the guy just kept leaning over me. I again put my hand in his face and shouted “no”. He said, “What’s wrong? Do you think I’m a fag? Are you calling me a fag?” I told him he needed to leave, to get away from our table. He got angry and put both hands on our table, and my friend started to get up to confront the guy. One of the bartenders came over just then, and although I couldn’t hear their conversation, I’m pretty sure she had words with him, because a couple minutes later the guy was gone. I was a bit shaken up, and while I appreciate that my friend wanted to defend me, I’m glad I was able to clearly and effectively state “no” for myself.
Submitted by Andrea
In a follow up to her “New Phone Apps Aim to Combat Harassment” article published in the NYT on Monday, reporter and now HollaHERO Karen Zraick publishes her own personal hollaback in today’s City Room blog.
As if we couldn’t have guessed, within hours, there are 47 comments all containing one, two, three, and sometimes more, horrifying stories of women’s own personal experiences with street harassment. And it isn’t over yet. NOW THAT IS ONE HELLUVA HOLLABACK!
“It’s infuriating to see this described as a ‘quality of life issue’, writes one woman. “This isn’t a ‘quality of life’ issue, okay? It’s not my neighbors having a loud party, or a dog barking next door!”
At Hollaback, we couldn’t have said it better.
Now this is one holla the city will NOT be able to ignore. Read Karen’s story and the accompanying comments here.
If I had a dollar for every NYT reporter who has come forward with her own hollaback…well, I wouldn’t have very much money. But if I had $5 from every woman who read this story, including you, now I might have something to talk about…raise us $5?
First, THANK YOU for initiating this movement. I have experienced street attacks on multiple occasions ranging from the words “queer” and “dyke” to having golf balls thrown at me.
I have also experienced a gang attack where people wrote phrases and pictures all over my body while others watched — this was in a home and was never prosecuted. The pictures involved drawings of penises, breasts, and words such as “eat me,” “cunt,” and “enter here.” This evening also involved a rape.
Although this happened in a home and not on the street I bring this up because a) it was unprosecuted suggesting that it is that much more imperative that “we the people” take our streets back, b) it involved bystanders who did nothing, so your movement to get others involved with doing the right thing is encouraging.
I am an activist in my community in Lansing, Michigan — wearing many hats working with teens who are homeless, teens who are bullied (and inactive bystanders), and LGBTIQ youth.
Submitted by Veronica
If verbal harassment is okay, then groping is okay. If groping is okay then violence is okay…where is your boundary? IT ISN’T FREE SPEECH IF SOMEONE IS GETTING HURT. Help us today, show your support with a $5 donation. Thank you.