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Tina’s Story: “Harassment has to stop”

As a white woman with a lot of curves, I have received a lot of attention while growing up. The attention started with honks from truck drivers when I was 13, and has continued through my high school, college, and post grad life.

The most off-putting and infuriating experience was at Towson Town Mall in Towson, Maryland during my first year of college. I had an errand to run, so instead of going with a group of friends like I usually would I went by myself. While taking an escalator down to my next stop, a man at the top of the stairs started shouting. “Damn, white girl! Look at that ass!” I presume that he was referring to me, but I was not about to turn around to check. When I didn’t not respond, he shouted again- “Girl, I’m tryin’ to holla at you! Turn around” By this time I was getting off the escalator and started walking a bit faster towards my next stop and he shouts again- “Bitch, I’m talking to you. Turn the fuck around.”

I’m feeling threatened by the point in the “conversation” and steer my path in front of two security guards, hoping they would interfere and ask the man to leave me alone.

Instead, as I walk by the officers, still being followed by the shouting man, the two security guards say “Oh damn, girl. How you doin??”

I quickly turned into the closest store, and hid behind stands to get out of their line of sight. I still think about that moment, 5 years later.

How could it be that NO ONE interfered? Not one bystander said anything. Not one security guard said anything. I didn’t say anything. This is NOT something that I should feel ashamed of.

What I find most frustrating about situations like these is that when I debriefed and told a group of college friends, at least one reaction is:

Well, Tina. You have to learn not to go to the mall by yourself anymore.

or

You do have a really large ass, so I can see why he would say something.

Harassment has to stop.

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Lo’s Story: Never Forget

It was a hot night in the middle of a sweltering Pittsburgh summer. I was wearing a sun dress out one night with friends. At the end of the night, my friend and I went to get food. I stood in the doorway of a gyro shop as she scanned around to see if there were any tables. My backside was in the doorway toward the street. All of a sudden, I felt this weird sensation on, around, and then in my vagina. It honestly took me a few seconds to put together what was happening. By then it was too late. I whipped my head around and saw the guy run off down the street.

I burst into tears, and my friend came running over. I told her what happened and we started walking home, both of us horrified. By some stroke of luck, we walked past a cop who was already arresting this drunk kid. We stood nearby and waited to report it. When it was our turn, we told the cop what happened. He looked me up and down and told me I shouldn’t of been wearing a dress, and did nothing else.

Who gave this man the right to touch my body? Where did he get the nerve to put his hand up a stranger’s dress and inside her body, on a crowded street? Why was it my fault that this happened? All I can do now is never forget; stay angry and fight back to help protect myself and other women.

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64+

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Kaylee’s Story: Pitbulls and Perpetrators

My 14 year old neighbor and I (24) were waiting for my car to finish being cleaned at the car wash, so we decided to take a short walk with my two pitbulls (the most loving, affectionate, and well behaved dogs I have ever met).

During our 40 minute walk along the sidewalks of this busy shopping area we were honked at and/or catcalled 5 times, from what I can only assume to be 5 separate cars. I could not tell what car it was coming from on any occasion. I felt so disrespected and all I could think about was that I was younger than my neighbor the first time this happened to me, maybe 12. It was broad daylight, on a Thursday, in what I considered a safe area. I live on that street. It makes be feel less safe in my home. At the beginning of the walk I was most concerned that my neighbor was holding onto the leash properly so that my younger puppy would not run out into the road. By, the end of the walk, I was consumed with a feelings of fear and apprehension about being in my own neighborhood.

I love breaking down the stereotypes about my dogs breed, and showing people that they can be and are well-behaved love bugs. After all the catcalls and verbal harassment I have received since I was 12, I think I am ready to fight the ignorance some men have in thinking that this kind of harassment is a compliment or is in any way anything less than threatening.

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33+

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Adriana’s Story: “I deserve to feel free”

I was walking out of my apartment building in Brooklyn, heading to the bus stop to take the ride into the city for class. As soon as I exited the lobby, a few guys were standing outside. One proceeded to yell at me. I forget what he said… it was something to get my attention.

I didn’t make any faces, I didn’t make any noises, I simply ignored him. How did I know if he was actually talking to me? He got upset or bothered by the fact that I didn’t respond to his request for attention or affection. So he threw his food at me. It missed me by a few inches, as I was walking away from him, I saw it in my peripheral vision. That made me uneasy. What gave him the right to throw his food at me because I didn’t respond to his advance? A vulgar advance, an unsolicited advance.

I used to walk around Brooklyn with baggy clothes on, oversized hoodies, sneakers to get away from people quick if needed be. Then I decided to move, because living that way is absurd. I deserve to feel free, to feel safe, to feel secure. Now I do.

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48+

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Prometheus’ Story: “My friend was mortified”

First of all, I am sorry for my anonymity. I just feel more comfortable that way. And this happened to my friend and I about two years ago.

I was showing one of my friends around a town I work in, taking her to all of my favorite shops and pointing out bakeries. Now, I never get catcalled. I’m overweight, my hair is a bit of a frizzy mess, and I also have the benefit of being built like a bear. My friend however is itty bitty and stunningly attractive. But she is unfamiliar with this kind of harassment since she is from a rural farming community.

I had noticed a man had been following a similar route as us, deviating only a bit to look at shops. But he never got more than thirty feet away from us. It made me rather uneasy, so I quietly told my friend to be a bit careful. Within minutes he decided to make his move. He just walked up and picked her up by her breasts, not even looking at me! He was outright trying to walk off with her, just like that!

My friend was mortified, and I was PISSED. I put my hands over his face and yanked him backwards to stop him before he could actually run off. He ended up letting go of my friend and running away himself after taking a punch at me.

My friend panicked, and she ran out into a more busy street. I couldn’t catch up to her very easily because of my weight, but I could hear people catcalling her and hollaring, the whole nine yards. By the time I found her she was just curled up and crying beside a trashcan.

The worst part is, even though the police tried really hard, they were unable to find the guy who tried to carry her off. My friend is mortified at the idea of walking around in any town now, this really shook her up, even so long afterwards.

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Em’s Story: Rad Response

This morning, traveling on the bus to work, in Brisbane’s inner northside, I had an odd and unnerving experience. I was seated in the front of the bus, in the wheelchair-accessible area where the seats face each other across the aisle. As I sat reading, I would look up occasionally to see where we were at. I also noticed the man directly opposite me staring. EVERY. TIME. He would avert his eyes when I looked at him. Now, I am used to catching the attention of others, as I dress and do my hair in the 1940s-1950s style so I did not pay much attention to this.

What DID catch my attention is when the flash of his mobile phone went off. It caught the attention of the lady next to me too and probably some other passengers. I looked up and saw that he was holding his phone on his knees and aiming it directly at me. I looked pointedly at him and all of a sudden he is so engrossed in his phone that he is no longer making eye contact with me. His behaviour indicated to me that this wasn’t an accidental knock of his camera.

I knew my stop was coming up so I got up and stood in the aisle and peeked over his phone. He was obviously on some kind of social media/photo-sharing program – possibly Instagram but I’m not sure. I was indignant. How dare this stranger take a photo of me, uninvited AND upload my image without my permission?! I am used to being stopped in the street for photos and to discuss my attire, and will generally oblige as most people are respectful and polite. But this guy? He was covert and secretive about it and it made his intent appear very creepy and weird.

Before I got off the bus, I leant over him and said politely, “Most people have the manners to ask to take my photograph.” He just hunched up and shook his head as if denying what he had just done. I wish I had been quicker of wit and returned the favour by taking my own photo of him.

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Adriana’s Story: “I am free”

I was walking around on Long St. during a sunny afternoon the last day of my 3 month stint in the beautiful country of South Africa. I’d just had a minor operation done, and was enjoying the sunny day. I’m 21, walking on the side-walk minding my own business. I felt someone walking behind me. There was a man, probably 300 feet behind me, walking. For some reason, I had the urge to look behind me… but it seemed normal, I brushed off my intuition. A few seconds later, he ran up behind me, grabbed my bottom, between my legs and bottom, and ran off. I was stunned. I didn’t know if I ought to yell, scream, chase him down, stop, cry, what do I do? I was stunned. I didn’t do anything. I paused for a moment, attempted to digest what happened, scoffed, and kept walking. I was wearing a dress, I was on my period, I felt violated, I was violated. What gave him the right to touch me? What went through his head that made it seem as though that’s okay?

I didn’t tell many people because I didn’t know how I felt about it. I didn’t want people to overreact, I’d dealt with it. I’m okay with it. It happened, it’s over, it doesn’t make me who I am, it doesn’t take away from who I am. It happened, and it’s over. I’m not mad. I’m not sad. I am free, and free from that experience as well.

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48+

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Rachel’s Story: Halloween Horror

I’m older now but I was about 10 or 11 and my friend and I were trick or treating one Halloween around our small town with her sister and her friends. My friend and I went a different direction from the rest of the group and decided to meet back at her house, and being a small town which we knew our way around and with a lot of people around; we felt pretty safe.
We were on our way back to my friends house and walking through a neighborhood where most the houses were closed to trick-or-treaters. We walked past this really old, falling apart, shabby house that was the only one on the block with 5 foot high chain link fence surrounded the front yard. An older man (about 60s or 70s) was sitting in a chair on his porch.
We were just going to walk past his house when he called out to us. Being quite young and curious, we stopped to hear what he had to say as he walked towards the edge of his fence to us.
I remember specifically him saying, “Pretty cold out huh?” (Being Halloween in Colorado, it was) and it was at this point where I started to get a really weird vibe off of him. We said yes. Then he proceeded to tell us that he just made some hot chocolate and wanted us to “come on in and drink some to warm up.” And I politely said, “No thank you, we’re just on our way back home.”
He promptly told us that he “like our costumes” and they “looked really cute on us”. My friend by then had gone pretty silent so I told the creepy old guy (who was know leaning over his fence to get closer to us) “thanks, but we really should get going.”
He then started to open the gate to and told us he could walk us home because “you never know what weirdos could be out on Halloween night”. And I politely turned him down and said her house wasn’t too far away. Before he could protest, I grabbed my friends arm and we almost ran down the street.
I’m 16 now it still scares me to walk past his house.

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Taylor’s Story: Disgusting Denver Dudes

Lets start out by saying that I am 18, and the friends I was with were 17 and 19 and I personally look to be around the age of 15. We were watching street performers at the 16th Street Mall one day when a group of men much older than ourselves walked by. I’m very observant and enjoy watching people so I was looking at them and happened to make eye contact with one of the men. He then gave me a dirty look and turned his head almost as if I was wrong for meeting his eyes. About fifteen minutes later when my friends and I had moved on and began looking for more shops the men came up behind us. My friend, who seemed obviously distressed, asked me if I could hear what they had said. It turns out, that despite them being at least six years our senior, they had made inappropriate comments about my friends short skirt and boots, my tight jeans, and my other friends tank top and shorts. I think it goes without saying I was uncomfortable and a little angry as were both of my friends. None of us were dressed inappropriately for an eighty-some-odd degree day in Denver. The fact that we received several cat-calls and offensive comments about us made me realize that street harassment needs to stop, if only I had had the wits about me to say something to them at at the time.

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40+

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Sarah’s Story: “She was mortified”

This is my daughter’s story. When she was 18 she visited Israel with her senior class at her school. Before they left for the Middle East she was told that they all needed to “blend in” as best they could. They needed to wear extremely modest clothing. She is a very light-haired natural blonde, with blue eyes and a very large bust. As they moved through the Arab Market in Jerusalem, she began to hear what she decided was jeering. It was directed at her. The men in the market were following her and throwing large-sized shirts at her (even though she had a loose-fitting, long-sleeved, shirt on;very modest.) She had no choice but to put on the extra shirts because, clearly, she was not covered up enough for them. She was embarrassed and scared. At the same time, these same men were asking to marry her. Making kissing noises and laughing. She was mortified.

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54+

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