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Joee’s story: “that intuitive prickling sensation we all experience as a primitive warning system”

There have been so many times throughout my life that I’ve experienced street harassment without even realizing what it truly was. Like many women, it began around the time I reached adolescence and has only gotten worse. Unfortunately, I have too many stories to share here at once, but there is one from several years ago that still sticks out in my mind like it was yesterday, and probably always will.
I had just turned 16 and gotten my first job hostessing at a restaurant in the small town I lived in. One spring afternoon, a friend from work and I decided to go shopping at an outdoor plaza and take a walk around the park across from it. We went in and out of a few stores, having a nice time. My friend needed to make a quick stop at a store in the plaza and since I didn’t need to go in that store I told her that I’d walk across the street to the park to get some ice cream and we agreed to meet back up by the ice cream stand in a few minutes.
I did just that, but the line for ice cream was short and my friend was no-where to be seen. I sat on a bench in the park and ate my ice cream out of a little cup, waiting and watching the few people there walking around the track. I pitched my empty cup in the garbage bin beside the bench and that’s when I saw him: an elderly man, perhaps 70 or 75 years old, walking a bicycle, overtly staring at me and making a beeline in my direction. I didn’t pay him much heed until he came to a halt right in front of me. I looked up, confused, and he said, “Sure is a lovely day, isn’t it?” I replied that it was. He then backed up a bit so he and his bike were close beside me and I was beginning to feel that intuitive prickling sensation we all experience as a primitive warning system, but try to ignore. He said, “What’s a pretty girl like you doing alone in the park?” He leaned closer to me. I had been sexually assaulted less than a year before and was still slightly skittish around strange men approaching me. I tensed and began feeling like a cornered animal, prey; his body and bicycle were blocking my most immediate exit. I tried to think of an appropriate response that might discourage him. “I’m waiting for my boyfriend,” I said. “He’s just on the other side of the park.” I thought that may be enough, but it only gave him more to question me with. “Do you like to have fun with him? I don’t think there’s nothin’ wrong with two adults having fun.” I knew what he was implying and I knew there was no way he thought I was older than I was, let alone an adult. With my tiny frame and still slightly child-like face, I was often mistaken as being even younger than I was. ‘Is he a pedophile?’ I thought, and it alarmed me even further. I smiled sheepishly, uncomfortably, hoping he wouldn’t sense my unease and prey on it like a canine when it smells fear.
“So you like to have fun? I live around here, I just got this real nice place. We could walk over there if you wanna. We’ll have fun.” He smiled. Creepy. His words themselves were innocuous but the implied meaning was clear. I looked around as discreetly as I could, hoping to see my friend or another person, anyone, nearby. I didn’t, but I wanted away from him right then. “Oh look, there comes my boyfriend!” I stood up abruptly, causing him to stagger backward a step, and power-walked with no real destination in my mind; just away from him. He got on his bike and rode out of the park.
I crossed the street, heading to the store my friend was in just as she came out of the door. I called her name and she must have seen something in my eyes I was unaware of because she sounded alarmed when she asked, “What’s wrong?!”
I relayed my experience to her and we got in her car. She was determined to find the man and we circled every block in the vicinity, but we never saw him. Although the panic I felt was nearly gone, adrenaline was still pumping through my veins, and I was shaken. I told her I just wanted to go home. As I was getting out at my house, I sincerely thanked her for her concern and efforts in trying to find the man.
Only when I was alone in my bedroom at last did I allow the tears to flow unbidden. I felt ashamed, scared, powerless, sullied, but most of all I felt angry. Angry not only at this one creep, but for all the women who have to live with men like him and their lecherous glances and words that poison innocence. I was angry with myself for not standing up, not reporting him right then because I realized that with the confidence and persuasion he exuded towards me, he must have done this before and will undoubtedly do it again, perhaps to an even younger or more naive girl who will follow him home.
I realized I needed to take a stand, and I have. Not only for myself, but for every person who has ever experienced sexual harassment. I’m so thankful for organizations like Ihollaback for raising awareness for something so vitally important. From me, and I’m sure from women everywhere, thank you for showing us we have the strength to holla back!

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Sage’s story: I was 16

Once when I was 16 I walked down the road i live on to do my volunteering at a thrift shop. I approached an intersection when a man in a van began to harass me. He honked repeatedly as I crossed the street. Once I crossed,and the light had gone green he made a turn and began driving and honking alongside where i was walking. I just walked to the shop and did my work. Hours later, i had completely forgotten about the incident and went on break. I sat outside and watched cars go by while i ate some crackers. Suddenly the same man in the van from hours before came “casually” walking past and approached me. He started asking me why i was sitting there and if i was hungry and wanted to get in his car to get something to eat with him. I told him no and he eventually went away. It made me feel so uncomfortable.

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Margot’s story: 1984

I was about 24 and biking home along East Broadway towards Burnaby. It was during rush hour traffic and another biker came up behind me and slid his hand up my buttocks. It made me stop biking almost fell into traffic. We fought a bit and drivers just honked at us! This was from out of no where. I didn’t know the person and didn’t recognize him from any previous riding experience. Didn’t make sense. No one helped and after I called 911 the police said they couldn’t do anything for me. I still had to finish riding my bike home! I would never have thought that this could happen this way. This was back in 1984.

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Margot’s story: #bystanderFAIL

I had just returned from a trip overseas. I was 20. I was visiting with my brother at a local Taco Bell. I used the pay phone on the street and had a young man approach me asking for directions – I gave him the directions and his way of thanking me was to come into the phone booth and assault me and grope me. I was very shocked and tried to fight back. It was about 9 p.m. and still light out. People watched and didn’t do anything. I felt very violated, but what could I do? This was back in 1980.

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Cat’s story: My New Year’s Resolution is “to not tolerate anymore of this bullshit.”

Every time I’ve been severely harassed from 2011 to 2012. I get the occasional “nice tits” and rudeness but this is by far the worst. I know the exact dates because of OCD journal entries.

– On July 11th 2011, I was walking to my father’s house. I was not provocatively dressed at all: Rob Zombie t-shirt and jeans. My father lives in an alright area, but you have to walk under two highway overpasses and past a bar to get there. A lot of men hang out under the overpasses, but since it was broad daylight I didn’t see a reason to be anxious. This older man rode up behind me on his bicycle and started asking me questions. “Where are you going?” “What are you doing?” A lot of it was really condescending and he referred to me as “baby”. Then when I ignored him he proceeded to physically block my way (with his bicycle) right by the highway overpass. Naturally I was uncomfortable and refused to answer his questions. He finally rode away but not before yelling “YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SCARED OF ME BECAUSE OF MY COLOR!!!” My father lives in a neighborhood predominantly made up of African Americans. I was afraid that they would assume that I had yelled some racial slur at the man or had done some great injustice by refusing to talk to him. There were people sitting at the bar who saw what he was doing but made no attempt to help me. I got to my dad’s, closed the curtains, cried and ordered pepperspray.

– On September 20th 2012, I turned 19 and wore a low cut shirt. I am pretty busty (wearing a 34 I–but actually more of a 34 K) so I am somewhat used to being looked at. I don’t mind being looked at, but I don’t like it when my body is commented on, because it is something I cannot control. I was going to class and a teacher looked me up and down and said “Looking good.” I turned red and said “thanks.” I really did not know how to respond to that situation because even though this person isn’t a professor of mine, they still had some authority over me. I really did not know how to respond or what to do. I told a friend of mine who is an RA and they encouraged me to report it, I didn’t want to stir up trouble so I didn’t report it, but I spent part of my birthday feeling dirty and cheap because of a lousy professor. The worst part, I almost stupidly registered for a class of his. Thank God I dodged that bullet. If I see him I make sure I glare at him in the halls. I stand by my decision not to report because I would of been slut shamed to hell and back for my low cut shirt.

–On September 29th 2012, I had to go to a Pagan Pride festival for my internship. Since I didn’t know where I needed to be I decided to call a cab. When I got in the cab, the driver had his young son in a carseat next to me. Then asked me where I was going. When I told him I was going to Pagan Pride for my internship, he got into the whole religion talk and how apparently pagan people are all very sexually promiscuous and bisexual. I explained that although I am not religious myself I respect everyone’s religion and sexuality, and that I myself am bisexual. He then asked me a lot of inappropriate questions about whether or not I’d been with a woman. The subject got onto how he liked my body, and he circled around the park so I would have to pay extra. He handed me his card and asked me to call him. I tore it up and threw it in the nearest trash can. It was a horrible experience because I was stuck in a vehicle with this person, and if I had jumped out of the car I would be somewhere unfamiliar. If I called the cops I would of been slut shamed because of the low cut top and semi-see through skirt I was wearing. Or in the very worse case scenario arrested for not paying. If this ever happens again, I will definitely call and complain.

–On November 5th 2012, I was walking to the post office to send off my absentee ballot. I was about a block away from my dorm and on the phone with my boyfriend when the incident took place. I stopped to tie my jacket around my waist because it was hot near where I live. A guy wearing a violet-ish jacket and really worn out pants that might of been jeans or might of been khakis crossed the street and deliberately blocked my path. I stepped to the right and he mimicked my movements with his hands up and a wild look in his eyes. I was irritated so I just walked around him, and a couple of steps later I got this bad feeling, so I spun around. He was right behind me. I told him to “Get the fuck away from me!” And he left me alone. At that moment had he come near me again I am one hundred and ten percent certain I would of gone into fight or flight and severely hurt him, I could hear my heart beat in my ears. I was in survival mode on the way to the post office, but after I left I was shakey. I stayed on the phone with my boyfriend until I found a male acquaintance who walked with me to my next errand. After that I had calmed down enough to go to report it to campus security. Then I filed a report, and was interviewed by two officers who said they thought it was aggressive panhandling. I am genuinely sure that person had more sinister intentions by the look in his eyes. Why would you attempt to rob someone so close to their campus when security guards could hear and when they were on the phone with someone who could of presumably called the police? I was really shaken by the incident and really hope that person was caught, but I doubt they were.

This is why street harassment sucks. I don’t feel safe walking around near my father’s house or university. I have other less-severe incidents where people have yelled things out of cars or made kissy faces at me. I shouldn’t have to be nice to these assholes and not make a scene. I hate how people blame it on what I wear or on how I have big boobs, or tell me that I should ignore it and move on. I have a right to be angry with this treatment, and one of my new years resolutions is to not tolerate anymore of this bullshit.

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Ela’s story: It’s like I can’t even live my life with these people around, all because I am a girl.

Each day I learn increasingly how dangerous it is to be a female on this planet. I only recently returned, just before 2am, from the most terrifying experience of my life. On my commute home, I ended up at a relatively desolate subway station. A guy apparently took interest in me and started (literally) doing ninja kicks by my head as I sat, petrified, on a bench wondering what the fuck was going on. I moved away and he pursued, following me wherever I walked in the station. I sought solace by the only other people there at that moment, only to again be regarded as a piece of meat and catcalled by the two shitfaces. The psycho guy was oblivious to my intentions of ignoring him, my dirty looks, hanging around the emergency call button and wearing headphones. I was so tempted to push that button, but I was afraid he’d beat me to a bloody pulp in the time it took the cops to get that far underground to the station. I knew he would follow me onto my train and my prediction was correct, as he boarded the same car as me and made sure to stand a few feet away from me. I swung my umbrella around and clenched my pepperspray in my coat pocket. It was collectively the most horrifying 20 mins of my life. He pretty much chased me out of the station and I almost passed out due to running and having a simultaneous panic attack. Hollywood Boulevard was almost empty, but I saw a mall security guard (as I’d hoped to) and ran to him, relaying my story. The psycho followed me into the open air mall, only to continue walking up the steps when he saw me with security. I was literally shaking and out of breath. Another guard was called to escort me to my street, which is right behind the mall. He couldn’t believe what had happened. We approached the exit of the mall, which joins up with a parking garage for the hotel and also my street. Who was walking down the driveway from the parking garage? The psycho! I bolted back towards the mall until the guard received a call that the guy had left the area. The guard then walked me to my street and I said I was ok to get to my apartment, which was a few buildings down and waved to him when I was outside my door. I am so grateful to them for helping me and as sad as it is, I know it could have been much, much worse, as it is for so many people in this scenario. I don’t think it’s stretching beyond the imagination to say that guy would have attacked and raped me, then killed me, had we been alone. It’s like I can’t even live my life with these people around, all because I am a girl.

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Kelly’s story: JERK-MOVES (male privilege gone wrong. way wrong.)

These photos was taken on December 14, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. These clever gentlemen thought it was super funny to talk about how much they would like to “violently rape that bitch,” “take it from that cunt,” and “beat the shit out of her.” They mentioned being puzzled about why “whores should even get paid” for the privilege of having their small penises inside them. They also thought it was super awesome to call me a “fucking whore” when I asked them to stop yelling ugly misogynistic things across the restaurant.

Sadly the manager asked me to leave after I began taking photos of these men. I explained to the manager that the group had been talking about beating up women, raping women, and were using extraordinarily offensive sexist language including bitch, cunt, slut, etc., but the manager simply told me to “return to my seat.” I declined to do so and left, while the men continued to shout “whore” at me (and at least one threatened to rape me as well).

Since posting these photos on Facebook, I have found out that these gentlemen are Notre Dame undergraduate students, at least some of whom were recently banned from living on campus.

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Kathryn’s story: “As he saw me taking the second picture, his grin turned to what seemed like a confused frown.”

It isn’t much of a story, I was just hoping to take a little control back after the routine, lech-y verbal harassment that occurs in the not-so-nice part of my neighbourhood here in LA.

I was walking to the pet store to buy some dog food when a 50-something man started shouting sexual obscenities in my direction, entreating me to “come over to his car” to “get a better look”, blah blah. He was sitting in his BMW SUV in the Citibank parking lot, smoking a cigarette.

I looked over at him, he grinned and I quickly averted my gaze. As I was in the pet store, I was mad at myself for not staring him down, so on my way back, I held up my iPhone and conspicuously snapped a profile photo of him, then got a little closer to take a photo of his license plate. As he saw me taking the second picture, his grin turned to what seemed like a confused frown.

Here’s his car, and his license plate. He can go fuck himself.

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Thistle’s story: a freaking YOGA TEACHER…

This experience is a few years old, but I just came across this site after sharing the story a few days ago, so I thought I would share it here.

A few years ago I was visiting the Summer Solstice Festival in Greensboro, NC. It’s a wonderful festival that I enjoy very much, and usually the people there are awesome. I was with my husband (now my ex) and a couple friends — one of whom brought her children.

We agreed to meet up at the fire dancers, and with one thing and another I ended up in the middle of a tightly packed crowd, with an autistic little boy of five or so, with no way to track down the rest of my group or even get out of the crowd until the performance was done. It might not have been so difficult for another person, but I’m nightblind — I could see points of fire and tightly packed, shadowy bodies and nothing else. Still wouldn’t have been a problem, except that my young charge was both cranky and intent upon joining the fire dancers any way he could. He set up a screaming tantrum to rival the drums, struggled, kicked, bit, and pulled my hair in his flailing attempts to get away from me ( and in case you did not know, autistic kids are ridiculously strong).

A very kind older gentleman (perhaps forties or early fifties) was sitting next to me, and he offered to help me with my uncooperative charge. He helped me get the little boy restrained, then semi-calmed, and I was very grateful. And it didn’t bother me that the man sat close to me and put his arm around me either. He was inviting me to come take classes at his yoga studio.

That was when he groped me.

So here I am, still with a squirming child in my arms, and I’m terrified that without this man’s help I’ll lose my grip on the kid and he’ll go charging in amongst the torches and the gasoline. I can’t go anywhere — I’m sitting crosslegged with a kid in my lap, people pressed in on all sides, and I CANNOT SEE. And this man is talking about how he would really like to see me me again, with his arm wrapped around my shoulders and his hand on my breast.

I felt so helpless. I never expected it, not from an older man, not from one who was so soft spoken and helpful, not from a freaking YOGA TEACHER at an event where I was used to receiving a higher level of courtesy than usual. I didn’t feel like I could escape. I didn’t even feel like I could PROTEST, because his influence seemed to be the only thing keeping the kid beating the heck out of me and escaping. Don’t get me wrong, if this guy had touched the boy in any way that could have been considered inappropriate I’d have set up an unholy racket. But for myself? I sat there and took it.

I’m a braver person now. I’ve learned some tricks, and I’m not so helpless in the dark anymore. But I’m even more reluctant than ever to be left alone in any crowded place now.

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Isha’s story: we had expected someone to intervene but nobody did.

I was on the bus with a friend of mine in broad daylight going to the subway. At our stop we got up to walk out and these two men were sitting by the doors. As we were standing there they started making comments about our clothes and our bodies so my friend turned around and told him to f*** off. They did not take kindly to this and started calling us terrible things. One of them came very close to us and said “you don’t appreciate my compliments, fine, you deserve this” and he dumped his water on both of us. At this point we had expected someone to intervene but nobody did. One man asked if my friend (who was now in tears) was ok but the other people on the bus just grumbled about the water that had gotten on them. I was so shocked at what had happened that I turned to him and said, “do you know how old I am?” and he said “you’re a stone cold b****” and then got off the bus. We followed and stood outside the station and as he was walking away I said “I’m fourteen” he turned and gave me a disgusted look and then walked away. Now both these men were probably in their mid to late 40’s and they hadn’t even shown the slightest bit of remorse when they found out they had just harassed two teenage girls. Before this I didn’t feel safe going places in my neighborhood at night, but now I don’t even feel safe going places during the day.

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