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Ria’s story: “It’s a little scary how young stuff like this starts.”

When I started reading through the stories on this site, my first reaction was to sympathize and think, ‘wow, this is terrible. I’m lucky to have never experienced harassment like this myself.’ I’m a bit of a shut-in and, because of this, I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life until recently. I figured I just haven’t been in many situations where harassment could take place.

But the more I thought about it–the more /this site/ got me thinking about it–the more I realized I was wrong. Even with my life as a shut-in, I /have/ experienced harassment.

When I was in sixth grade, I used to go walking in the woods with a friend of mine. On one such occasion, we wandered into a previously-unexplored part of the forest and found the remains of an old treehouse. Someone had left a pair of extremely feminine lace panties there–my friend and I were too innocent to think of /why/ they were probably there. We merely found it funny in sort of a surreal way.

Then these three boys showed up. They began taunting us, shouting at us, insulting everything from our looks to our intelligence. One of the boys picked up the underwear; he mockingly asked if it was mine, and threw it at me. When we tried to leave, they followed us or blocked our path. My friend and I were frightened, angry, and humiliated. I remember I was shaking. I was almost crying.

I had been carrying a large, solid tree branch as a walking stick, so in a moment of rage and desperation, I swung it at one of the boys. At almost twenty years old, I now understand that assaulting someone who’s harassing you isn’t exactly well-advised, but at the time I was younger and upset. I felt so helpless; no matter what we did, the boys refused to leave us alone. Luckily the boys backed off. As they backpedaled, one of the boys called me a ‘psycho bitch’, and then they were gone. Still shaking, My friend and I ran home.

For years afterwards, I categorized the incident as just some other kids being dicks, and dismissed it. In retrospect I realize that if my friend and I had been /boys/, we almost certainly would have been left alone. These boys harassed us because we were two /girls/ alone in the woods, and much of what they said involved sexual slurs.

It’s not exactly a ‘street harassment’ per se, but it strikes me because those boys were roughly two years younger. By fourth grade they already had the idea that it was okay to demand our attention, harass us, block our path. It’s a little scary how young stuff like this starts. My friend and I never went back to that part of the woods again.

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9+

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Maggie’s story: #bystanderfail

My sister and I were visiting our cousin and her boyfriend in D.C., and we were taking the metro back home around 10pm one evening. We are all in our mid- to late 20s. We had a fairly long ride so we were sitting and chatting, and the car was relatively quiet, with about 15 other people in the car with us. At some point I notice a fellow around our age, by himself, trying to get our attention. I can’t really understand what he’s saying but it’s clear that he’s a) drunk and b) only interested in us girls. My usual tactic in this type of situation is to just ignore – in most cases, people like this give up quickly. So I try to continue our conversation as normally as possible. However, the man gets more agitated and walks up to us, getting pushy and asking why we won’t talk to him. I respond by saying in a lighthearted but firm manner that he’s being annoying, and we’re just trying to have a conversation amongst ourselves. All the while, there is a middle-aged couple sitting in front of me with their heads down – literally (thanks a lot, guys!). The man becomes more aggressive, calling us bitches, remarking how white girls are all stuck up, telling us he wants to make a porno video with us, telling my cousin’s boyfriend that he “must be gay” and then takes out his smartphone and starts videotaping, shoving it in our faces and daring us to say something back to him. I am freaking outside because I am incredibly angry, not to mention going into Mama Bear mode because my younger sister and cousin are there and I am feeling overwhelmingly protective of them. I didn’t want to do anything stupid, but I hated the feeling that I was being pushed around. However, I’m in a city I’m not familiar with – don’t even know where the emergency stop button is, or if there is security on the train or the station. I just kept trying to convey strength through body language, without directly interacting him in the event that he was armed or otherwise dangerous.

I actually don’t even remember why he eventually left us alone, I think at one point he moved away and we moved further down the car. After the guy left, one of the other passengers came up to us and said (smiling) “Like, what did you guys do to him?” At the time he said it, I just wanted to shake the whole thing off, but afterwards I was so angry at that random guy – where was he when it was actually happening? What made him think that WE had done something to start it all? It was his attitude that upset me more than anything. I understand that the other passengers may have also been scared, but there were more of us than him. And I imagine most of the other people were DC natives and knew what security options there are on the metro. That’s why I chose to share this story – harassment is awful, but it’s just as awful (or maybe worse) when other people witness it and do absolutely nothing.

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10+

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Mira’s Story: Getting harassed starts at a young age

I’m seventeen years old, and these are the four times I’ve been harassed.

#1

I was about eleven years old at the time, pre-puberty and I was wearing a top, a skirt and carrying a stuffed animal.

My grandmother and me were on our way to our cottage with a car and we stopped at a small diner to eat. After we were done, we walked back to the parking lot. There was small patio outside the diner with tables and chairs so you could eat there if you wanted to. There was three guys, all around their 30-40s drinking beer. We had to walk past them to get to our car. I had a bad feeling about them, but told myself they were probably harmless, squeezed my plushie tighter to my chest and walked after my grandmother past them. I was just about to breathe a sigh of relief when one of the guys whistles after me and others snigger. I turn back to stare at them in disbelief and my grandmother glares at them. I feel like crying, I’m so humiliated. When we’re at our car, only thing my grandmother says about is “He was drunk.” I don’t reply.

#2

I was around 14 years old and I was waiting for mom to come pick me up after school. I’m wearing a loose hoodie with jeans and standing in a empty school yard.

The car is driving past me, but then suddenly slows down and a guy in the front seat roll his window down. He’s about eighteen years old. A lot older than I was, anyway. There’s another guy shotgunning, about the same age.

“Hey baby, need a ride?” Guy driving yells at me.

I ignore him completely and they drive away.

#3

I’m walking home for school, through a forest. I’m wearing t-shirt and jeans and there’s no one around.

There’s small group of guys sitting in a blanket and drinking beer. As I walk past them, one says to me suggestively: “Hey, sit down with us for a sec.”

I ignore him and I hear them laugh and say crude comments about me.

#4

I was fifteen years old and walking my dog. I’m wearing a sweatshirt and jeans.

A car slows down and a guy yells “Hey!” at me. I recognize him, I’ve seen him around school but never talked. There’s two other guys and girl in a car with them. When I don’t reply, they laugh and drive away.

When I go to school next day, I’m half-excepting there being mean rumors about me and people calling me slut. Luckily nothing (aside from my normal bullying) happens.

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8+

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Anonymous’s Story: Feeling less welcome

To set the tone of this conflict, please know that I am a women with short hair. I was wearing a simple t-shirt and lounge style shorts.

I was walking late at night to do some laundry downtown in Reed City. As I was nearing the laundromat I noticed a group of men gathered outside the backdoor of a bar, at quite a distance as to obscure their features, who presumably were smoking cigarettes. I was a little nervous at this point. I became hyper aware of statistics of violence against women and felt that it might be reasonable to stop slouching. Perhaps if I look confident then I won’t get attacked, I thought.

The closer that I got to them the more nervous I felt. I began to tread quickly and quietly, while hoping for the best. There was no point in turning back as I was halfway there. Besides, what if I had it all wrong? Or what if I ignited an animal desire within them to pursue me?

Just after I crossed Old 131 & The Pere Marquette Trail, one of the men yelled “Hey, girl or guy?”. I instinctively ignored him and kept walking. This was not a battle worth engaging in despite my deep feelings about rigid gender roles and appearance. As they disappeared behind a set of buildings lining the block I heard him say, “Yep, guy.”

Thankfully nothing else happened. This may not seem like a big deal to some but I was scared that I was going to get assaulted for appearing differently than I should. It happens occasionally, especially to people who appear at all queer. I called a family member to give me a ride home after frantically texting a few people online for support. Those moments waiting for the arrival of my family member were frightening. I was seriously afraid for my safety, as the laundromat was deserted and the men were at a bar down the street.

All in all, I do feel like a dunce for walking so late at night alone. I likely won’t do such a thing again all though I already don’t. I just assumed that it would be safer since it was a small town and I needed to squeeze laundry in real quick before the next day.

I also feel conflicted about my appearance. I usually dress in a way that I find comfortable and admittedly don’t strive to appear like a woman “should”. The incident made me feel insecure about my appearance and whether I should change the way I present myself. I decided not to change anything, yet doubt still lingers about whether I should dress more feminine.

I feel that this incident has also changed the way that I feel about Reed City. I don’t feel like it would be safe to walk late at night around downtown anymore and I feel less welcome in the community even during the day. Rude people don’t disappear in the daylight.

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15+

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Lisset’s Story: “Never took off my jacket again”

I was interning at the Broward County Public Defender’s Office this summer and every day I would sit outside and wait for my aunt to pick me up (I’m 16, but I don’t have a car). Anyway, it was hot and sunny, so I took off my jacket, but I was wearing a conservative blouse and knee-length business skirt, so I figured it didn’t matter. I had some M&M’s in my hand and I was eating them one by one when a guy got really close to my face and said “Hey, baby, wanna give me some of your M&M’s?” The only thing I could say was “What?” I literally could not believe what just happened. The guy repeated himself, just to make sure I understood, and walked away. I was too scared to do anything, especially because we were in front of a courthouse and I thought he might be some sort of criminal. After that, I never took off my jacket again, no matter how hot it was.

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9+

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Nada’s Story: Creepy

My friends and I traveled down to Provi for some clubbing tonight. We found a paid parking lot just down the street. It was incredibly convenient, and we were able to run back for anything we needed. Around 12:30, decide it’s time for a cigarette break. Out of the four of us, only two smoke, so my friend and I decide to run back to the car (suv) for some water.
She and I are sitting in the backseat, and it’s hot as anything so, my door is open. This guy (probably 40’s, scruffy) squeezes by the door, so I pull it in and apologize. So he’s by the front of the car and is just kind of staring at me, making creepy eyes and smiling. I start talking to my friend as if we’re engrossed in a conversation, hoping he’ll just leave, when my friend noticed her started to come back to my door. I whip it shut, and then he stands at the front of the car again, looking in and being seriously f**king creepy. I kind of ducked behind the driver’s seat so he couldn’t really see me, and then he starts staring at my friend, and sloooooowly pacing back and forth, still with the f**king smile. At first I hoped he was waiting for someone, since it’s a parking lot and he was carrying a package or something, but he doesn’t stop staring, and looks like he might approach us again. As we went to lock the doors he walked away.. Slowly, of course, and he kept looking back at us with the same unnerving expression on his face. When he was far enough away, we locked up the car and power walked the f**k out of there.
This was probably about three minutes, but I have no clue what the f**k made him think that was okay to do.

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12+

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Amanda’s Story: Stalked and told “should be killed” and yet that’s not a threat?

A year ago, I was walking home from a convenience store a block away from my apartment. I didn’t notice the guy trying to get my attention until he had spiralled into rude words, and until he rode up next to me on a bike. He was insulting me and yelling at me for being ‘rude’ by not responding to his opening remarks and for not being willing to have a conversation with him at a bus stop some time previous. I tried apologizing, making excuses that I don’t like talking to strangers, etc. His responses were things like calling me stuck up, calling me a ‘b**ch*, and continually insulting me and yelling. He told me not to bother calling the police. He followed me all the way down the block. I was getting really frightened and had told him repeatedly to leave me alone. Finally, in my complex’s parking lot, he yelled that “people like me” should be “executed” or “sent to Mars”. I broke and ran at that point and took a circuitous route back to my apartment. Then I called a friend and the non-emergency police.
The officer told me that since the man hadn’t told me he would kill me, just that I should be killed, it didn’t constitute a threat.
I was too afraid to practice bike riding outside for a week and went into full panic mode when I had to go to that intersection again.
I didn’t drive or even bike at this point and lived alone.

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11+

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Lily’s Story: “This behaviour is unnacceptable”

Sitting towards the back of the bus, a young boy came on and sat in front of me. When the woman sitting across from me left, he moved to sit directly behind me, on the back seat.

During the trip I felt extremely nervous and uncomfortable for reasons I could not quantify. I was too frightened to look behind me, and assured myself that nothing could really be happening because there were people on the bus – what I failed to register was that everyone was sitting at least two rows in front of me, with even less visibility than I had. In an extreme state of anxiety, I eventually left the bus at my stop and looked back to confirm that I had made the whole thing up.

I had not. I looked behind me and saw that the boy had been masturbating behind me for the 20 minutes he had been there. I do not blame myself for not acting upon my discomfort, or feeling violated and sick upon reflection. I am myself a teenager, and when I got home, crying, my mother called the police and we took action.

This experience has had a profound effect on me. I find dusk (the time it occurred) on public transport and alone incredibly unsettling, often feel uncomfortable on buses and second guess the people sitting around me. I sometimes feel irrationally frightened of people who look like this boy. This behaviour is unacceptable.

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10+

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Holly’s story: “Am I going to just let this happen?”

I was in a busy pub, walking to the bathroom when a middle aged man, one who looked old enough to have a daughter my age (18) groped my ass through my knee length dress (all sane people know what I was wearing has nothing to do with it, but that’s just for the skeptics who speak of “tiny hemlines” or whatever)

I paused, and thought for a moment “Am I going to just let this happen?” I considered that there were police directly outside the door of the pub, so I turned round, grabbed the guy by the collar and threw him towards the door ( I was about a foot taller than him) His friend got angry and told me to “just move along, he didn’t do anything” My boyfriend (who had been at the bar when it happened) came over and obviously was very angry and challenged the guy. The bouncer/security came over and asked us to leave, when I told him what happened he said “I didn’t see it” basically meaning it didn’t happen. He kicked out me and my boyfriend.

I was very angry about this, as you would understand I couldn’t believe we were the ones getting kicked out the pub for it. I was so frustrated, and angry I started crying. My friends told me it wasn’t a big deal, they didn’t understand why I even cared, “it happens all the time to everyone”. I was so upset by the injustice of it all that I approached the police and told them what happened. They took a statement from me and arrested the guy. They even took my dress for DNA testing, and checked the CCTV cameras but they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him. I just hope spending the night in the cells taught him not to do it someone else, and I hope he had to explain to his wife & kids exactly why he spent the night in the cells.

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33+

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Parisa’s Story: Several experiences

Oh, I wish it were just one address, one intersection, one story… I just have to say these are some NY experiences for me…

WORDS:

Countless catcalls. In addition to the usual “Hey, sexy.”, etc, a few examples are:

“Smile! Why you looking so sad?” [apparently not smiling for no reason=sad]. This is remarkably common, always intrusive, bewildering (come on, it’s obvious you are not concerned with my wellbeing, dude!) and extremely annoying.

“Say HI, ho!!!” [following my lack of response to a really gross-sounding “hiiiiiii”] Nice etiquette lesson, sir. Thanks.

GROPING:

1. Union Square, daylight, sidewalk, lots of people around. Guy digs under and between my buttocks. I begin to yell and swing my grocery bags at him. He laughs at me while dodging the swings. Lots of people look. No one tries to help. He leaves. A few minutes later I cry hysterically and am ‘comforted’ by some male ‘friends’ who tell me not to get so worked up over it.

2. Herald Square, daylight, sidewalk, moderately populated. A man grabs my behind and runs for it. Once a safe distance away makes sure to turn around to me and laugh. Continues his exit. I vow to myself I will be ready to pummel the next guy that does this. And am given the opportunity in…

3. Gramercy Park, daylight, sidewalk, few people. I feel a hand digging in my butt. I’m ready! I turn around and see a boy of approximately 14 yrs. His friends are backing away from him, saying “We told you not to do it.” I am going to kill this child. I go after him. He runs ahead of me. I am screaming at him to “Come here!” and he keeps running. I slow down and speak calmly “I want to talk to you,” he slows down a bit and I get closer. We alternate like this for a few blocks. Finally, a responsible-looking dad and his 9 or 10 yr old son ride up on bikes. The man susses out the situation and begins telling me to stop what I’m doing. I’m hysterically crying at this point and now really confused by what he’s saying. He then says maybe these boys have a knife and I shouldn’t be chasing them. I’m sobbing, pleading “Why are you stopping ME!?!? Why aren’t you saying anything to THEM???!?!??” He get’s defensive WITH ME. I understand his point about the risks but couldn’t he at least say SOMETHING to them? They are a block away and he doesn’t even say “This is wrong!” to the guys or anything. Another man walks up to us and asks what happened. I am choking on sobs, explaining to him what the boy did and why I am upset that I’VE been told to stop but he wasn’t. This man very calmly listens and agrees with me that this was wrong. Dad and son ride off. This new man offers to walk me to where I was going. About 10 steps into this walk, snot streaming out of my nose, he offers a GEM of and idea:

[Delivered with a certain flair, charm and authority (aka Sleaze)]
“You know what you need? You need to come up to my apartment and have a drink with me.”

I walked away from him. Bought and immediately put on a huge sweater full-price (I hate that!), though I was already dressed in conservative slacks and a blouse and it was summer. Cried the whole way home. When I was there safely I called my long-distance boyfriend who — THANK GOD — listened, empathized, and didn’t make it about an affront to his manhood or vandalism of his property. Just good, solid, caring support. Thanks, A.

STALKING:

I’ve unfortunately had to learn how to tell if I’m being followed and how to deal with it if I am. Thank you, crime/stalking/horror movies for your unerring guidance.

This has happened twice lately.

1. Walked onto the train and felt a guy notice me. As I kept riding, could just feel that he was planning something (THANK YOU, INTUITION!!!) and that he wasn’t quite right in the head. Waited until the last second to jump off at my stop and he quickly came out, too — after clearly not planning to before. I exited and went immediately into a store. He walked past it a few doors and then started back. I crossed the street, pretending to wait for a bus near where cops stand. He crossed the street toward me but then angled a bit away. I took a mental snapshot of his description. Found a cop, gave her the description and asked her to watch me walk home. Haven’t seen him since.

2. On the train again, a man moved close to me on a nearly empty train. He began to talk to me in hushed tones about some music he was making and a a video he wanted me to check out. Also flirting and saying things about my looks. He’s leaning really close to me. I’d say he was either somewhat developmentally challenged or on a drug, or both. He wants to talk about different things, he wants to know about me. I tell him I’m married. He keeps going. My stop comes up. I do the waiting thing. I jump off. He gets off. Another train comes downstairs. I run to it. The doors close before I get there. I pray for a miracle. The doors opened!!! I jump on. He doesn’t. I get off a stop later and thank the female conductor for opening the doors, telling her someone was following me. She is unfazed. I’m still grateful.

** Perhaps an interesting fact is that I model for a living and experience FEWER annoying, intrusive and scary interactions when I’m dressed UP for work. I have had MORE negative experiences when I was dressed either in a nicely CONSERVATIVE outfit or in my SWEATS! **

Thanks for reading! Wishing you safety, wherever you are!!!

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