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Layne’s Story: “I raised my middle finger right up at his grinning face”

I’m submitting this story here, for the widest distribution possible. It happened to me in Florence, Italy in early June 2012. With summer vacation upon us, many women from different countries will be visiting Italy and I want to warn them of the possibility of this sort of “attack.”

I was wearing a knee-length summer dress, walking with my husband past the Uffizi Gallery, towards the Piazza della Signoria. My husband was walking several steps ahead of me, when I felt hands run up the backs of my thighs and my skirt was lifted up to my waist. It was surreal. A crowd of people laughed as I whipped around to see who had done this. It was a young man with some sort of face paint. I don’t know if he was a “performance artist” attempting to amuse passers-by, or whatever. I did the first instinctive thing that came to me (for better or for worse) … I raised my middle finger right up at his grinning face and then strode away after my husband (who never saw this happen).

I got increasingly stressed out over this incident, remembered the feel of his hands dragging up my skirt – I felt so violated! It ruined the rest of our time in Florence, since I kept thinking I might run into him again, or someone else would try something.

So my warning to all women visiting Florence – wear pants, and be aware that there are some misguided souls out there trying to make a buck.

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Lizzy’s Story: Not the first time

I was walking to the tram today and passed 3 bald guys and one girl walking in the opposite direction. It’s a small pathway behind the houses and although well lit, not exactly great. It was broad daylight however, about 4pm. As I walked past one of the burly baldies, one of them decided it’d be a really great idea to go in for the good old bum-slap routine.

He muttered “you know what? you are…” followed by a quick slap to my bum!

I didn’t turn or react at all and continued on my walk, because I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of thinking it even registered. Fortunately I found it quite amusing but nobody should have to go through something like that and it could have been someone who was more upset by it than me.

Not the first time a man has done something on this same pathway. I’ll post my other story separately.

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CS’s Story: Vulnerable

I was walking to the subway on Bond Street on my way to work at about 8:30 this morning when a 6’3, skinny kid in a blue sweatshirt with gray sleeves came around the corner of the building at Fulton Street and made a grabbing motion at my chest. He mumbled something inaudible and pulled his hand back without actually touching me. By the time I realized it had been an intentional motion, he had gone past. I turned and said “what the f**k? Get off!” but none of the 8 or 9 other people in the area reacted. As I looked back at him he looked at me over his shoulder and maintained eye contact as he walked away until I ran in the same direction I had been going and stopped once I could stand with my back against a building to text my boyfriend before continuing to work. I wasn’t thinking quickly enough to get a picture.
I think maybe the kid was just trying to be creepy- he succeed. Just the look in his eyes was so menacing, like he didn’t actually do anything to hurt me, but wanted me to know he could have if he had wanted to. I had taken my pepper spray off my keychain before a flight last week, but I’ll put it back on this evening. I’ll probably take a different train to work for a while too. What really pisses me off is how vulnerable it made me feel, even though physically I’m fine. Ugh.

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Annodam’s Story: “Creeper Accidentally-On-Purpose Brushed My Hand”

When I go to Planet Smoothie, I want a goddamn smoothie, not a wannabe Smooth-E. Unfortunately, it seems I got both.

About 9:30 PM on a Monday night. Creeper is a slim male in his 20s-early 30s, works at the Planet Smoothie in the Amtrak terminal. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see his nametag. I had just paid for my drink and was reaching for it; as I grabbed it, Creeper accidentally-on-purpose brushed my hand and said something to the tune of “hold up baby, where you from?” I couldn’t hear very well and the hand touch may well have been an accident, so maybe I’m overreacting. Anyone else had any problems here?

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Tania’s Story: Stop harassing me

Thank you Parisians in the Pernety metro, December 2008 for standing like marble statues when a man leered at me, followed me around and nearly made me fall onto the rails when inching further from him. Thank you Parisians standing in the metro to Montparnasse Bienvenue, December 2008 when a drunk fool kept making lewd comments at my friends and me, and for calling my friend “a bit chocolate” because of her Indo-Mauritian ethnicity. Thank you people of Bordeaux Rue Sainte Catherine, April 2009 for sniggering when a man spat on my friend and me calling us dirty immigrants. Thank you people on Rue Mouffetard, July 2009 for laughing when some douchebag yelled “Suce ma bite” (suck my dick) at me, just because I was eating a baguette. And the gold medal goes to my wonderful neighbours for 9 months’ worth of daily cat calls, “Bienvenue a Hong Kong” (welcome to Hong Kong), kicking footballs at my feet because it was “fun” trying to make me trip, and repeating my sentences like parrots/kids when I tried to get you to stop harassing me.

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Hanna’s Story: “They Were Far Too Close for Comfort”

I had just finished hanging out with a guy I really liked at a restaurant down town and decided to walk the 200 feet to the public library to wait for my dad to come pick me up. I was dressed pretty cutely as I had just been on a date. It was raining and I was about half way to the library with a hundred feet or so to go. I stayed close to the Butler Center, (a public research outlet) under the eave, out of the rain. I saw two apparently homeless men approach me. “Hey pretty lady”, the first one called out as the other shot me a lecherous grin. I gave them my best ‘get the hell away from me’ look but they only came nearer. They essentially had me trapped up against the building. As someone who follows the Innocent Until Proven Guilty mindset I didn’t want to cry rape. What if they just wanted a little money? But now they were far to close for comfort. I was scared shitless. I couldn’t take on two men, and no one was out in the rain. But, out of nowhere another man was merely walking from one building to another like I, and saw the whole situation unfold. “Leave the young lady alone” he commanded the two men in a stern voice. They glanced at him but did not move. “I said leave her alone” he reiterated. At that they turned and walked on. “Thank you!” I cried out to my hero before booking it to the library. There, with my knees knocking, I phoned my dad and requested that he come inside and walk with me back to the car. Though I was not hurt it was terrifying and I hate to think what could have been.

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17+

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M. E.’s Story: “Keep your hands to yourself”

Today at a corner store in San Francisco my sister was grabbed by this man, whom she had never seen before. He cornered her and tried to hit on her, pulled on her skirt (like one does to see how full the skirt is), then grabbed her hand and kissed her all the way up her arm. She was terrified and broke away, but he followed her when she went out of the store. She called me in a panic. My sister lives in one of the most progressive cities in the country, and this is the second time this week she’s been harassed.

Taking one’s style of dress, appearance, or demeanor into account is irrelevant when talking about sexual harassment – NO ONE wants or invites or deserves this kind of behavior, no matter what they dress like or do on their own time – but even so, my sister dresses conservatively and told the man she had a husband at home. It didn’t matter, he kept going. No one in their right mind could say that this is acceptable behavior or that she “asked for it.”

Street harassment has happened to every woman I know. It’s happened to me. I’ve usually been too scared to say anything: it’s only recently I’ve learned I can tell a man “that’s not OK.” But I shouldn’t need to say that. Women deserve to feel safe when they go to the store. It’s something this schmuck should have learned in preschool: keep your hands to yourself.

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19+

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A Note To Men Who Want To Flirt With Women

Cross Posted from Hollaback! Boston

I’ve been looking for a way to describe this feeling that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It’s this feeling of always being on guard, of bracing myself for harassment, of anticipation and expectation of my boundaries being disrespected and breached. And I found exactly what I’ve been feeling described more articulately than I would be able to describe it myself.

Men who want to flirt with women have to realize: Women live in a state of continual vigilance about sexual safety. It’s like having a mild case of hay fever that never goes away. It’s not debilitating. You’re not weak. You’re not afraid. You just suck it up and get on with your life. It’s nothing that’s going to stop you from making discoveries, or climbing mountains, or falling in love. Sometimes you can almost forget about it. It doesn’t mean it’s not there, subtly sucking your energy. You learn to avoid situations that make it worse and seek out conditions that make it better.

If a female stranger is wary around you, it is not because she suspects you are a rapist, or that all men are rapists. It’s because a general level of circumspection is what vigilance requires. Don’t take it personally.

If this frustrates you, try to remember that women are blamed for lapsed vigilance. If a woman does get raped, everyone rushes to see where she let her guard down. Was she drinking? Was she alone? Was she wearing a short skirt? Did she go to a strange man’s room for coffee at 4am?

A woman must be seen to be vigilant as well as be vigilant. If she is deemed insufficiently vigilant, she will be at least partly blamed for any sexual violence that befalls her. If she’s regarded as downright reckless, that “evidence” can be used to completely exonerate her rapist. If it comes down to a he said/she said dispute over whether sex was consensual, as so many rape cases do, the dispute becomes a referendum on whether the woman seems like the sort of reckless person who would have sex with a stranger.

If a woman does go back to a strange man’s hotel room at 4am, even if she only wants a coffee and conversation, she’s more or less given him the power to rape her. No jury is going to believe she went up there for anything but sex. So, don’t be surprised if a stranger reacts badly to that suggestion.

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Heather’s story: Can’t walk a mile in a summer dress

My mother always taught me to wear loose clothing, jeans, and high-neck shirts when walking around. I think it’s because she knows people, and knows how horribly they act with young women. However, I go to school in a different area of the state and have become very comfortable running to the store with a summer dress with no sleeves and a lower top. I’ve never once dealt with something like this there, so it was surprising it would happen so close to home.

In a period of a twenty minute walk, I was repeatedly honked at by drivers, some of which slowed to leer at me as I walked to and from the local convenience store to get some milk for my mother. I was with my younger sister, which truly terrified me. She’s only 14, and I don’t think she’s ever seen people act like that. I can also say with certainty (as I lived in a big city for most of my life) that I’ve never felt so uncomfortable before. I’ve never felt so unsafe.

I think the worst part was I left my phone on the counter at my house, so I couldn’t even snap a photo of the guy who really terrified me, or call the police or some of my friends. But you know what scares me more? The fact that I can’t walk a mile in a summer dress without being verbally assaulted and followed around. It’s scary, and I don’t like it. I would even say I live in a decent neighborhood. Now, I don’t feel very comfortable anymore.

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13+

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Article, demonstration

Facebook cover from Sarah!

Hello! I want to share this cover image I made for facebook users. Please feel free to use it and empower yourself and others around you!

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