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I’ve been living in Sri Lanka for several months now, working as an English teacher. The verbal harassment that foreign women (and I suspect Sri Lankan women as well) endure on a daily basis is disgusting. I can’t walk ten feet out my door before comments like “hey sexy,” “I want to f**k you!” and other extremely forward comments are made. It has made me feel bad about even walking out of my door, and I sometimes don’t even go out because I don’t feel like dealing with the harassment. The worst part is that public shaming does not work here. If I call someone out on their harassment, they behave as if they’ve done something to be proud of, or, as I walk past, they laugh at me.
I’ve never experienced such horrible harassment before coming here, and I would love to find some way of stopping it.
I live in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, a city I love. The people here are incredibly helpful, hospitable and kind, especially to foreigners like me. I’m very independent, and have always felt safe here.
But earlier this week I saw a woman nearly have her purse stolen. The would-be mugger jumped into a taxi before I, or anyone else, could take action.
So I was a little on edge when, entering a covered pedestrian overpass, I noticed a young man walking a little too closely, and too directly, behind me.
I slid my arms through both my backpack straps, thinking he might try to grab it off my shoulder. But that’s not what he had in mind.
I was wearing a skirt and tights, and before I knew it he had his fingers between my legs.
I spun around to face a surprisingly clean-cut, well-dressed young man. He was turning away from me, but I grabbed him, furious.
I started shouting horrible things at him in English, having forgotten all my Georgian curses in the heat of the moment. “You f**king piece of shit!” I screamed as I started beating his head and chest. “What the f**k do you think you’re doing, you waste of f**king space!” I punched his ear, slapped his face, pounded on his arms and shoulders.
He started to walk away, in the direction I needed to go. This only made me angrier. I grabbed him again, inflicting more verbal and physical abuse.
What struck me now, in hindsight, is how shocked and confused he looked. He didn’t fight back, didn’t say anything – he was frozen. What did he expect to happen? What would a Georgian woman have done?
When he finally started moving in the opposite direction, I screamed, “Get the f**k out! Get the f**k away from here!” and finished crossing the underpass.
That’s when I started crying.
As I walked home from school 2 years ago when I was in the 9th-10th grade, I would be harassed by men who were old enough to be my grandfather and some of them were in their 20s passing by in cars saying things to me and even slowing down and screaming things to me from their cars and followed me as I walked along the side walk; I turned to say nothing to these men I ignored them yet they kept on.
My experiences were so horrific and disturbing that when I told my parents,they stopped me from walking home and made it a point to pick me up from school and drop me off to make sure nothing like it ever happened again.We also found out that there are a number of registered sex offenders in the area in which I had to walk to and from school;a lot were for rape…
At first, I was too scared and shaken up to even tell them about it. It felt like a part of me was being taken every time these old men would say such disgusting things to me even though they clearly knew I was a minor and not interested because I had on my school uniform and I looked my age.
No one should ever have to go through this sort of thing..
I was waiting at a local bus stop close to my apartment building, around 9pm, when this guy who was up the block a bit saw me and followed me to the bus stop. He asked for the time, and I thought he would be on his way, but then he stood very close to me, facing me, and would not move. I didn’t want to run or make a sudden move, so I just stood , my phone in my hand, ready to turn and walk when I looked down and he had taken his pants off and was completely exposing himself. It was horrific and disgusting, and I just turned and calmly walked away. I looked over my shoulder, and the creep had already run off somewhere and was out of sight. I’m not sure why anyone would think it’s ok to do something like that in public, but if I ever see this individual again, I will call the police and use my pepper spray.
I was on my way home at 9AM in the morning. I was at the Roosevelt Ave stop. I went inside the R train and sat at the far end of the car. A few seconds later this 50something guy sat across from me. The train car was moderately filled so I didn’t think anything of it. Before the train started moving again this guy was rubbing something down there. I saw him staring at me. I tried playing with my phone. I should have taken a picture or a video to catch the guy but I didn’t think he was really doing anything. But when I looked up his penis was out. I should have yelled and screamed but I don’t know. I was just speechless. I stood up an change my seat. My mistake was sitting where I could see his reflection because obviously he was also using that to his advantage. I wanted to cry at this point but he left at the next stop. I just wanted to go home do I did not report it. And he would have probably gotten away with it. This is so ridiculous. This is the second time that has happened to me on the subway. I just wanted to vent because I have been traumatized by this occurrence. I also feel terrible and guilty for not reporting this to anyone. I am worried he is going to do this again to another woman.
My parents have a house in Spain where we go almost every vacation on holiday. So 2 or 3 years ago, we were in Spain in the summer. Our house is in a little village, but you can cycle very easily to the nearby city Cambrils. We never go alone (my sister and I), because we were too young according to my parents, but that vacation, my parents allowed us to go alone. My sister is 2 years younger than I am, so I had to take care about her. The first part of the road is a dirt road with no houses, maybe 2 or 3. The second part of the road is a bicycle path along the coastline. There is always a lot of people.
So we started very happy and exciting on our trip to the city. When we were driving on the dirt road, a white van stopped and asked us something in English. I didn’t understand him so I stopped to and he repeated his question. I was standing right next to the van, so I had to look up to him. My sister had already cycled farther so when she saw I stopped, she also stopped and waited for me. The man asked me where the ‘Camping Sol’ was. I said him that I didn’t know, I only knew that, in our little village, there was a camping named ‘Oasis’. Suddenly there came another car from the other direction and the road was very small, so the van had to move a little and the other car passed by. Now the van stood 2 or 3 meters from me and I could look into his window. Before, I only saw his face, because he was so close, but know I also saw the rest and I wish I hadn’t seen it. My sister was again next to me, and she saw it too. The man was masturbating. We were totally in shock and very scared because we were all alone. The nose of the car was pointed in the way of our village, so we couldn’t go back because he would catch up very easily, and that was very stupid, because we were at 2 minutes from our home, but at 30 minutes from Cambrils. But I started biking again, because just staying there wouldn’t help. My sister didn’t start, she was very scared so I said ‘Murielle, let’s go, just bike!’. Then she started biking and we kicked like fools on our pedals. From the other direction there came another white van and we were so scared that we drove into a random side street. Then we came back to the main road. We wanted to call our mother or father, but there was no service. Finally we reached the coastline. There we stopped. My sister had cried the whole time, and while I was calling my mother, I realized what happened and I also started crying. My mother came with the car to calm us down. My other sister, who is 8 years younger than I am, also sat in the car, her hair was still wet. She was taking a bath when we called and my mother just took her out of the bath and put her in the car.
She said we had to go back, but that she couldn’t join us with the car. We were so scared and really didn’t want to drive the whole way back, so my mother putted our bikes in the trunk of the car.
When we were back home, my father asked us if we had memorized the plate, but we didn’t. because we were in panic, we just forgot.
While walking to get dinner we were honked at three times and cars slowed down to look at us. It was freezing cold out and we were covered up completely…not that that would have been a reason for their behavior. While at dinner a man was staring and made us feel uncomfortable.
I’ve been followed home from stores on numerous occasions, verbally attacked in parking lots and it wasn’t until my husband witnessed me being screamed at in a gas station that I felt confirmation I wasn’t in the wrong; but still helpless. What bothers me the most are humiliating cat calls.
I’m a jogger. I jog outside most of the time and out of a lot of those jogs I was and am still cat called. I think ‘some’ guys think it’s a compliment and women should be appreciative; but the build up over my life has driven me to lessen the frequency of my jogs. I can’t handle the humiliation so now I hesitate to leave the house and sometimes don’t bother to jog at all. Although this isn’t as frightening as some of the other situations I have been in but it bothers me the most.
Something I love, being outdoors and getting exercise feels closed off. I need to build courage to go out jog. In a progressive Country, heck progressive city…I’m afraid to jog alone for fear of humiliation and harassment.
Narrowed eyes? Check.
Furrowed brow? Check.
Tightly closed mouth? Purposeful, measured steps? Check, check.
Head up, shoulders square, and back straight? Check check check.
I am now ready to walk down the street, ride my bike, or catch the bus… and
This is no accident. After years of living in my female body, I have mastered the art of looking mean. But why would I, a friendly, outgoing, smiley 25 year old young woman, want to appear mean? It’s easy, really. I’m trying to ward off street harassment.
Through my very unscientific, personal experiments, I’ve found that I am less likely to be the target of street harassment if I look like I will bite your head off if you say a word to me. While this is not a foolproof tactic (there have been times when I’ve gotten the old “smile, honey” from a stranger even when my face appears to be literally incapable of turning that frown upside down), it is becoming my default demeanor when I am out and about in the public sphere. I make sure to take up space, walk in a straight line, say hello to no one, and set my face in stone.
And that’s not all…
My aversion to street harassment has also caused me to snap at folks who I mistakenly think to be catcalling me. (More of me being a meanie mcmeanerson) On more than one occasion, a man has made an inaudible or incomprehensible comment to me, and I’ve immediately taken it to be street harassment and responded accordingly. Loudly, angrily, and accordingly. Until I realize that the man was just asking for directions, or talking to someone else, or whistling to a song. Oops. I’d like to think that when this happens, the man at least understands what I’m up against. With street harassment being so prevalent, it only makes sense that I’d be quick to assume the worst.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not a complete jerk. I hold doors for strangers, say hello to friendly looking folks, and I can’t hide my smile all the time. I guess it’s about staying safe but also staying true to yourself as well.
I don’t want to look like a mean person. I don’t want to assume the worst when someone mumbles something to me. But, I also don’t want to be harassed in public. So I do what I have to do, and I work to change the culture we live in at the same time. While I may have a hardened look on my face from time to time, I won’t let street harassment turn me into a meanie. There is too much good in the world, too many nice people, and too many reasons not to smile.
On Tuesday at around 6pm I walked home on busy Butler St. after a productive day at my job. I like walking because I get to enjoy the sights at a slow pace, and it’s good for thinking. The only thing that sucks is that I seem to be more likely to experience shitty comments and cat-calls while I’m walking than when I drive or bike (thought it happens a bunch on a bike, too).
So I’m walking on Butler St. near 47th street in Lawrenceville with my back-pack on, feeling really accomplished and happy. I was thinking nice thoughts about a friend of mine and admiring the leaves on the sidewalk.
Then some jagoff in a truck (for those of you not from Pittsburgh, a “jagoff” is a rude jerky person) whizzes by me, sneers, and yells something about my ass. As he rounds the curve of the road, he keeps turning back to look at me. He’s too far away for me to say anything, so I just throw my hands up in a “WTF” kinda way because I don’t know what else to do. Not much of a “holla back.”
This isn’t the worst of the harassment I’ve gotten, but I feel it’s most common – dude in a vehicle. It sucked because it reminded me of times when sexual harassment has been worse. That dude made me feel like an object to be commented upon, and he totally took away the nice moment that I was having. It made me wish that guy would slam his truck into a brick wall, and I really don’t like feeling that way about people!
I know that anyone including men can experience interruptions while they are walking or whatever, but sexual cat-calls and comments seem to damage me and the friends I have talked to a lot more than just someone on the street trying to sell you something or ask you for change.