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Kathleen’s Story: Afraid to jog alone

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.

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Alecia’s Story: “Too many reasons not to smile”

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

I

look

mean.

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.

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Ashley’s Story: “That dude made me feel like an object…”

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.

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Anonymous’s Story: Never feel guilty

I got groped on a shuttle this past spring, towards the end of my sophomore year of college. I am a woman of small stature and I was wearing jeans and a NOT incredibly sexy shirt – not that a sexy shirt would have justified ANYTHING. I just wanted to be clear about the fact that this shit can happen no matter what you have on.

This situation really pissed me off and still bothers me now to some degree… but I’m really glad I said something.

So, I’m on the Pitt shuttle alone – it’s a Saturday night, around 10:30pm, and I’m going back to my dorm after hanging out with some friends. The shuttle is pretty busy. I stand up to get ready to leave the shuttle as it comes to a stop. As I’m trying to move to the front, a group of guys get on.

As I’m pushing my way up, one of the guys getting on the shuttle squeezes my waist, right above my hip bone, as he goes past me. It was so discreet and most likely no one else had any idea that he just touched me. Horrified, I look down at his hand and blurt out, very loudly, without even thinking really – “Do NOT touch me.”

The shuttle gets quieter, the driver is looking at me like “WTF?” and I can hear the dude’s friends laughing. I hear one of them say, “Yeah, don’t touch her,” in a mocking tone. UGH. Totally horrified and embarrassed, I fly towards the exit, get off the bus, and wish I could disappear.

I felt so shitty about that guy thinking he could just touch me because he could. I felt reduced, like it didn’t matter at all who I was – he would have touched me anyway just because he could. I didn’t even see his face, so if I see him on campus again I won’t even know it. Worse, right after I asserted myself and drew attention to us, I felt guilty, like I had been the one to do something wrong… like I shouldn’t have caused a fuss. I kept thinking that it could have been worse – he could have touched my boobs or grabbed my crotch – and ya know, it’s just my waist, so why was I so upset?

That guilty feeling went away pretty quickly, especially after I got back to my dorm room and ranted to my roommate and boyfriend. He is the one who is the asshole who did something wrong, not me, so fuck that!!! Thankfully, no one has groped me since then, but if they do I want to be sure I tell them “NO” again and make sure I can recognize their face in case I ever see them again.

Location: Outside the Cathedral of Learning, Bigelow Blvd.
Time of harassment: 10:30pm

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Anonymous’s Story: “Other men seem to back off more when they know you are ‘taken'”

This happened about a month ago, but this website was not up at the time. I had just left work and was on my way home when I decided I wanted to grab some food for dinner. I locked my bike up outside the pizza place, went in and ordered, and was just about to sit down on a stool to wait for my food when a guy walks in.

He comes up to me, says hello, and asks me if I want to go out on a date sometime with him. I have never seen this man before, have no clue who he is, and I sure as hell am not inclined to go on random dates with strangers. He was polite, so I quickly decided in my head that I would also respond politely. I told him no thanks, and against my strong desire to do otherwise, I followed that up by telling him I have a boyfriend.* This is how the rest of the conversation goes:

Him: “Well, I just saw you outside and you looked good. Can I call you sometime?”

Me: “No”

Him: “Well then can I text you sometime?”

Me: “No.”

Him: “Well can I at least get a hug?”

Me: In my head, “Hell no.” But out loud I responded with “NOPE. I’m good.” And as he walks out of the store, staring at my body up and down the entire time, I am getting angrier so I loudly tell him that he can fucking leave now and to stop staring at me. He left.

I was thankful that I am an acquaintance with one of the owners there and talked about it with him afterward. He peripherally saw what was happening, but he was on the phone so he didn’t hear the conversation. After talking with him, it made me feel better to know that he also thought that guy was an asshole, and would have backed me up in telling him off.

But honestly… WTF. This man did not listen to me any of the many times I told him no, and this incident really bothered me for many reasons. Do men not hear me when I speak? Is my “no” of any value? If I had not been polite when I responded the first time, would that have made things better or worse? These are all questions I was left with.

* Also, I felt upset with myself for relying on my relationship status as a way to deflect unwanted attention. It shouldn’t fucking matter whether I am single, in a relationship, gay, asexual, or whatever! My NO should not need to be clarified in order for it to have validity. Unfortunately, in my experience, other men seem to back off more when they know that you are “taken”. Hmmm… could this be because women are viewed as property and if you’re already in a relationship you are “off the market”? Bingo.

Location: Pizza shop on Penn Avenue, Garfield
Time of harassment: 4:30 PM

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Jos’s Story: So aggravated

Walking someone said, “smile you look too pretty to have serious face” when in fact I had my NORMAL & neutral face! I was so aggravated.

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Laila’s Story: Claims he “saw me ‘checking him out’ and that I want him”

Sitting on a street cafe, sipping my latte in trendy and cultured Central London on a hot summer’s evening, I thought it couldn’t be any better. I paused from reading my novel to admire the smells, sights and noises of the streets – only to find a group of young men, dressed in jeans and brash confidence, staring at me from the opposite side of the street.

I blinked, turned away and automatically pulled down the hem of my knee-length blue summer dress; not exactly provocative, but even when wearing something revealing is no excuse for sexual harassment, it was my first instinct. I tried to ignore them, but out of the view of my peripheral vision, I could see them still gawking.

My breathing quickened as I glanced at them, and saw them crossing the street and coming towards me. I stopped, to find the cocky ringleader demand my number, claiming that he saw me “checking him out” and that I want him. I calmly said no, but was taken aback; he knocked my chair back so that my dress flew up, displaying my underwear, which his friend caught an image of on his phone. They heckled and sauntered away. Another young man sat near me helped me up, and then chased down the street for the gang! He pushed the ringleader into a wall and warned him never to do anything like that again. They left sulkily.

The kind young man returned to the cafe, making sure I was alright. Seeing that this was the example all men should follow as he was such a gentleman, I fell in love and we got married a few years later :)

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Epa’s Story: Unexpected

There were two men in their mid 50’s in the elevator. As soon as I get in I hear “sexy, sexy, sexy”. I did not react because I had just finished dining with my dad and cousin and the last thing that was crossing my mind was that I would have to deal with sexual harassment. The old man became quiet right after my dad entered the elevator with me. Then, my dad noticed they were drunk.

Lesson I learned today: Sexual harassment is UNEXPECTED, I have to be more aware of my surroundings, and carry my pepper spray at all times!!! If my dad would have not been there, the harassment could have been much worst!

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Jamie’s story: Campus harassment at Michigan State

Michigan State University is known for being a “party school”. This is not why I attend, however many young ‘men’ I have met take pride in this reputation and find it necessary to act immaturely on campus.
My freshman year I was walking to a nearby bus stop to go to meijer. It was about 5pm and already getting dark out, and I was by myself.. I was already feeling wary. As I walked by one of the dorms a pickup truck with 4 younger men inside pulled up next to me with its windows rolled down. I pretended not to notice, but knew they would say something.
The boy in the passenger seat yelled at me “my buddy here wants to take you out back and rape you!” I’m not kidding. I can’t remember what went through my head, but I acted like I ignored them and kept walking. When the truck was out of sight I realized what just happened…I started shaking and crying, and dialed my best friend right away.
Over a year later this plays over and over through my head. I wish SO bad that I had gotten the license plate number and turned the boys in to the police. WHERE do boys learn that it is ok to stalk a girl BY HERSELF and harass her or threaten rape?? (the ‘out back’ thing confuses the shit out of me too)
To the young women out there: there are evidently men out there who think it’s ok to do things like this. if something like this happens to you, CALL THE COPS IMMEDIATELY.
I was dressed in baggy sweats, but I’m sure that the moment they noticed my gender, they made me a victim.

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TF’s Story: A voice

I was walking to the CVS and saw a man standing there leaning on a railing near the store. He looked very unkempt and I tried to walk past without making eye-contact. As I walked by him he literally yelled “Why you teasing me like that! Why you teasing me like that!” Then he shook his entire body (like someone would do if they were cold) to make his point.

Then as I entered the CVS, he asked me if I could get him some food. Not to be unkind, but after I have been harassed, how do you expect me to want to give you food?

When I left the store, I took the opposite route from the one I had taken before to avoid the man. And even then it seemed that he had been waiting for me to come out because he shouted after me. I was relieved that he didn’t follow me.

As a woman I have been harassed on the street too many times, and I am just fed up. I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable in certain situations simply because I am a female. And I’m tried of how brave and arrogant men can be on the street. They behave this way because they know that nothing well to be done about their behavior.

I’m tired of always being viewed as a piece of meat by certain men on the street even though I never provoke or do anything to warrant that kind of reaction. I’m also tired of men thinking that cat-calling/verbal harassment on the street is ok. I sometimes want to tell the men off but I’m afraid of what their reaction will be.

I’m so happy that I have this sight as a forum to speak out about this.

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