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Once I found Hollaback, I started thinking of my experiences and found quite a few. There was one that I didn’t even see as harassment but now I see it has always stayed with me in the most negative of ways. This was very long ago but I feel this is the perfect way to talk about it. I was about 10 years old and was sent to a nearby store to get something needed to cook. As I walked, this guy on a bike stopped me and asked if I knew where a certain street was, I said “No, sorry” and continued on. He did this about 4 more times until I reached the store. Once I got out I took a different route home because of the fear he might catch up with me again–I felt very uncomfortable. Once I was pretty close to my house I thought I was free but he called out once again and said “Hey, look at this…” I looked toward him and realized he was flashing me—I couldn’t move, I felt horrible and though he did not approach me further I felt dirty. I finally got home and didn’t even know what to do–I knew something was wrong. I hated how he made me feel and now I hate that he specifically targeted me and went out of his way to make me feel that way. It has been 10 years since it happened but I still feel glad I found somewhere safe to say, “fuck you!”
This incident happened when I was about 12 years old (I am 20 now) and I was in a park with a friend. We had spent the entire day at the pool and we were laying on the playground asphalt sunbathing and waiting for my mom to come pick us up (the park was right next to the pool). We definitely weren’t alone in the park since there were mothers and children all around us, houses across the street and lifeguards at the pool next door. All of a sudden, a man with very short shorts came up to the park and leaned up against the trash can with his leg pushed up against the can (his package was very obviously hanging out of his tiny shorts). I saw what was going on but I didn’t really understand it, so I ignored it. The mothers automatically caught on and left, without saying anything to my friend and I. All of a sudden we were in the park by ourselves, with the man. He then walked down to a park bench in a shaded area. I looked over at him and he had his entire penis out of his shorts and he was aggressively masturbating while looking directly at us. Being 12 years old and very naive, I was totally confused and didn’t know what to do until my friend saw what was going on and grabbed my arm and ran with me to the entrance of the pool. Thankfully my mom arrived as we were walking up to the entrance and being the fierce mama-bear she is, searched the park for him, screaming for him, but couldn’t find him. We called the police and made a report and they came to my house with mugshots, hoping to catch the guy (apparently he’s been caught doing this before) but they never did catch him. The really sad part is that this happened in a very wealthy and nice part of town where there were plenty of people around. I also don’t understand why those mothers did not warn my friend and I. Now that I look back on it, I wasn’t scared when it was going on.. just confused. I didn’t understand why a man would want to do something like that to little girls and I was never taught to look out for things like that.. especially at the playground. Now that I am adult, I am always on the look out but it terrifies me to think that there are young girls, and boys, who are just as naive as what I was.
Until street harassment and sexual violence ends, we need to have each other’s backs. To make sure Tara’s story never happens again and to build a world where everyone can sit in a park safely, donate today.
I was riding the crowded T home and I felt something poking into my ass. At first I thought nothing of it and assumed it was someone’s bag, since that tends to happen a lot on the rush hour trains. I decided to turn around, though, and saw a man standing behind me with his thumb in his pocket and his fingers bent into a fist and realized that THAT was what was touching me. That his fist was pressing into me. I moved away as much as I could (in this case, a few inches), wondered if it was an accident or not but realized it probably wasn’t. At Copley, when half the train emptied, I moved to the other side and he ended up following me there. I saw him positioned directly behind another girl, looked up at him and stared him down for at least five seconds, and he didn’t break eye contact. It was disgusting and a complete display of domination. He knew I knew what he had done to me and was trying to do to her as well. At that point I somewhat loudly told the girl he was preying on, “You might want to move forward a few inches” and glanced back at him. I hope she got the message, because at that point my stop had come and I bolted home. Revolting.
For the majority of my life when people made cat calls or honked at me on the street I would just glare back enraged but not saying a word. Well that part of my life is over.
At least three times now in Toronto when someone feels the need to tell me something such as this fine fellow “which one of you wants to take a ride on me first” I address it head on. Astonishingly once I begin to ask them what they just said to me and ask whether or not they’ve heard of a thing called sexual harassment (usually causing a scene on the busy streets or in the mall) they tend to back away even apologizing. Not that sincere, but still gets the job done.
A couple of months ago this man was following two girls around my age down the street and kept telling them they were beautiful and asking for their numbers. They were clearly uncomfortable but were trying to ignore him (to no avail) so finally I spoke up and told him, not so kindly to back off. Of course this lead to him swearing at me and asking me if I realized he wasn’t talking to me. But no, it didn’t end there, two other men on the street that didn’t even know this guy also started to chime in and yell at me, it was a little too much to handle so I just walked down the side street and away from them. But hey, at least those two girls got to walk in peace.
Tomorrow is my birthday but I’m working all day and I was off today so my boyfriend took me out all day long for some birthday celebration awesomeness. At one point we ended up at Barnes and Nobel just relaxing and reading and checking things out. It was very nice, until I sat down to leaf through a magazine and got verbally intruded upon by some guy who happened to be sitting in the chair next to me.
I had been wandering around the store for about 20min looking for new books that I might like when I decided to go see what my partner was doing. I went downstairs and found him sitting in an armchair that was part of a set of four (two next to each other and two opposite those so they were facing each other). I came up behind him, gave him a kiss, hugged him, spoke with him a bit as all the other chairs were taken and was about to walk off and find myself a place to sit and peruse a copy of Wired when the chair opposite him opened up so I sat there.
Immediately upon sitting down the man occupying the chair to my right oogled me a bit and said “I really like your boots” (though he said it while eyeing me up and down and was staring intently at other parts of my body when he mentioned the boots which made me pretty uncomfortable). Hoping that seemingly innocuous statement would be the end of it I sat down. After a few moments he tried to start a conversation with me about the book he was reading. I “politely” ignored him – which is to say that I smiled, nodded, did not answer verbally and went back to my magazine. A few minutes after that he tried again, this time I actually verbalized a one word response and turned away from him again. Finally he tried a third time at which point my boyfriend got up out of his chair, walked toward me with his hand out, said to the strange man “We’re done here” and then said to me “Come on, let’s go.” The strange man said “Oh come on, you’re not leaving are you?” and that was pretty much it.
The whole exchange, from beginning to end, made me extremely uncomfortable. To begin with I don’t appreciate being sexually objectified ever, and especially not by random strangers. Additionally, I was not interested in interacting with anyone whilst at B&N. This was my day to celebrate my birth with my boyfriend in my own way. I didn’t want to have a conversation with this stranger, I wanted to leaf through magazines and books all by myself in a comfy chair but since this man decided he wanted to interact with me I was forced into an exchange that I did not want to be a part of. But after it was all over and I thought about it my biggest issue with the exchange was that I didn’t stand up for myself. I smiled and nodded and sent subtle, non-verbal signals to this man touting my disinterest in him and the fact that I was seriously uncomfortable and displeased with his attentions. I did not, however, actually say that I wanted him to leave me alone. I don’t believe that I am guilty of encouraging him because I don’t think I did. I shouldn’t have had to put up with that shit in the first place and the fact that he felt entitled to invade my space and my day just because he (apparently) thought I was attractive is the main problem here. But the secondary issue is that as a woman dealing with a strange man I was actually afraid to stand up for myself and tell him to leave me alone.
I spent some time thinking after we left B&N and I wondered why I had done nothing and just allowed this stranger to repeatedly accost me while my partner was able to step in without issue. The fact is that I was scared, as I am any time a strange man approaches me. I fear being assaulted, attacked, I fear that if I act out in any way that these men don’t appreciate they will react with anger and become in some way violent. I fear this because it has actually happened to me before (numerous times). I have said no to requests for my phone number or even to people trying to start up a conversation and I have had men yell and scream and get physically violent in the face of my completely reasonable rejection. Having had that happen to me in the past I choose to now err on the side of caution and simply go along with it when strange men approach me until I can safely extricate myself from the situation.
This right here is one of the many insidious side effects of rape culture – I have been literally terrorized into compliance. I will admit here and now that I have actually verbally and physically consented to sex that I did not want to have because I was afraid of the consequences if I said no. And variations on the scene in the bookstore have happened to me more times than I can count.
So men everywhere – if you want women to not fear you then don’t intrude upon them, upon their personal space and their lives, unless they invite you in and if they decline your attempt at contact don’t respond with anger, don’t respond with violence and accept that this person simply isn’t interested in interacting with you the way you want to. I don’t take it as a compliment when you “compliment” me because I know that those words come with strings and expectations attached to them. I don’t appreciate it, it doesn’t pad my ego and it’s not a boost for my self-esteem. There is literally nothing positive about being accosted by a random stranger regardless of what his intentions are.
People are not obligated to give you what you want just because you want it, instead you are obligated to respect their personal space, their personal wants and their personal rights.
I was pulled over by Virginia State Trooper BR Boteler. He told me if I gave him a blow job, he would make the ticket disappear. I took my reckless driving ticket…and my dignity. I made a complaint to Sergeant Nelson and he said that Trooper Boteler’s camera was broken and it was his word against mine. I’m sure he will eventually get caught.
First, I heard Emily May , Executive Director of Hollaback! speak at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance’s annual 3 day retreat in Harrisonburg, Virginia this week. Great presentation, by the way.
Now for the story: I was driving home from the retreat and stopped in the little town of Front Royal Virginia to buy some coffee. I pulled my car over, parked on Main Street, proceeded to get out of the car, and cross at a pedestrian crosswalk. A carload of young 20 somethings stopped – one of the boys in the backseat rolled down the window and made some guttural noises and then said ” Oh, baby, lookin good”. I am a 52 year old female. I stopped in the middle of the crosswalk and said ” young man, you are really being inappropriate and cat calls are insulting and violate women of any age. I am old enough to be your mother. How would you like it if someone was disrespecting your mother or your sister? How do you think the noises you are making would make them feel? Furthermore those ridiculous noises you are making with the stupid editorial remarks make you look like a Neanderthal. I am certain your parents did not raise you to be a Neanderthal”.
Please keep in mind, that during my dissertation I was standing in the middle of a pedestrian crosswalk, holding up traffic, and not allowing this particular car to pass. I actually drew a small crowd. When, I was finished I crossed the street, walked into the coffee shop, and the car pulled away.
Many years ago, in the late 70’s, a group of feminists in Chicago went to a local construction site where the workers made obscene gestures and remarks to women as they walked by. The women climbed the corner for about a week, lining up, and yelling at the men making inappropriate remarks. The women would “hey baby” the men that harassed the women. Every time the men grab their crotch or make an inappropriate gesture at a woman walking by, the women on the corner would do the same. It was quite empowering for the women of course; the cat calling construction workers were eventually silenced and looked like fools.
Many years ago I would holler back, but overtime I learned to ignore insulting and degrading remarks and gestures made by men. Hollering back felt damn good.
It was a sunny day and I was waiting on a friend. She was taking a driving lesson and would be finished in about an hour so I bought lunch and sat down on a stone fountain/monument in the middle of the town square. When I sat down there was a couple sitting on the other side of the fountain (they had left sometime before I had finished eating) and lots of people sitting in the outdoor areas of the nearby restaurants and cafés.
I was listening to music and had just finished eating when an elderly man (around 65-75 perhaps) came up to me and seemed to want to say something, so I politely stopped my music and took out the head phones from my ears. He asked something about the weather and I answered conversationally.
See, the thing is that elderly people seem to enjoy talking to me and I’m used to them starting conversations when we’re waiting for the bus, so this wasn’t anything strange for me, and I rather like the conversations myself.
But this man suddenly asked if he could just say one thing, to which I confused said that sure, of course he could. He said that my breasts were beautiful, big and beautiful. I didn’t know how to respond so I smiled awkwardly and thanked him, and he seemed to see my discomfort because he started talking about other things again. But then soon after he returned to talking about my body, and asked if there wasn’t a special boy for me (to which I dearly wish I had told him I preferred girls) to which I answered negative, and he took that as a clue to talk about how I needed a good boyfriend, and I wouldn’t have to worry, because there are surely someone out there, and so on.
And then started talking about how some young girls could be the company of older men and get money for it, and he talked about his own ‘prowess in bed’ (and this is where I got really, really uneasy and started to get freaked out) and gave some very unsubtle hints that he would give me money to have sex with him. I, still very politely, said that I didn’t need any money and I would much rather have a job than be one of those girls, but he persisted and commented my body more.
I then decided I couldn’t stay there longer and picked up my cellphone, to which he asked if I was going to call the police. I said I wasn’t, I was just going to check on my friend that I was waiting for, because she was late, and proceeded to have a false conversation in which I agreed to meet her on the way, and politely said good bye to the old man. But that wasn’t enough, because before I got away he grabbed my hand and tried to kiss me, but I pulled away and hurriedly walked away. There was still at least 45 minutes before my friend’s lesson was finished, so I walked to a park a few minutes away to wait for her there instead. When she finally got there I told her about it and we joked and were shocked about it and that was basically it, except that I didn’t want to go back to that square in case he would be there.
Now, several weeks later I’ve started to feel uneasy around every elderly man and I’ve found myself thinking about going other ways so I don’t have to go through that square. This annoys me so much, because they’re older men and I’m not a small, petite, or weak girl, and they wouldn’t be able to do anything towards me. That man wouldn’t be able to do anything against my will.
But sometimes I feel almost scared of going to that place, scared I’ll meet him. And this pisses me off so much.
My boyfriend was working an early shift and I’d stayed over the night before. When he left at half four I got the bus to town to catch my bus home. Whilst waiting at the stop a man tapped me on the shoulder and told me he liked my nostril piercing. He asked where I’d been so I told him, thinking he was coming on to me and if he knew I had a boyfriend he’d back off. Not so. He asked how I could look so down when I’d had a “night of passion”. I ignored him. He then started asking me if my boyfriend “fucked me good”. I told him I wasn’t going to talk about that, but he kept on until my bus came. He then got on the same one. He sat in the seat behind me and carried on asking me more gratuitous questions about my sex life. I kept telling him I wasn’t talking about that with him, but he wouldn’t stop. The one comment that stands out is when he made an action signifying oral sex and asked “when he does this to you, does he make you come?” I was so disgusted. I told him that was none of his business, and he told me “I’d make you come”. Thankfully he got off at the next stop, but I didn’t stop thinking about it for days.
Another incident happened at the same bus stop, just about a week later. I was walking from there to the stop to catch the bus to my boyfriend’s, minding my own business, when a man stood in front of me as I walked past and said “they’re some strong thighs you’ve got there tonight,” staring at my legs. I don’t know what he thought gave him the right to comment on my body; it’s my body, it’s not there for his enjoyment.
I was walking home from school today and from the corner of my eye, an older man walking past me reached out. I didn’t know what he was doing, then he grabbed my left breast really hard. I didn’t know what to say. I felt so scared and angry… there were a lot of people standing around outside of a bar and no one said or did anything. Hey you old, horrible man: I don’t care where you’re from, I don’t care what culture you grew up in, I don’t care what norms you’re used to, I don’t care if you’re drunk: YOU MAY NOT TOUCH ME. Ever.
I made it almost a year without getting harassed, and Spain is notorious for it’s sexism and domestic violence.
The next time, I will be braver. I will be prepared. I will punch the asshole right in the mouth. This is MY body and it is MY property and scum like you don’t deserve to live.