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.
I was walking along the sidewalk when two individuals came out of a house with a small pit bull puppy. I smiled at the puppy. As I passed them they started yelling “Come here, bitch” loudly. Clearly it was aimed at me, but they thought they were being sly because of the dog. It’s a dangerous neighborhood, so I just ignored them, but I’m filing a complaint with the Police Dept.
I was sitting on the subway, decided to take a 5 minute nap since the ride across the Manhattan Bridge is always a long one. As the train slows down I open my eyes only to find a man standing in front of me with his penis out, masturbating right in my face. This was in the early morning rush hour of barely 9am.
This man had a pony tail, tattoo sleeve on both arms. Looked to be in his 30s.
I was so disgusted and couldn’t even muster a response. I got up from my seat and moved to the other end of the train. I’m not sure if anyone saw anything but no one sure as hell said anything or warned me that this perv was doing this right in front of my face.
I was at a local anime convention with a friend and we happened to notice an older man filming girls in costume…not that big of a deal at first considering there were a lot of photographers around but he kept aiming his camera at the butts of some of the girls in costume especially when they were going up some stairs. Most of these cosplayers are just 14.
We watched him for a bit just to be sure and then took a photo of him to show the security guys on site who dealt with him right away.
Next year we plan to really be on watch for people like this and try to make the convention a safer place to be.
I know this site is mainly for street harassment, but I really needed to get this off my chest. Last summer, my brother, a family friend, and I were watching a movie while our parents were out. I put a blanket over me because it was cold. The family friend was sitting next to me and started trying to hold my hand. I leaned over and whispered that we were just friends. Because I mean, I’ve held hands with plenty of people that I wasn’t romantically involved with, so I didn’t think it was too big a deal. Just kind of awkward, you know? But then he started rubbing my legs and before I could even say anything his hands were under my shirt and I didn’t know what to do because my little brother was right there. It was so awful.
Luckily, my Mom walked in before it got any worse. Of course, she didn’t notice anything because of the blanket.
I told her about it just last week, because I’m having to see him again this summer. She told me it wasn’t my fault but she acted like it was okay for him to touch me like that when I know it isn’t. I’m really scared that he will try to touch me again this summer.
I will fight back this time though. He’s not going to take advantage of me like that again without a fight.
This has been a pretty shitty month. From an ex-gay friend/one time girlfriend sending me harassing e-mails to a male from my past engaging in some, so called, “mild” stalking. I keep telling myself that’s why I didn’t fight back. This was one thing more than I could handle, and I froze. The truth is I’m angry with myself for reacting so passively.
I was taking the bus to class. A guy was standing at my stop and he asked a question about the bus time. I took one headphone out to answer him. After I answered my question he wouldn’t stop talking to me. I answered politely, looking for a way to end the conversation so as not to be rude. He said he was Cherokee and asked for my e-mail. I had my doubts, thinking: “right and I bet your great great grandma was an NDN ‘princess’ too”, but I have fair skin and light eyes, so I didn’t want to make judgments. I know how hurtful ‘not native enough’ comments can be. I know how hard it can be in the city, separated from land and community and often dealing with racism. I politely gave him a fake e-mail.
I began to get suspicious when he followed me onto my bus instead of the one he was waiting for. He proceeded to follow me onto the 2 when I transferred. I kept looking away but I couldn’t think of a polite way to end the conversation. So far he had been completely respectful. I though my misgivings were because I was on edge about the stalking incidents earlier in the month. I’d dealt with them assertively and I didn’t want to give the people harassing me the victory of making me afraid of strangers. When he went to get off the buss he offered me his hand. I don’t know why I took it. It’s programed in I guess. He garbed my hand and pulled me, off balance, towards him and kissed me. Then he got off the bus before I had time to process what had just happened.
I’ve been spending the last few months experimenting with my gender presentation. Gaining confidence to take up space and chose how I want to present myself. This was helping me regain my power after leaving a verbally and spiritually abusive relationship with a closeted friend. With one action I was placed back in the role of a sexual object. The worst part is I was the one who felt dirty after. Like he’d gotten his dirt all over me and I couldn’t get it off.
I know if I report the incident I will only be blamed for it. After all what was I doing talking to him if I wanted him to leave me alone? By giving him a fake e-mail wasn’t I “asking for it”? I’m a two-spirited Ansihinaabe Ikwe, and therefore considered unrapeable. I didn’t fight back. But none of that matters. My politeness was not an invitation for him to touch me in any way. The moment he touched me sexually without my consent he assaulted me. That isn’t complicated. There’s no gray area. No consent = assault. Everyone reacts differently, but freezing doesn’t mean I deserved what happened. For any one else who experienced this. NOTHING you can do means you’re asking to be assaulted or harassed. Let your abuser carry the blame, none of it should ever be yours.
Next time I trust I’ll fight back. Thank you for letting me share my story and speaking up to say that this is never acceptable.
I just have to get this off my chest because I’m too ashamed to tell anyone else.
Today, around 4:30pm, I was walking home from lunch with my friends when I heard a car, blasting rap music, pull up next to me. It stopped at a stop sign but I kept walking to cross the street parallel to the car.
The car honked twice. I ignored it. Three more honks, I ignored it. They kept honking but I ignored it. Then the car turned onto the street I was crossing and cut me off. I went around the back of the car and kept walking, realizing they (the two young men driving) were targeting me. I kept walking down the sidewalk but the car kept driving slowly, steadily, next to me. They then turned into a driveway in front of me, cutting me off once again. The two guys smiled at me. “What?” I yelled. Now I was pissed. I wanted to get home and I didn’t know what to do. I turned back around and began to walk to the house on the corner. A girl from my school lived there that I barely knew, but I was desperate. As I walked away they called, “Hey sweetie, where you goin?” I walked up to her front steps and rang her doorbell. No one answered, but thank god, the guys drove away. I quickly walked home, checking over my shoulder every two minutes
I am angry that I can’t walk comfortably in my own neighborhood without getting harassed. I’m embarrassed because I felt vulnerable. I’m scared to walk by myself now and I hate street harassment.