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As a study abroad student in Angers, France I experienced quite a bit of street harassment, however, one incident stuck with me more than the others…probably due to how much it scared me.
I was walking down the street by myself going back to my bike to head home (probably not a good call at night, but I thought since it was the street the university was off of it would be fairly safe…). I suddenly had one of the people who I did not know, and had maybe said “hello” to when my friends and I were out because he asked me my name but didn’t have much of a conversation with otherwise, run up to me from down the street trying to convince me to go with him (where exactly wasn’t stated).
When I refused and said I really needed to go he tried to convince me to just “talk” with him in the alley. That was definitely a red flag for me so I kept walking. After that, I turned back to see a huge group of about 10 guys (I came to realize they were his friends when I saw him running to meet up with them) all yelling at me to come with them. I just started walking quickly away, getting more and more nervous seeing as, despite my lack of response to all their calls, they were continuing to follow me and getting closer and closer.
I started to panic and run, and luckily ran into this bar whose owner had been one of the people I had had an extended conversation with already in the town, and came to understand that his bar was where most of the foreign exchange students would come on weekends. Being able to speak French pretty well, I explained my situation. He looked out the door and, after having seen the rowdy, intoxicated group of guys calling out at me, said in a concerned voice “stay here, my sister will come and take you home, this isn’t safe.” His sister (with a baby carriage in the back of her car, which seemed promising) then came and picked me up from the bar where I had been waiting safely. I was so happy for the kindness of a family I had just barely met, and also so grateful I had escaped this situation in which I was VASTLY outnumbered.
I came to learn that this street wasn’t known for being safe at all, despite its extremely close proximity to the school, that that’s no excuse for harassment being allowed to take place.
I said “no.” That should have been the end of that conversation. When that wasn’t respected, it was clear to me that they didn’t care about my opinion on the matter, even thought it was ME they were trying to get to come with them. Not okay.
I went on a walk with my dog wearing long running shorts, an old, baggy t-shirt. A car full of high school boys was at a stop sign while I was a block ahead. They hung halfway out the windows and whistled and yelled at me. It wasn’t much but I was a 13 year old, innocent young girl and it scared the hell out of me. I felt ashamed, embarrassed for there were other cars in the intersection, and I felt like I did something wrong. I started running because I was afraid they would circle the block. I’ve been timid of walking alone ever since (it was a year ago), but finding Hollaback has given me the courage to know that I’m not alone and that I can stand up for myself.
While doing my grocery shopping I look up and see a man looking at me. I’m usually a friendly person and will smile and sometimes say “Hi” or “How are you?”. I smiled at him and he immediately looks at my chest and groin and says “I was wondering if you were going to smile at me.” All the while grinning at my body.
I thought of all kinds of fantastic come backs after the fact, but was too dumbfounded to say a word at the time.
About a month ago, I was hanging out with my friends in a fully packed bar. A couple of guys harassed us that night, but I’ll just talk about the three that shocked me the most.
I came out of this toilet cubicle and suddenly this guy walked up to me (it was a boy/girl bathroom) and he kind of cornered me, so I couldn’t go back to the bar where my friends were. He asked my name. I told him my name’s Pauline. He then proceeded to call me Paulientje (which is Dutch for ‘Little Pauline’) and asked me if I had a boyfriend. I told him I was a lesbian and started pushing him away, but he wouldn’t budge. We were also blocking the entrance to the bathroom now and there was quite a queue by now. I was clearly uncomfortable, but no one helped me. He continued talking to me, saying things like ‘Did you fall from heaven?’ and ‘Are you absolutely sure you’re a lesbian? You’re not sure, are you? I can see it, you started questioning the minute you saw my face’ After what must have been ten minutes, my best friend showed up (because she was worried something had happened as it wasn’t the first time that night guys were bothering us) and pulled him away from me.
I was still kind of shocked, when another friend (though I didn’t really know him that well) came up to me and asked me what was wrong. I told him some guy had harassed me in the bathroom, to which he replied ‘Oh, I would’ve wanted to join’. At first I thought he had misunderstood me, so I repeated what I just had said, and his response was ‘I know what you said’. That same ‘friend’ had been groping my breasts, butt and thighs the entire evening, by the way. At first, I’d thought he was doing it by accident, but it happened one too many times. My scarf actually smelled like him up to two days after that night.
Some time later another guy grabbed me, asking for my name and such. I recognized him, as he had slapped my butt earlier that night and I had yelled at him. Once again, I told him my name and that I’m a lesbian and once again, the guy didn’t seem very bothered by that fact. He was actually rather excited by it and he told me it was his dream to fuck a lesbian. I was absolutely horrified, but thank god my best friend and her boyfriend came to my rescue. The guy got somewhat aggressive, so we decided it was time to leave.
Up to this day, I’m still wondering what the hell I’d been doing wrong that night.
I was at my favorite nightclub with a group of friends on a Saturday night, standing on the edge of the dancefloor. I was chatting to one of my male friends when I felt someone pinch my bum. I turned around and the groper and his friend, who I vaguely recognize as being a year older than me at the local boys school, are leering at me. I glared at them and turned around.
Not ten seconds later, it happened again – I turned around and said “Please stop doing that, or I will ask a bouncer to make you leave”. Ten seconds later – again. I turned around and told him bluntly to fuck off, before attempting to walk away.
But before I could, he did it again and attempted to drag my by my top towards him. So I turned around to face him, smiled sweetly, and motioned towards his drink as if I wanted to taste a bit. Confident his stellar pulling technique had struck gold, he handed it to me. I then had the somewhat immature but very satisfying pleasure of watching the creepy grin drain off his face as I dumped his pint of Stella all over his head. I sauntered away to the cheers of the crowd
#don’tmess #HOLLABACK #
First off: I live in the Caribbean, on an island called Dominica (not Dominican Rep.), and harassment is very common here and people act like it’s normal and supposed to happen.
I was walking my dog at night like I always do. He’s rather protective of me so I avoid walking him during the day, and I feel safe with him at night. And I pass a group of boys sitting in a porch, listening to music. I used to go to school with most of them so they call me and I say hi. On my way back, one of their friends that I don’t know calls me, so I turn to wave and move on. He then says, “Let me walk with you too, nuh.” To which I politely replied, “No, thank you. I’m OK.” He can’t take no for an answer and says, “Why you don’t want me to walk with you.” I simply reply that my dog, who is standing nicely beside me because I’m rubbing behind his ear keeping him calm, doesn’t like it when people get close to me. “But he not doing nothing.” “Because I’m keeping him calm. And honestly, I don’t want to walk with you. OK?”
Now this upset him because I’m apparently supposed to feel so flattered by his interest and swoon at his feet, and he starts insulting me.
“FINE! YOU SO FUCKING UGLY NOBODY DIDNT WANT TO WALK WITH YOU ANYWAY! THE FUCK YOU THINK??! SOMEBODY WANT YOU THEN!??! YOU WELL WANT MAN WHERE YOU BE THERE!!! I SURE YOU HAVE TO COME BACK AND BEG ME TO WALK WITH YOU!! FUCKING SALOPE*!!!”
*salope is French/French-Creole for whore (we speak French-Creole on my island).
At this point I stop calming my dog, which would stop working anyway as he has started yelling at me and fake laugh and tell him, “You’re right… PLEASE walk with me next time. But you’ll have to bring your own leash and collar, I don’t have any to fit you.” and start walking away feeling very insulted and displeased, with my equally displeased dog. As I walk away I can hear his friends laughing at him and saying they didn’t know I was “bad” like that, and that he was too rude, and I did the right thing, and as admirable as that is, why didn’t they say anything when it was clear I didn’t want to walk with him.
He was still shouting insults at me when I got home (about 100 feet away I think), and he is probably still cursing at me now wherever he is. Calling me “stuck up” and “fresh” and a slew of other things because he thinks I acted like I was too good for him and dared to respond to his insults and then dared to walk away from him, but I don’t have to take that from any guy, especially after I responded politely and was given back insults in return.
After a night out at a bar, we sometimes grab a poutine for the walk home. There is always a big crowd gathered and many people outside the restaurant eating their gravy and cheese covered fries. As we were leaving, we pass a group of guys dressed up in a variety of costumes. One guy, dressed in a mechanic’s jumper shouts at me as I pass by, “hey girl! Wanna see my dick? I know you want to!” I almost let it pass. Almost. I turned on my heels, looked straight at him, and slowly walked back towards him. “Sure,” I replied, as I stabbed at a fry. Now, my girlfriends were already ahead of me, but my boyfriend was a few feet away. I wouldn’t have done this if I was alone, but I knew I had back up if anything got out of hand. Now, this boy was not expecting a response. I stood there, in front of the late night food crowd, publicly calling this guy on his bluff. His friends were laughing, and the guy was getting nervous. “Oh you want to see it?” he says, “you wanna taste it too?” To which I lifted a fork-full of fries to my mouth and replied, “No, just your original offer will do.” He stood there, trying to think of what to do next. Then he tried backing out of it. “What if a cop sees me? I don’t want to get arrested” he says. “Oh really?” I reply. “Maybe you shouldn’t ask me if I want to see your penis if you’re not going to actually follow through. Or maybe it’s just too cold out tonight and your outtie has turned into an innie”. With that we walked away, and the roar of laughter from behind me assured me that boy would think twice before making that mistake again.
Up until now I’ve experienced the usual catcalls from the car,street,etc.I’ve even had people pull over and try to pick me up it just to stare or take a photo.A month ago I went to the park to draw and this old man (about 70) who was sitting at a different table was like “hello sweetheart.Are you an artist?” And I didn’t really know what to say and just nodded hoping he would just leave me alone.Nope he proceeded to come over and tell me how sweet and cute I was and repeatedly asked me my name,age (17),if I went there often and if I had a boyfriend. I just answered. I didn’t know what else to do. No one else was around except his friend and I am so afraid of making someone angry and having something worse happen. Then just before he finally left he said that I could think of him as a “father” and get his advice on things. I was so afraid the entire time,I don’t go to that park anymore. I felt and still feel thoroughly disgusted. I hardly ever leave the house anymore in fear of something similar happening.
I left my friend’s house at 11:30pm and started walking towards the metro station. The street was empty and the sky was dark. Halfway I see a group of young men standing along the opposite side of the street. I instantly know they are gonna say something. I look straight ahead and walk faster. As I pass them they yell at me: “Hey! Where are you going? Come stay with us.” “Nice legs!” “Hey, you could at least say hello!”. I just walk past as fast as I can.
Almost at the metro station I realize I forgot my bag with my metro card at my friend’s place. I walk back, and I realize too late I’m on the same side of the street where the boys are standing. They start yelling nonsense again. One of them goes: “Hey look at me!” just as I pass him. Instinctively I go: “Schhhhhhhh!”. They all laugh. I get to my friend’s place, I get my bag and voila: ready for the third round. I walk on the opposite side of the street this time and I look straight ahead again. As I approach them they start imitating me: “Scccccchhhhhhhhh! Schhhhhhhhhhh!” One of them yells: “Oh she really loves walking past us!” Another one goes: “Yeah, she’d really like to see our big dicks!”
I stop. I turn around and I walk slowly towards them until I stand in the middle of the empty street. They are all spread out on the sidewalk. May be nine or ten guys. They look at me in complete silence. I feel my heart beat very fast.
“Guys, I’m a girl. I’m alone. I’m walking to the metro station late at night. It’s dark. You’re ten guys. I am not being disrespectful to you. But you are to me. A lady..”
One of them goes: “Oh she’s a lady now!!” They all laugh, but they’re nervous.
“A lady, a woman, a girl, anybody should be able to walk in the specific street without being yelled at.”
One or two of the guys try to make they other ones laugh. One of the older guy says: “You should listen to her, you’re just idiots”
“Why do you scream this kind of stuff? Do you think I like it? NO! I don’t. I would never scream those things to anyone. Do you think girls start walking faster when they hear those things because they’re happy about it? Because they’re so impressed by you? Or because they’re flattered? Well I can tell you they arent’t. They’re FED UP with it.”
I walked away. They stayed silent. Since this happened I’ve constantly said STOP to every verbal harassment I’ve been subject to. Calmly and smiling I look the guys in the eyes and I tell them what they’re doing is disrespectful. If we all say STOP, it will stop.
One afternoon a few years ago when I was living downtown I was bringing groceries in through the back door of my apartment building and some guy, very scruffy and obviously drunk, came up behind me put his hand between my legs and squeezed. He was a with a woman who did nothing about this behavior. It was daylight and I was in a back alley way. It was so disgusting.