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I was studying in Cairo for the summer, trying to improve my not-so-great Arabic. A few weeks into our time there, my roommate and I decided to go for a shop in the marketplace in the middle of the day.
Both of us had been making a conscious effort while in Egypt to dress conservatively – loose trousers, baggy shirts, nothing “provocative” by Egyptian standards. (Something that quite a few Western tourists never bother doing). In our naivety, we assumed that by dressing in a culturally respectful way, we would be treated respectfully.
Anyways, we were walking through the marketplace when this man began following us, muttering sexually suggestive phrases in Arabic at us (never imagining, I’m sure, that both of us understood full well what he was saying). We ignored him, darting in and out of shops to try and shake him off. He just hung around outside them, waiting for us to come out.
Eventually, he came up behind me and began rubbing his pelvis against me, and groping my butt. I managed to shake free of him, and then he did the same to my roommate. Unbelievably, he came up behind me AGAIN to try for another feel, at which point I elbowed him as hard as I could in the stomach. As I turned around, I saw him looking at me with this expression of mingled fury and hurt – as though somehow, he’d been doing me a tremendous favour, and I was the one behaving outrageously.
Another time, early in the morning, I had a guy follow me for about an hour. He followed me all the way to my classes, leering, catcalling, calling me a whore in Arabic – all at 8 o’clock in the morning. All I had done was hold a door open for him as I went out of a coffee shop.
I’m sure everyone now is aware of just how bad the sexual harassment problem in Egypt is, but I just want to go on record as having said the following: it doesn’t matter what you wear, it doesn’t matter if you speak any Arabic, it doesn’t matter how many people you’re with, and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. If you’re a woman in Cairo (particularly a Western woman), men will follow you, make comments, and call you a whore – and it has to stop.
I was walking along Greenwich High Road a couple of days ago, it was the hottest day of the year so far but I wasn’t wearing anything particularly revealing (jeans, t shirt and cardigan) when a guy stopped in front of me and said “Hey, sweet tits!” I ignored him and walked past. A couple of minutes later a different man, who was riding a bike on the other side of the road, cycled over to where I was, got his penis out and waved it at me, then cycled off (with it still flapping out!) I didn’t really know how on earth to react to that, quite honestly I was wondering how he managed to do that while cycling and imagined what what happen if he fell onto the crossbar which quite frankly I think he would deserve.
I was working at the cafe where I volunteer and it is open very late, from 1am to 6am (meant as a midway place for those who have been out partying and want some food or coffee before going home).
One night I had just said goodbye to the last customers and was shutting up the cafe. I went to close the shutters which involves going into a small room that you can see into from the street and using a key to lower them.
Two men walked past the window as I was closing the shutters. They asked if they could come in and I explained we were shut. They then asked if I would come out with them, to which I replied that I was busy. They both started kissing the glass and trying to get me to come out of the cafe and kiss them (luckily the front door was locked so they couldn’t get in).
After a few seconds one of the men unzipped his pants and took his penis out and wiggled it at me whilst shouting lewd comments to me. His mate just laughed and mimed touching my tits.
I was utterly disgusted, I looked at this pathetic worm and gestured that his package was tiny so he started swearing and banging on the glass. I was genuinely scared as the bouncer had gone home by this point. I thought about calling the police but the men ran off when I took my phone out.
That I couldn’t do anything was the worst thing, though I was scared about what they’d have done if they could have reached me.
I was a teenage at the time, 13 years old, and walking down the beach with a girl friend of the same age when we saw a man on a sand dune. He wore boots and a t-shirt, and nothing else, with an erection visible from where we stood. My friend went white, I don’t know what went into my mind but instead of fear I felt a weird kind of anger, more like stubborness than fury. And as that guy strutted down the dune staring at us I screamed at him: ‘Pathetic!’
The guy stopped. I think it must have been the first time he ever had a victim rebel. By that time I was wound up and continued screaming things like ‘ridiculous’ and ‘minuscule’, my friend took heart and started screaming and laughing hysterically with me. The guy turned heel and ran back up to disappear behind the dune. I learned later that he had been terrorizing girls for months.
My first holla, and my first lesson in dealing with sexual harassers. If you let them get away with it they win. That was years ago but I still hold it true.
Taking the R train home from Manhattan this evening, a demented pedophile flashed my 12 year old daughter. We were both playing games on our phones to pass the time, but my very astute daughter noticed the man get on at the 59th St Station in Brooklyn bound for Bay Ridge, when he moved all the way down to our end of the car and sat diagonally across from us.
I am giving the description here so that other girls will be on their guard. He was a young black man, about in his twenties, medium build, and was wearing a black hoodie and light blue jeans over blue plaid boxers and plain black nike type sneakers.
At the 77th St Station he stood up and exited, but immediately turned around to face my daughter and lifted up his hoodie to reveal his penis hanging out of his boxers… TO A 12 YEAR OLD CHILD!
My daughter grabbed my hand and said “Mommy that man showed me his penis”, and as the door closed, he rubbed his parts against the window. By this time I was yelling at him while hiding my daughters face against my shoulder.
We got off at the next stop and ran to the next conductor and he told us to go to the dispatchers office, where they asked if we wanted them to call the police, when we said yes, they promptly called.
My daughter was in shock and visibly shaken at this point and when I wanted to go check the incoming train to see if the man was on it, she was terrified.
The police arrived in about five minutes and my very brave daughter gave an excellent description. While they were attentive, I had to offer my number for them to contact us if by some slim chance they caught the pedophile. One officer said that we would have to go to Coney Island to file a complaint and I said no problem.
While I know this is a reality, and it has happened to me many, many times in this city, I never expected it to happen to my daughter at such a young age. As she has just recently started taking the subway to school, I have begun to caution her on how to best protect herself when I am not with her. I just never anticipated that some sick p.o.s. would be so bold as to flash her while she was right next to me. Lesson learned, I will never be off my guard again when she is with me.
Submitted by Pissed off Mom
For years I was continually getting “flashed”—in parking lots, libraries, through a window I happened to pass! This happened every couple years from the time I was 14 or 15. My typical response was shock, shame, disgust, and humiliation. I’d bury my face in my hands and walk quickly away.
At one point I’d had enough. I was in my 30’s (pathetic that it took so long, I know) walking down the street of my home town (to a therapy appointment no less) and this guy across the street in an alley was standing naked holding his overcoat wide open. This time a rush of rage and a power that made me feel like the Medusa welled up in me and I started yelling at the top of my lungs: “How dare you do that to me, you stupid shit! You are sick! For heaven’s sake GO GET HELP!!” He shut up his coat in a flash, spun around, and walked away as fast as he could. I was breathless and shaken when I got to my therapists office and he didn’t seem to understand why I was so upset. I should have called him a stupid shit.
The weird thing: I was NEVER “flashed” again.
This 58 year old loves your website advocating hollering back–and is so heartened to see young women get pissed. Yell your heads off girls!
Submitted by Barbra
On the day before thanksgiving, a man walks up the window of the shop where my sister works and exposes his erect penis. She is traumatized by this event and we discuss the incident last night over drinks at our local bar. As we’re leaving the bar, the SAME pervert walks by and exposes himself again to her (and me and a few of our friends). It’s around 1am, but this is a busy street in Brooklyn and there are several other people around. We shout and yell at him that he’s a worthless piece of s*@t and make a huge scene but he just walks away backwards and nonchalantly with his erect penis out. None of the other witnesses (all male) say or do anything.
Submitted by Shannon
Ug. I can’t believe it. I got on the red line at Park Street and noticed this mentally ill older man right across from me. I noted how he was talking to himself, pounding his library book on his lap and shaking his head. At MGH a young woman got on our train car in a jean skirt with no tights (brrrrrrrrrr!) and he just became fixated on the poor woman. Staring at her. I drifted into my own world. As we are pulling into Central Square I see that he’s held his book up over his crotch and is fidgeting with something. I was shocked. When I stood up to get off (thankfully this was my stop), I confirmed that he had unzipped his pants. I didn’t look long enough to see what he was doing down there. I totally admire that woman in NYC. I talk back to cat callers and never hesitate to speak my mind, but I was literally paralyzed. Maybe if it hadn’t been my stop I could have gotten myself together enough to call him out in the same way or get a photo, but I am happy to have just gotten away from the situation right away. His mental instability was a bit scary too. Now I’m left feeling utterly disgusted and violated. Man…
Submitted by Anna
This morning I was waiting at the bus stop, on my way to work, when a skeezy looking dude sat near me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that SOMETHING was going on. When I looked, he had everything out and was, shall we say, choking the chicken. I was the only person around. For a moment I was just shocked and didn’t know what to do, but then I remembered reading about street harassment and how important it is to react. So I did. I yelled and caused a scene. Sadly, no one else witnessed my brilliant display of swearing and gesticulating, but anyway, he left. I only wish I had said something clever about his pathetic willy.
I have had people yell out of car windows, make comments while walking next to me (‘do you like wearing g-strings?’ – I held eye contact and didn’t say a word until he freaked out and crossed the road) and all the rest of it happen to me, but I’ve never seen someone actually whip it out and give it a tug. Truly, what the hell?
Submitted by Sarah
I’ve been reading Hollaback and I’ve been holla-ing back daily at harassers for over a year now, but this is the first time I’ve written to tell my own experience.
Every morning on my way to work, I cut through the J. Hood Wright park on 173rd and Haven Ave to walk up to the GW Bridge to catch the bus. This morning, I was walking to work minding my own business through a mostly empty park, when two jerks sitting on a bench started yelling at me, “Hey baby, lookin good this morning” (or something to that effect). Without stopping, I shouted, “Don’t call me baby, asshole,” and continued walking through the park. The guys then started screaming things back at me such as, “You ugly bitch, fuck you! You need to go get fucked you stupid fucking bitch!” I never turned around, but gave it right back to them as I kept walking, telling them to F off.
I was coming home from work at 5PM, and I saw a large group of guys sitting on the same bench. Since I had never turned around this morning to look at the jerks, I couldn’t tell if they were the same guys. I was really, really hoping that they hadn’t actually sat on the bench all day, waiting for me to come back. But when I walked by, I heard one say, “I’m gonna fuck that bitch in the face,” but again I was just hoping they weren’t referring to me. Then after I left the park and was walking down 173rd street, I hear, “Hey bitch!” behind me. I turned around and this guy had followed me out of the park and was yelling, “Fuck you, bitch! If you ever disrespect me and my friend again, I’m gonna fuck you up!” I walked right up to him and took the photo below with my camera (sorry such bad quality – I have a really old phone so I had to take a picture of my phone with my boyfriend’s iPhone to get it on my computer). He then proceeded to say “Oh yeah? Why don’t you take a picture of this, bitch?” at which point he pulled his pants down, bent over, and mooned me.
At this point, I was beyond furious. I was so disgusted, I actually thought I might vomit. I had luckily seen a police van across the street, so I walked as fast as I could to get them. There were 3 cops (2 women and 1 man), who told me to get in the van, and drove me back to the park. We walked past the bench and around the area a little, but of course, the asshole was nowhere to be found. The cops were so amazingly understanding – they even drove me around the neighborhood for about 15 minutes looking for him. They told me if I saw him again, I could call 911 and he would be arrested. They drove me back to my apartment a few blocks away, and even walked me inside my building. I’m so thankful that they took me seriously and made sure I got home safely.
This experience today has left me very shaken up. Even though I know I can get him arrested if I see him, what if I don’t have that chance? What if he attacks me first? Street harassment is absolutely about exerting power over people. When I denied his advances this morning, this guy felt the need to wait for me all day long so that he could make sure I knew that he still had control over me. I can only hope that if his friends tell him that I came back to the park with the police, he will be scared enough not to mess with me again, instead of pissed off enough to mess with me even more.
Thank you so much, Hollaback, for providing this forum for us to tell our stories.
Submitted by Marianne