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I am harassed daily because I take a bus and a train to work which is in the downtown area of Chicago; all sorts of people wandering. I work for a cosmetic line which encourages individual style and creative appearance. Because I am heavily tattooed and dress like I’m going to a trendy gathering for work (complete opposite of how I dress not working) I am approached, stared at, cat called, insulted, chased and treated like a tear in a magazine or an object to touch.
Daily, I am feeling angry and frustrated and filled with hate. It interrupts my work sometimes because I am in the public’s view. I was once told to tattoo “stupid whore” on my forehead because I declined communication with an older man in his 50s. I’ve been called “bitch” because I confront men who stare at me like I am oblivious to their eyes. I’ve been insulted for ignoring when I walk to my train or bus. I’ve been chased and followed by men who think I’m “easy”. I’ve been grabbed and pulled like an object because of my completely covered tattooed arms and legs. Then they get angry with me because I snap back. Because this happens literally on a daily basis, I’ve grown to hate living in Chicago. I grew up in Texas and never had this heavy amount of street harassment. I am a human and I just want to walk peacefully.
I was 17 and was sitting alone on the Metro line coming from Grand Central station. A man sat next to me and I didn’t think much of it since it was a busy train, so I continued to look out the window and listen to my iPod. A little while into the train ride I felt that he was staring at me, I was instantly petrified and continued to stare out the window silently hoping he would stop. Then I noticed in the reflection of the window he was touching himself and smiling at me. I began to shake and panic, so a few stops later I worked up the courage to get up and tell a conductor, which was beyond embarrassing since I didn’t quite how to phrase what was happening. The conductor asked the guy to stop bothering me, and told him to move. I passed this man to get to my new seat and he gave me such a smug look, it was equally terrifying, and disgusting. I’m now 19, and still worry about it. Since this moment I have been extremely paranoid in crowds and hate traveling alone. It was so vile and disgusting, and I remember feeling guilty for some reason after I told the conductor! The rest of the ride home I played the situation over and over again, and for some reason tried to justify his actions. I know now that I did nothing wrong, I’m not guilty, and harassment has to stop.
I was at a sushi place down town with a friend and a group of people wanted to take pictures with us (relatively common in Stockholm). One of the older men (like 55y/o) grabbed my ass right when we took the pic. I grabbed his fingers, took his hand off of my butt and angrily “threw away” his hand whilst staring as angrily at him.
I’m a 16 year old girl. Once I was on an extremely crowded metro, there were so many people I could barely turn around. Now this creep behind me (like 45 y/o) is starting to lightly touch my ass, his hand just glides by like it was nothing. It was so lightly and I felt like I couldn’t say anything without looking crazy. Now this guy got closer to me and I could feel his breath on my neck and how his dick (through his pants) was slowly grinding me. I went off at the next stop, disgusted…
When I was in highschool, there was a guy who was constantly harassing me. He was friends with a friend of mine, and our school wasn’t so big, so he was always around it seemed and even in a few of my classes. He always commented on my breasts (I have fairly large ones), would say I had “the perfect BJ mouth”, and wouldn’t let up when I asked him to stop. I had one class with him where he sat right next to me, and during the class he would suddenly grab my breast and grin at me when I would look at him in shock. This happened almost every day, and when I would confront him he would laugh and say, “it was a ghost!” It really bugs me that, not only did he get away with it, but my teacher never seemed to care. We sat in front of his desk, and I knew he was aware. It made me so uncomfortable because the guy was popular and I would most likely get harassed more if I went to the principle. I felt powerless.
A couple of years ago I was walking through my high school when someone, dressed in uniform I may add, grabbed my butt from behind. I was speechless and felt hurt and degraded. I looked back only to see the man who wasn’t even a student with a smirk on face, like he was proud of what he did or felt it was his right to do so. Ugh! Disgusting.
This incident happened on a train station. It was night time and I came from school. Typical day, crowded station and people pushing. I was lining up to slip in the card to the entrance when a man behind me just got too close. So close I could feel his crotch on my butt and his chest on my back. I looked at him but that didn’t stop him to push me in that manner. I was so scared and almost cried that time.
It seems unreal but as a woman your day really does revolve around where can I go, what can I wear, can I run in these if I have too, look down don’t make eye contact, always be prepared to run, keep your head on the swivel. It feels like 70’s sometimes! I had gone away to college and in my few years there I’d been chased, followed, groped, sexually harassed and intimidated and I was at the end of my rope. I was young and didn’t understand so I began to blame myself. What am I doing, what am I wearing, how am presenting myself to make men think they can treat me this way? In your own mind you know you’re a person, a human being, you are your own but as a woman you’re constantly being told the contrary.
A few weeks ago a friend’s girlfriend was savagely knocked unconscious and raped on the side walk on her way home from class. That day my friend and I were biking to our school building when a guy screams out as us ‘Bitch I got something for you!’ and whips his penis out as us. We looked away and biked faster, the rapist that attacked my friend’s girlfriend was never found. When class ended I was headed home alone and I see this guy coming up to me, at first I look down trying not to catch his attention but still I hear him say ‘Ooohh shit..’ and he starts coming up to me making whispering noises. I remembered earlier that day and I remembered my friend’s girlfriend and I get angry and I’m tired of this. I’m tired of the constant fear and look up right in his face as he gets closer to me. ‘Look, I don’t deserve this! I’m just trying to get home like everybody else and I have a right to do that.’
He gets kind of startled like he was shocked I could actually speak, like you would if your shoe rack suddenly yelled at you for putting your shoes on it. ‘Don’t deserve what?’ he starts looking confused and cautious. ‘I don’t deserve this! This is sexual harassment, I don’t deserve you running up on me when I’m just trying to get home!’ He gets this weird look on his face at the word ‘sexual harassment’ and actually has the nerve to sound righteous, ‘How do you know I was hollering at you?’ I look around stunned. ‘We’re the only two people here! You have a mother, you might have a sister, would you really want someone running up on them when they’re all by themselves talking all threateningly to them like this?’ He throws the righteous game out the window when he’s called out and just goes straight to anger.
He sticks his chest out like he’s getting ready to hit me and gets even closer, I stand my ground and look straight back, I’m not running anymore if he beats me up he beats me up. ‘Bitch you wouldn’t get it if you weren’t advertising! You advertising!’ He might as well have hit me for how it felt. I didn’t really have a reply because I wasn’t advertising anything, whatever he actually meant by advertising but I had an idea. That’s when it all made sense, the surprise when I had the audacity to speak, the righteousness when I dared to spurn his threatening advances and the anger when I continued to assert myself. It had nothing to do with what I was wearing, what I was doing, how I looked, or me at all.
Because I wasn’t a person. I was a hole, an object, a shoe rack with no vocal chords, no face, no wants, no right to itself. I was a shoe rack and how dare I object to having shoes placed on me. Is that not why I was created? Is that not my singular purpose in life? The law doesn’t apply to shoe racks, what rights does a pile of wood and rubber have? There was nothing I could say to him, because where I was arguing about my right to be treated as an equal and he was arguing the legitimacy of my very humanity. I biked home as fast as I could and still heard him yelling after me ‘You adverting! You advertising!’ I got home, shut my self in my room, and sobbed for the rest of the day. I wasn’t a person, I wasn’t a survivor or a victim, I was just a woman and that’s practically nothing. I had thought maybe the sexually harassment stemmed from men not knowing women find it threatening and demeaning. Maybe if I stood my ground and let them know I hated it, maybe the surprise and shame would stop it. It never really occurred to me that they simply don’t care if we hate it because they don’t even think about it.
Another instance, a few years later I was walking down the crowded main street of down town San Diego in the afternoon. Four men are walking towards me on the side walk, I look down and side step but the biggest one follows me. I’m about to just run when he grabs me by the arm and pulls me into him. I yell ‘NO!’ and ‘STOP!’ and trying to get away but his friends just laugh and he starts grinding his groin into me in broad daylight in the middle of a busy sidewalk. People actually have to walk around us as I’m struggling. No one does anything, they just look down and keep walking and at last I’m able to shove my way out of his grip. He and his friends keep laughing and making kissing noises and cat calls. I start crying on the street on no one stops. It was witnessed by everybody, men, women, police, children. It just didn’t matter. Its the worst feeling in the world of something to seem so devastating to you but matter so incredibly little to everybody else. If it doesn’t matter to anyone then does it really even matter at all? It matters. It means everything! I want every woman and girl to know that we deserve better! We deserve the right to safety, life, happiness.
We deserve more than to live our lives on the perpetual Rape Clock! Its up to us to demand more and demand more for those that aren’t able to do it themselves yet. It’s not about hating men or villainizing men because the people we want better for are the daughters, mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives of men. No father should constantly have to tell his daughter to be safe every time she leaves the house and worry until she comes back because this shouldn’t be a world where the contrary would cross his mind. As women we need to support each other because we all know what it was like to be beaten down and dehumanized and left to deal with the aftermath all alone. I also want to thank HollaBack for making it easier for us to reach out to each other and share out stories and our support.
I have been dealing with harassment since my teens (now late 20s), mainly by men who think honking, yelling, or directing some sort of comment at me is the way into my pants. However, I experienced the biggest violation on my way to work one day this summer.
I ride my bike through a slightly sketchy part of town in the morning to get to my job- it’s about a 10 minute ride. This particular morning I was riding and out of the corner of my eye I saw a car get close to my bike on the left side- so close that I thought it was going to hit me. As it came by, a teenage boy stuck out his hand and grabbed my butt while I was still riding and while the car was moving toward a stoplight. He even yelled out a “woo!” as it happened, to the delight of the 3 other guys in the car. Dumbfounded, I sped up trying to catch them…the crazy part is, they went through a red light and illegally went around traffic to try to get away from me. A few lights down the road, I gave them a profanity laced scolding and I took their license plate number down. I sure hope the cop that talked to me gave the groper a speech to remember later that night at his parent’s house.
First I should explain myself and how I’ve come to realize unwanted attention is not OK. I live in the South, where ladies are said to be gentle, and I know they put up with a lot of crap. My mother always loved unwanted attention from men, she flirted back and fed off of it.
I myself am much more modest and uncomfortable with such encounters. I grew up thinking it was OK for the attention and that I should bask in it and consider it a validation of my attractiveness and womanhood.
Fast forward to present day. My sister and I decide to go out one weekend for drinks and dancing with our Dad. Two men join our table that dad knows from the bar he frequents. They seem harmless enough, but one constantly lies to me about his age and agonizingly comments on how beautiful I am. No conversation had.
Dad leaves, my sister and I decide to dance, leaving said men at the table. All of a sudden the guy who lies about his age comes up behind me and starts dancing. (Note: I hate dancing with dudes. It’s gross). I try to move away and he immediately smacks my ass. It’s over, but I’m enraged. I give him a verbal lashing how that is never OK and force him to apologize. Although I did get an apology, I have a feeling he didn’t get the message.