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I am an Asian-American living abroad in Rome, Italy. One evening I got poked by an exposed penis on the bus. It occurred on a very crowded bus, where it was difficult to find room to move. Unfortunately, other harassment experiences lead me to believe he “chose” me because I am not Italian. There were no less than three Italian women within groping distance. He poked my hand several times and when I realized what he was doing, I wedged my umbrella in between him and myself. He was a persistent bastard, but his penis lost a duel with my umbrella.
As an openly gay woman, I have been subjected to many forms of harassment. Though it is important to note here that it does not always come from the most likely sources. As a member of the gay community I have been sexualized, objectified and harassed often by other gay women. I have noticed that many gay women seem to emulate and mimic behaviors typically associated with straight men. I will give my most recent example, (though I could give many). I was at a place called the Frosty Pint with my sister and a mutual friend when we were approached by a woman who at first seemed very nice and cordial. Within about a half an hour, her friendly rhetoric turned to something quite different. She began hitting on me and invited me to a strip club, and her advances were declined. I simply explained to her that I did not think that “strip clubs” are a benefit to women as a whole and that I had no interest in supporting the industry. I was in no way rude in the way I said this. At some point I lost sight of one of my friends and as I was looking for her, the woman began hollering at me from the bar to come over to her. I said, ” I am looking for my friend have you seen her?” Her response was to squat as if straddling something and pointing to her crotch area shouted, “Yeah…She’s right here.” Apparently she thought this was very funny. I did not address her at all after this incident. I am not sure if I should have done or said more or complained to the management. Though, if it happens again,(if I see her) I think I would feel forced to call her out on it. One thing I am beginning to understand after reading so many of the stories on Hollaback, is the necessity of addressing these behaviors whenever possible. I vow here to do so in the future. I must also state that I do not want to shed any negative light on the establishment itself which welcomes a very diverse clientele whether regarding ethnicity or sexual orientation.
I was at a metal concert in Seattle at Studio Seven when a guy behind me decided it would be a great idea to grab my behind. His hand stayed there. It was a loud concert and very crowded, so no one noticed. My elbow immediately fell behind me as I very gently gutted him in the stomach. (It is a natural reflex, after being trained in self defense) I turned around to look at him, and he said “What the heck?!” I said, “Don’t touch me again.” and walked away.
My sister was walking home alone one night in a desolate small town (where she was a high school student) and became aware of a man following her. This went on for a block or two until she spun full around, stared at him (from a short distance), and then yelled, “I have seen your face, I can identify you to the police, leave me alone and stop following me!” and ran. He did not pursue her.
I was on the bus one time in San Francisco and had to stand up as the seats were all taken. I stood right next to where an older white man was sitting, just inches away from him, and for whatever reason(?) he reached up and put his hands on my hips. I slid out his grasp and shouted (on a completely silent bus full of people), GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME! and everyone looked over. He did, but he also said “it’s just as much your fault as it is mine”. EW.
I was at a bar with friends (guys and girls) just outside the USC Gamecocks Football Stadium watching a college football game. I was wearing a jean short (mid thigh length) skirt and standing just behind the row of stools at the crowded bar when I felt the man’s hand behind me reach UNDER MY SKIRT and essential try and stick his fingers in my vagina. I immediately turned around and the first thing I saw was my guy-friend’s face who happened to be next this pervert and see the whole thing. He was as livid and disturbed as I was. He is also a large and loud guy. He pretty much got in the guys face and then insisted that the pervert be throw out of the bar, which he eventually was.
I was glad my friend was there and took a stand. I would like to think that I would have been able to stand up for myself as well. I know, however, that being aggressive, loud and in some one’s face is not my first instinct, but I’m sure I could do it with some practice. Something maybe that is (or should be) taught in a self-defense class?
Submitted by Leah
I was visiting Valencia in Spain for the festival Las Fallas. Like with the reporter in Egypt, the streets were completely packed with people. Everyone was squeezed together, and as I was squeezing through, numerous men groped me, one even getting his hand almost all the way down my pants.
Submitted by Deanna
What do you do when a friend harasses you?
I have faced a great deal of harassment – verbal and physical – from strangers, while walking down the street, traveling in buses and trains, at college and at work, in Mumbai and Bangalore. When a stranger is involved, it is easy to fight back; and the incident, while not forgotten, doesn’t matter quite as much after some time. But when someone you consider a friend, someone you trust, treats you like a piece of meat, it becomes really difficult to deal with.
I was on a short holiday with a mixed group of nature-enthusiast friends at a wildlife reserve some months ago. While intently watching and trying to identify some butterflies at one point, I felt someone touch my butt. It could only have been the person standing behind me – a man almost 18 years younger, who was a regular member of our group trips. At age 43, I really thought that I was done with stuff like this – and that too by a person I knew and trusted? I did not react, as I couldn’t believe what had happened – I tried to rationalize the incident, wondering if it could have been an accident, a mistake, anything! But the next day, it happened again – just at the moment when all of us were watching an exciting bird! I had been careful to stay away from him, but at that moment, all of us converged on the same point to look at this bird – he happened to be behind me again, and in an instant, touched me on the butt again. Now, I did not have any doubt about the act, or that it was purposefully executed.
But I still could not bring myself to confront him, or to tell anyone else about it. This is the worst thing about being harassed by someone one knows – one feels greater embarrassment at the prospect of being disbelieved, than at the act itself. Maybe this was the mistake I made. I continued to behave normally till we got back home, and mulled over how to tackle the issue.
I decided to confide in the female members of my group, and also a few other friends. While some unhesitatingly believed me, some of those who were good friends with him, did not. Not only that, I was told that I should have confronted him there and then. While that is very easy to say, only someone who has faced harassment from a known person will be able to understand my state of mind. I also found out that I was not his only victim, someone else had also faced this problem, but refused to identify herself and speak up openly about it. Some of my friends confronted him with my accusation, and he, of course, denied it vehemently. And they found no reason to disbelieve him. I don’t understand this at all – why believe him over me? After all, women are supposed to stick together and support one another, right?
As it stands now, many of my friends continue to socialize with him in spite of my having told them about this incident. I am the one who has to take the trouble to find out where I may run into him, and avoid such events. Also, I can feel a definite cooling off in some of my friends’ behaviour towards me. In the end, I am not only the victim, I am also paying the price for talking about the incident.
So, my question is, what does one do if harassed by a ‘friend’?
Submitted by Uma
I was taking my first ride on a London double decker bus. I was pretty happy and excited.
I was alone on the top of the bus as it wasn’t that warm outside.
A man came up the stairs and sat down right beside me. My mind did throw up warning flags; why is he sitting right next to me, there are plenty of seats? But I wasn’t prepared to hate/distrust him immediately, I was young and I had been raised to be polite. I’m older now, if this happened to me today I would immediately rise and walk to a seat behind/next to the driver.
Anyway, the man was talking to me about London and then said; “Oh, I like your necklace (I was wearing a pendant)and reaching out he grabbed, not my necklace, but my breast. I was speachless, but now I did get up out of my seat and walked downstairs. I was shaken up though and instead of my planned trip to the Victoria and Albert Mueum I got off of the bus and hailed a taxi back to my friend’s home.
Submitted by Karen.
This happened a long time ago, but I remember it vividly because it was the very first time I hollaed back.
I was 18 and living in Paris at the time, and as all Parisians, used the subway to get pretty much anywhere. I was coming back from a long cramming session at the university library, mid-terms were coming up and I was studying non stop. It was around 23h30, when a bulky bald man sat next me. I smiled quickly and went back to my book. A few minutes later, I felt something against my leg; I was wearing a skirt and tights. When I looked down at my thigh, I saw a finger circling a certain spot on my leg. I was confused for a few seconds, I looked at the man’s face and he was looking forwards as if nothing was happening. The subway wasn’t crowded, the guy wasn’t even worried about getting caught.
I stood up and ordered him to keep his filthy paws to himself, and told him I was going to contact security as soon as we reached the next stop. I was speaking loudly, making it a point of others hearing, although I don’t do that often. I was just so angry and disgusted. I told him I might have been barely eighteen but I was big to enough to stand up for myself and to know that there was no justification for his behavior. At that point he tried to get off the subway, and another passenger stepped in and told the guy he had already pressed the emergency button and security would be there in a few minutes. That same guy offered to escort me to my stop, I quote “but I’m pretty sure you don’t need it, I wish more women did what you did”.
Since that day I always answer back. Why is it that we are made to believe that answering back is rude or a sign of lack of class, and don’t even consider the behavior that prompted such reaction in the first place?
There is nothing rude about reminding a jerk that you are not an inflatable doll with no brain or willpower. Holla back every single time!
Submitted by Patricia Camelo
My friend and I had gotten on the wrong COTA bus to go to the local movie theater. Instead, we ended up downtown after business hours. The area was completely deserted except an older drunk man who proceeded to sit right next to me. When he started to talk to me, I didn’t want to be rude so we had a short exchange. But when he asked “is your hair real?,” and then started to touch my hair, I knew things weren’t going in the right direction. He wrapped his arm around me and started kissing me on the side of the face, and all I could do was quietly mumble, “I don’t know you, this is so awkward, I don’t know you.” When he began yelling at me to take out my septum piercing and verbally insulting my friend (telling her to “do more situps”,) I was terrified. I didn’t even know what to do. I was afraid to even walk away in case he would try to hurt me because he was very, very drunk and belligerent. After minutes of excruciating groping, a series of COTA buses rolled up and he just wandered away. I don’t think he was even taking a bus. He just stopped over to sexually harass me.
Right after, all my friend and I could do was laugh about the weirdness of the situation, but I was secretly uncomfortable and afraid. I still feel uncomfortable now when I am alone at night, and I am always afraid that I am the type of person that is too afraid to stand up for myself.
Submitted by Kathryn