groping, Verbal

Louise’s Story: Boys will be boys is never a good excuse

After a day out in the city with my 5 year old son (who is autistic), we were sitting on a bus on the way home. A group of older teenage boys (aged roughly between 18 and 20, perhaps a little older) got on the bus, all talking and swearing, acting up, discussing the merits of each others’ girlfriends and so on.

Shortly after their arrival, 2 seats behind my son and I (with an older male passenger separating us), I realised that they were talking about me – my breast size, that I’m not thin (“Why is it fat slags have the biggest tits?”) and so on – all within obvious earshot of my son.

I didn’t realise it, but the window above my son’s seat was open, and one of the “boys” leaned forward suddenly to slam it shut, making my son jump. As he sat back down, the lad ran his fingers through my hair.

A moment later and the group was making lewd suggestions and repeatedly leaning forward to touch me, laughing and carrying on the whole time. I turned around and demanded they stop, loudly enough for the other passengers to realise there was a problem, and was laughed at by the boys, who promptly carried on – now adding an impression of my voice to their game.

Eventually the male passenger sitting behind me turned around and shouted at them, saying if they didn’t stop, he’d hit them.

At this point, though it was raining and my son was tired, I decided to get off the bus – three stops early. I live in a part of Bristol where you need to be careful after dark, but, frankly, Stapleton Road was preferable to this continuing harassment – and in front of my child.

As I reached the front of the bus, I told the driver what had happened, and that a fight was about to break out between the passenger and the boys. The driver shrugged and said “What do you expect me to do? Boys will be boys.”

This sentiment was echoed by the bus company, who said that, as there was no camera on the service and as I didn’t get either the driver’s name or the contact details of any of the other passengers, there was no way of verifying my story (because, apparently, women like to make that stuff up a lot?!) and, in any case, it just sounded like they were having “a little harmless fun”.

Interestingly, whenever I’ve told any of my male friends, they’ve barely blinked an eye. All of them have made the right noises while being obviously confused about what I’m so upset about (“No one was hurt, after all”). Meanwhile, all my female friends have been utterly disgusted by what happened – and in front of my son, who was possibly more upset about it all than I was, and now refuses to get on a number 24 service.

“Boys will be boys” is NO excuse for this type of behaviour – if I had have been the one behaving in a sexually aggressive way toward them, you can bet I’d have been ejected from the bus without question. But the message seems to be very clear: if you have boobs, you should sit down, shut up and put up with it without complaint.

Inner city bus services should ALL have CCTV cameras on them (not just on “selected services”), and bus drivers should be accountable for ALL behaviour that takes place on their buses – they carry DNA swab-kits, after all – it’s not up to them, surely, to pick and choose what’s important and what’s not. There needs to be a nation-wide policy in place to protect women (and children) using ALL forms of public transport.

Thank you for this campaign and for giving me a place to write about what happened without fear of people (men) rolling their eyes and tutting about yet another female over-reaction.

Good luck to you, and to all women who pass through this site: it’s about time someone made a serious attempt to give voice to the outrage, distress and fear this sort of thing causes.

one comment 
flashing, groping, Verbal

Ella’s story: Being a woman in Cairo

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.

one comment 
demonstration, groping, Verbal

Mariel’s story: Is catcalling initiated by eye contact?

A few years ago I was visiting my friend who was studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. She had warned me before I arrived not to speak English loudly in public, so I wouldn’t draw unwanted attention.

We were walking down a pedestrian walkway to get to her University. It was broad daylight. There were plenty of students scattered along the length of the long walkway. A large group of young boys(18-19 years old) approached us but I didn’t pay any attention to them. One of them came up to me and said “You are so beautiful” in French, grabbed my breast than walked off laughing with with his friends. It happened so quickly all I could do was make a disgusted noise, which all the boys mimicked and laughed at.

The thing that gets me is that my friend and I were walking silently together. He didn’t grope me because I was speaking English or drawing attention to myself or because I was a tourist. He attacked me because I was a woman and he wanted to put me in my place. And he knew he could get away with it.

Once we arrived at the University we told her friends what had happened. They tried to comfort me. One of her male friends said that a French man would never do that, so they must’ve been Arab immigrants. He said a French man would yell or say things to me, but never touch a woman. That did not comfort me at all. And sure enough before my trip was over “real” French men catcalled me without groping me. I felt violated and disgusted when that happened too.

On another note, it seems to me that a lot of catcalling is initiated when a woman accidentally makes eye contact with a man (though this wasn’t the case in my story above). As result I try really hard not to make eye contact with men on the street. But I wonder how much that I (and other women) miss when I am looking at my shoes or staring off into space. Do I clumsily walk into things more often than necessary or put myself in danger just because I can’t look forward like a normal person? Or even am I just deprived of enjoying the sights and scenery around me? Maybe this has just been my experience, but I’d like to know what other things do Hollaback readers and contributors think they miss just because we are forced to look away?

3 comments 
demonstration, groping

Stephanie’s story: No witnesses, no crime? That’s BS.

It was last call at this bar. I was ordering for our table but the bartender said, “I’m sorry I can’t give you anything unless you show me your tits.” He reached out and tried to pull my shirt down. The manager was watching the whole thing. I tried to slap the bartender. At this point the manager tried to throw ME out. I told him that my friends and I would never go back and I had the police investigate the bar. Unfortunately, because an officer didn’t see it and there are no cameras in the bar they couldn’t do anything. Next time someone gets groped though, they have more evidence to go on I guess. I wish that bartender was fired and the bar was no longer in business.

2 comments 
demonstration, groping

Maisie’s story: Oh, is that my hand down your pants? Whoops!

Last Halloween I was out with my friends at my favourite nightclub in Manchester. It was pretty packed and at the bar we started chatting with some guys. They seemed friendly and were asking us about uni and things. We all moved onto the dancefloor and it was all quite innocent.
Suddenly, one of the guys stuck his hand down the front of my jeans and tried to get into my underwear. Shocked, I moved and told him that if he did that again I would slap him. He apologised and then did it again! This time he managed to get into my underwear before I could shove him away. I walked away and he followed me. I told him that I would report him to the police for sexual assault if he didn’t leave. He called me a frigid bitch and walked off.
I went to the bouncers and told them about this guy, they just shrugged and said it was probably an accident. They weren’t prepared to cause a scene even though by this point I was crying and felt so awful.
I’ve spoken to other girls and they’ve had this sort of thing done to them before. Nightclubs and bars need to be prepared to take action when things like this happen.

one comment 
demonstration, groping

Nancy’s post: Groped!

My best friend was groped in the breast by the owner of a bar in Devils Lake, ND. Apparently, he has done this to countless victims. Beware!

no comments 
demonstration, groping

Aimee’s story: “TAKE YOUR MISOGYNY and SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS!”

I was riding my bike home from a friend’s house on a pleasant afternoon. In fact, it was broad daylight, 3pm and I had been spending the last few hours with my friend and her 6 month old son.
Bikes of course have the right of way in Milwaukee so I was riding in the street. As I approached a red light at the intersection just north of Humboldt and Locust, I see a dirty old truck and the backs of men’s heads. I make a conscious decision to ignore them straight off the bat and not “provoke” by even looking in their direction. Wrong. Nothing I could have done would have prevented them from doing what they did next. We got the green and I started pedaling, only to have the truck SWERVE right up next to me. I THOUGHT they were trying to avoid hitting something in the street, I thought they were going to hit me (for the second time in my life). They slowed down, then the passenger leaned out his window and smacked my ass before driving off like the cowards they were.

I couldn’t see their license plates, my sunglasses weren’t prescription.
I was full of rage and sadness, I felt ashamed and feared for my life all because some jackass thought it was his RIGHT to touch me.
you know what I would have said had you not been a coward?
TAKE YOUR MISOGYNY and SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS!

no comments 
demonstration, groping, Stalking, Verbal

Victoria’s story: #policeFAIL

I was once going to my car to retrieve something out of it. When I was finished I turned back around to find a man standing directly behind me. I thought to myself that maybe he was there to ask for change, something that I was used to. Instead of hearing the words “Can you spare a quarter M’am?” I got “I was just tryin’ to make love to you.” Not exactly sure how to react to this I started walking away. He then proceeded to follow me and he asked me where I was going. I said, “To my boyfriends!”. That’s where he grabbed my arm and said something to the extent of “What your boyfriend got on me?”. I was able to remove his hand from my arm. Luckily he just walked off. The man seemed out of it and was possibly drunk or on something else. Not much later I saw a group of horse cops in the same alley way. I approached them and informed them that a man had just come up to me and tried to pull me away and possibly rape me and that they could please stay around to keep a look out. Not only did they barely acknowledge me, but they all road off about 5 minutes later.

no comments 
groping, Verbal

Louise’s Story: Harassment even in supermarkets

I was in Sainsbury’s and I was buying cakes and these two guys looked at me and said ”nice” and followed me around the whole shop and wouldn’t stop looking at me, so I left my cart and went and this isn’t the first this has happened.¬† On nights out, guys would touch me.

no comments 
groping, Verbal

Nadia’s Story: Working with the system to put an end to harassment

I occasionally work through an online service that facilitates pre-screened runners to do tasks for people who either need help for a certain amount of time or doing a specific task. It’s a great service that allows me the ability to work when I have free time, but not maintain a strict regular schedule when a real job would interfere with school. It’s like a more legit way of hiring someone through craigslist to do menial work such as picking up groceries, house cleaning, assembling furniture, moving, event staff etc. During a recent bar tending event, a fellow hired through the same company hit on me the entire night and physically touched me twice. I was going to just let it go but decided that I should stand up for myself, that his harassment was not okay, and that I should not have to wait until I am groped, explicitly verbally harassed or raped before reporting sexual harassment. Everyone deserves a working environment where they can feel secure and not have to simply brush off a situation where another person makes them uncomfortable. I wrote the company this letter and they are taking the matter very seriously. I just got off the phone with one of their representatives who was very supportive and told me that the highest level of the company is currently having a meeting about the situation, that they value and support me and that they are going to take care of this situation. This is the letter I wrote to them:

“This is regarding the bar-tending task that took place this past Saturday 3/12 posted by {redacted} and the runner Ryan S.
I’m sorry if the prose is a bit lengthy and emotional, I’m still upset by the occurrence and had a hard time trying to describe exactly what happened.

It started with the usual introductions and small talk. He asked me if I was single which I thought a bit odd. He then proceeded to lengthily explain that his live-in girlfriend of 5 years up and left him for her boss and how he had moved into the city and was living alone while I nodded politely. At one point I stated that I was tired but my best friend was in from Seattle and I had promised to take her out once I got off but I really wasn’t up for it and needed coffee. He casually suggested half a dozen times that we find an open cafe and grab some together afterward. I pointedly ignored him to spare him the embarrassment and figured he would take the hint. He continued to jockey for an invitation, at one point suggesting that we take the leftover oversize bottle of tequila from the party and split it afterward. I continued to ignore him even though it was obvious that I had heard him. I realize that I should have verbally expressed my dissension but we had several hours to finish bar-tending and cleaning up and I wanted things to run smoothly for our host.

He crossed the line when he physically put his hands on me from behind, holding me with his hands on my shoulders. This was a purely flirtatious gesture on his part. He was not moving me out of the way and it in no way had any practical purpose towards the job at hand. I immediately ran away through the neighbor’s part of the roof that was partitioned off so I could get away as quickly as possible.

I’m not naive and I’ve worked at jobs where the relationship between coworkers allows that sort of contact over time. I had met Ryan that evening and was friendly but not flirtatious and I had given him absolutely no indication that he had permission to touch me in any way. I had just met him, I did not trust him and his behavior was completely inappropriate. He is also considerably older than me which added to my discomfort.

I felt uncomfortable at the prospect of leaving the building by myself in case he followed me as the task ended at midnight and was in a residential section of town. I called a good friend to come pick me up at the door.

At the end of the night he communicated to the host that we were done cleaning and she confirmed that we were good to go. This all happened 5 feet away from me and I heard their conversation. He then came behind the bar where me and the other runner were standing and put his hand on the small of my back and said that we could leave. I wanted him to exit first so that I could wait in the apartment for my ride to show up and to make sure that he didn’t follow me outside. This may seem paranoid but again, I had just met this man, he was older and larger than me, he had physically touched me twice after I had expressed my discomfort and honestly, in the pit of my stomach I felt very unsafe. He stood at the door which was ajar for several minutes seeming to internally debate whether he should openly ask me again to leave with him. I stared at my cellphone and waited for my ride to call, pretending I was engrossed in something.

He is a nice enough man and probably just lonely but he made me very uncomfortable in a situation where I felt powerless to openly reprimand him. I was ambivalent about writing this email at first, but the feeling of discomfort is still vexing me two days later.

I understand that (company name redacted) is unique and the nature of the system engenders an environment where interactions between your employees are hard to mitigate. I don’t want an apology from him and I don’t really care that nothing dangerous ended up coming of it. I would have no trouble classifying this as sexual harassment and want him fired. I absolutely feel afraid of seeing him again and disturbed at the thought of interacting with him, whether at a company party or during a two person job if he happens to get chosen as the other employee. This instance is interfering with my work as I will be weary bidding on two person events, which I usually really enjoy and pay the most.

I feel like I’ve been an valuable employee, picking up jobs whenever I have time, staying flexible to the senders needs, staying communicative with (company name redacted) if there were ever any discrepancies and being an excellent representative of your company. I have a 100% 5 star rating with 20 jobs and have met a few of the actual employees. There are no witnesses to the conversation or the physical contact described above other than possibly the party goers. The other bartender was downstairs at the time. My friend (redacted) who picked me up would be willing to verify my level of distress directly following the party and recount all of the instances I’ve described in this email. I had not met this man before, have no connection to him and will probably never see him again and assure you, I have no reason to fabricate these accusations.

I absolutely do not want to have any further interactions with this man so please make sure he does not contact me. If you have any questions please call me. I would be willing to come to the office and give you an in-person statement if you need one. Prior to contacting him please email me with the course of action you plan on taking. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before and am still very upset and shocked at the lack of professionalism he exhibited towards me. If nothing is done I will seriously consider closing down my account.

Thank you so much for your time reviewing this matter. I hope to hear from you soon.

-Nadia”

My intention of posting this is to bring hope to some women that sexual harassment accusations can be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately. It was initially terrifying writing the letter and I was worried that I might simply be brushed off but the positive support I’ve received so far is truly inspiring and validating of my experiences and worth as a human being. Not all companies are as intelligent and empathetic to their employees but I thought I’d add my story to the pile and encourage women to report their harassers, even if a situation simply makes you uncomfortable. Regardless of gender, people need to learn respect of each-others boundaries or else sexual harassment will never end.

no comments 
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