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When I was around fourteen or fifteen I went with my Latin class to Italy, and we took a day trip to Pisa to see the tower and cathedral there. From the train station you have to take a bus to get to the more touristy attractions, and it was on that bus on the way back when I noticed a man standing a little too close to me from behind.
Every time the bus lurched he would press into me, and I could feel his erection – he was wearing baggy sweatpants of a thin material. I kept inching away from him but the bus was crowded and I couldn’t move much. I was completely petrified – although I was already used to men making comments about me (which seemed to happen especially frequently in Italy, although I was living in a small town at the time where I was kind of an “alternative” kid and didn’t “fit in” so maybe it’s an unfair contrast) no one had ever touched me like this before. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, one of my friends’ mothers was a chaperone on the trip, and she caught on to what was happening and offered to switch places with me.
I have been lucky enough to have traveled extensively, but almost everywhere I’ve been it seems like someone is going to harass me – including the time, during my second trip to Italy, a young man told me he “loved my boobs” – while I was walking with my mother.
I’m now attending college in New York City, which isn’t really a reduction in the harassment. I love New York but I’d really like to be able to go a day without a wolf whistle or a comment.
Submitted by Li
I am harassed on a daily basis, no matter what I wear or how I look. I take the bus to work everyday and I can’t remember a single time when I was not stared at. Most of the time it’s lewd staring but sometimes men will hiss, make kissing noises, approach me to ask for my number, yell at me from their car window, honk at me when they drive by. I’ve also been groped.
For the longest time I felt embarrassed to talk about how much this bothered me. When I talk about it to male friends, they think I should get used to it. But I don’t think I ever will. It’s not up to me to get used to it, it’s up to them to stop disrespecting me.
I’ve lived in 2 different countries and the same harassment happens in both countries.
It’s very sad that a woman should feel unsafe and uncomfortable every single day on her commute to work.
I feel scared to retaliate because I’m on my own.
Submitted by Sham
I don’t even know how to classify this assault type.
When I was 18 I went to Rio for a job interview and I was going to meet a friend afterward to catch a movie in the Odeon cinema. The interview was postponed last minute and my friend was busy so I decided to go ahead to the cinema and watch one of the previous movies from an animation festival going on. It would be finished just in time for her to arrive. The screening room was quite full and I sat in a seat I managed to find and left the aisle seat spare. I regret this so much now…
As the room got dark and the lights dimmed a middle aged man — around 40-50 years or so sat next to me. I was very interested in the movie but in the corner of my eye I could see movement in his groin area. I was too afraid to look directly or do anything but in could tell his cock was out and he was masturbating right there! His hand was on his thigh and he would extend his pinky to touch my leg and I would move away. It felt so gross. A million things went through my head, I was afraid to get up and walk past him, I was afraid he might follow me, I was afraid he would start touching me more, for some reason I was embarrassed to ask for help from the person next to me… I was just stumped and scared. The whole time I wanted to punch the guy and stomp on his balls or do something to cause him physical pain but instead I stared at the screen and moved away from his gross stretching finger.
At the end of the movie as the lights went on I did something! I yelled PERVERT at him and as he walked away and blended into the crowd people asked me what happened, if i was ok etc… I wish I had done it AS SOON AS he pulled it out… word of advice: HOLLABACK! the sooner the better!
Submitted by Lissa
My sister had a concert in Florence, so I went with my brother and my dad. It was in the middle of the day in a huge, fairly crowded piazza and I was standing in between my brother and my dad. Out of nowhere, I felt a hand squeeze my ass and when I turned around, a man was walking away staring at me. I was scared and mortified but all I could do was shoot him a really vicious look. My brother and my dad didn’t see what happened, and I have always been too embarrassed to tell them. I was 21 years old and I wanted to cry like a baby. I felt dirty and begged them to go home and let me change out of my skirt and into pants. I am so glad Hollaback exists and I will never let a street harasser control me like that again!
Submitted by Heather
I was walking in a quiet street when I noticed someone was walking behind me. At first I didn’t pay much notice, but I noticed that when I upped my speed, the person behind me started walking faster as well, and was getting closer to me. Then all of a sudden, I feel a pull on my coat, and in one quick movement this guy just pulls up my skirt and exposes me right in the street. I turned back, stunned, and yelled ‘Jerk!’ while he quickly ran away. I was wearing heels, so it was no use running after him. It was infuriating.
Submitted by Elke
A few years ago when I was walking to the gym when a group of men sitting outside an apartment building started talking to me. It started out innocently enough with “How are you?” “Have a nice day,” etc. Then one of them got up and followed me and trying to talk to me even though I made it clear I was not interested. He said we should go out and proceeded to grab my ass. I told him not to touch me and jumped away. He replied “But I like touching.” Even when clearly being spurned he kept following me, asking for my number. He didn’t leave me alone until I gave him a phone number…that I made up. What a jerkface.
Submitted by Laura
I was out for my birthday with a friend. My friend and I decided to step outside and take my pool stick to her car so we could start dancing. As we were exiting the building, I see a man grab my friend’s ass. She batted his hands away and kept going. I looked the fool dead in the eye and told him, “Don’t touch me.” He made a move as if to grab my crotch and I grabbed him by the thumb, gave it a twist and started pushing him and shouting. When I had him pinned into the corner with his thumb in a tight bind, I asked him loudly, “Do you want to die in that shirt?!?” Then dislocated his thumb for him. He crumpled to the floor and the bouncer, who had witnessed the whole thing, started complaining that I had acted badly. I looked him in the eye and asked, “What would you want your daughter to do?”
The groper went to the hospital and the bouncer bought me a drink. My friend and I continued our evening not only unmolested, but treated with respect and dignity.
I’m not advocating violence, but sometimes you have to break the fingers that touch you.
Submitted by Jenna
This happened when I was 16 and in Montreal for the Just for Laughs Festival. It was crowded on the streets, more crowded than any concert I’ve ever been to. We all seemed to be migrating to the same place. I thought it was sort of funny and some older guy behind me was laughing about it. I turned around and smiled since it was nice we both found the humour in it. He had olive skin, was probably 25 years older than me, dark hair, a few inches shorter than me (I’m about 6ft). When I was facing forward I felt his hands feeling my ass, tickling, trying to get up my skirt. I was in such shock that all I could think to do was tell my twin sister who was directly in front of me. She turned her head around, glared, and told him to stop it. He stopped and acted put off like it was some innocent misunderstanding. I’m so thankful my sister was there, it made me stronger.
I’m proud to say I was raised by very strong female figures and men who respected women. Even with that, though, I still questioned what I did to get that unwanted attention. Was I wrong to be in a good mood, to smile at a stranger, did I invite the behaviour? I dismissed these ideas but it made me cautious of who I gave any sort of attention.
Even now, as a 25 yr old living alone downtown in Edmonton, I purposely avoid eye contact, listen to my iPod where ever I walk alone, wear sunglasses as long as it’s sunny enough. I think it’s smart to be aware of ones surroundings, not make yourself a target for unwanted interactions and behaviour but it’s sad that I have to be so on guard at all hours of the day. It speaks volumes of the society women live in.
Submitted by Chantelle
About 10 years ago, my sister and I were traveling to Dubrovnik on a bus from Split. She was sitting in the back row with another traveling companion, while I chose to sit a few rows up to take advantage of 2 empty seats so I could stretch out and cat nap.
I awoke to the realization that the man (about in his 20’s) seated behind me had slipped his hand between the seats and was groping my ass. I, not to mince words, freaked out. I immediately stood up and began a furious diatribe at the man in English, my only tongue, making sure it was loud enough that the whole bus could hear what I was saying. Though many on the bus may not have understood all of my words, I have found through extensive travel that English swear words usually are understood universally in most of Europe, and so peppered my righteous screed with them. I’m a carpenter’s daughter and learned the skill of spontaneous and poetic strings of profanity from an early age. As I was doing this, and without thinking, I grabbed my almost full water bottle from the seat, unscrewed the cap and proceeded to pour it out all over my harasser, who was stunned into immobility by my reaction, and obviously embarrassed and ashamed. A couple more “fuck you’s” and “don’t fucking touch me again, asshole” and I sat down. At the next stop most of the passengers got out for a leg stretch including this still soaking-wet guy, who skulked away towards the end of the bus alone to smoke. I noticed several other passengers pointing and laughing at him.
The coolest thing was my sister telling our Italian male companion during the incident decidedly that, no, I didn’t need his help. The worst was his commentary (after I explained to him exactly what happened) in essence that I was overreacting; after all, harassment like this doesn’t really harm anyone, and most men in Italy and Croatia do it so it’s okay, also European women expect it. That pissed me off more than the groping.
But I bet the jerk who grabbed me will think twice about ever trying that again, if only to avoid another “crazy American bitch”.
Submitted by Jill C.
I have two to share. First is molestation, second is verbal, but I’m filing this under verbal.
When I was 14, I was molested by (all I remember is) a very tall man who brushed against my groin while I was in the aisle of a gift shop. I was naive and thought maybe he didn’t do it on purpose but when he did it again despite the fact that I’d given him a lot of room, I just looked at him and kept looking until he hurriedly left. The thing is, I was so shocked that I really couldn’t recall what he looked like.
When I was in my early 20s, a man who looked like he was in his 50s or 60s was queueing at the supermarket with his family. Even though his wife and daughter were there, he kept leering at me and making remarks about me because I was wearing shorts. I didn’t do anything about it, but I wish I had.
I’m still not good at standing up to people, but I swear I’m not going to just do nothing if it happens again.
Submitted by caffeine