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When I was in high school (one of the many private, Catholic, single-sex high schools in Cincinnati), I was very involved in theatre. Our adult staff was on the small side, so we occasionally hired outside people to do additional music, tech work, etc. Several times a guy named Rick (who happened to be a friend of the director’s) was a guest musical director, and all the girls dreaded having to work with him. He very much gave off that creepy old man vibe and often made borderline inappropriate remarks. He was the kind of man other men brush off as “quirky,” but who women recognize immediately as being a threat- we could tell from the way he undressed us with his eyes. I tried to stay away from him as much as possible and to be cold if he ever tried to speak to me, so for awhile my experience was secondhand. That didn’t last.
He was walking by a group of us as we were listening intently to our director; it happened so fast I didn’t say anything, and I couldn’t leave to confront him without attracting attention. He “dropped” something on the floor next to me and, as he was bending over to pick it up, put his hand on my hip, letting it linger there for a few seconds after he’d already straightened up. Then he went on his way like it was nothing. I was so shocked- I had no idea what to do. As soon as I could I told a few people what had happened. They were sympathetic but thought that maybe he was just steadying himself so as not to fall over. Um, excuse me, he was NOT old enough to have to do that, and besides, that’s what walls and chairs and other OBJECTS are for, not people. Since I didn’t know how to respond, I just stayed away from him.
Later that day a friend told me she’d had a run-in with him too. She was standing backstage and could hear Rick and the director talking. He pointed to my friend (who has pretty large breasts) and said, obviously not thinking she could hear, “Girls like her are why I could never teach at this school.” That was enough to push me into taking action. I knew I couldn’t complain to the director about him- he responded to this remark with an awkward laugh and nothing more- so we went to the assistant director. He listened carefully and then told us that, while he shared our concern, we were a week away from opening the show and he couldn’t possibly find a new music director in time…. surely we understood his predicament. I was taken aback but asked him if that meant he would take it up with him, the director, and our principal after the show was over. He promised he would.
Almost four years later, he is still doing shows there.
That is what baffles me- that a man so universally unnerving, with a history of inappropriate remarks (and touching!), is allowed to stare at underage Catholic school girls to his heart’s content. If that isn’t a lawsuit in the making, I don’t know what is. How was that not taken more seriously?? I wish I had had the courage and foresight to take this further, to push until something happened to him, but I didn’t. He still does music directing and sound mixing for schools all over Ohio- if you happen to run into him, PLEASE report any inappropriate behavior so that it gets documented. He needs to not be allowed to be around underage girls.
Last weekend I was clubbing with friends and we decided to walk down the road to another club. As we left the club a man grabbed my wrist, spun me round to face him, and ground his crotch into my stomach, shouting all the while about how gorgeous I was and that I’m the perfect *size* for him. I just saw red. I shoved him and bit him and screamed bloody murder and my girlfriends joined in the attack. I struggled free and the bouncers outside the club made him step away. Dude proceeded to follow me and my girls most of the night still asking for my number.
It was my “Grad Nite” Senior trip to the Disney World Magic Kingdom. I’m writing this so other girls can be on the lookout when they go on the Haunted Mansion Ride. I was waiting for the ride to start with my girlfriends, when the lights went out (its part of the ride.) Some idiot grabbed my rear with both hands. I thought my friends had played a trick on me, but when the lights came on I turned around to see three men (probably also seniors) laughing and looking at me. They disappeared into the crowd. I was too shocked and embarrassed to do anything. My friend later told me I overreacted when I cried.
I am a foreign student at an American university. One night, I went with friends to a fraternity lodge for a party. I was expecting to have fun, to dance, maybe even have a little drink from one of the red cups which are so prevalent in American college movies. What happened was rather different. First, let me be clear- we do not grind where I am from, we dance. Close together, yes, but the participants face each other. In grinding, if a man and a woman are dancing, the man is *behind* the woman, so that they are positioned his front to her back.
I started dancing with my friends in an area where there was slightly more space, but a guy came up behind me, grabbed me really hard at my waist, still from behind, and started grinding himself into my tailbone. His hands were pressing me against him so hard that I couldn’t get out- I’m short and his arms were stopping my arms from giving him a good elbowing. Then he put his hand on my breast, and I tried to swat him away. It worked. He moved his hand down to my skirt and under it. I was wearing tights, but still- nothing should be under my skirt if i don’t want it to be there! This time when I swatted him away he didn’t budge. Finally, he let me go after about 20 minutes of groping; I never even saw his face. My American (girl) friend thought I was being prudish. I went home and cried. I felt dirtied and cheap.
First I am a witness to these unfortunate events. I guess I was lucky in not being touched.
There was an event at an arts gallery and girls were telling me this man was inappropriately touching them. We go to confront him and he starts yelling at my friend as we are trying to get our equipment we have in his room. We start leave his room and starts rubbing a volunteers back in front of me. I ask him to stop he comes up to me like he’s gonna hug me and i hold a back pack in between us. He gets mad and slams the door. Within the hour we hear about him shoving a girl and that he touched and kissed a 16 year old girl. The man locks himself in his gallery. We go to one of the other gallery owners for help and in turn he tells us this is not the first time this man has done this. They wanted to keep it quiet because they didn’t want people to think badly of the building. If we had known before hand we would have never held our event there. We called the police, she gives her report. What I hear back from a volunteer is that since it wasn’t rape or murder the police won’t do anything. They do make the effort to come downstairs and knock on his gallery door. He doesn’t answer they leave. After the event the arts guild we worked with are only worried about their galleries and not getting into trouble. They want the “incident” kept quiet. Some stand by this man because he’s there friend and blame his alcoholism, the police are annoyed because some girls took too long to report. They didn’t know what to do. Neither did we. That building is supposed to host a local High School Arts program and that man that went around grabbing girls will be working with them. I don’t know what to do anymore.
Whilst traveling in Egypt I was conscious of the need to be culturally sensitive in order to prevent unwanted attention. I lived in Saudi Arabia and had traveled extensively through the Middle East and dressed conservatively and respectfully and knew the codes of acceptable male-female contact. The women there appreciated me covering up, and many of the men I met complimented me on my respectful dress. This however, did not make me immune to the catcalling, stalking and groping that Egyptian women deal with everyday. On one instance I was standing at a fruit stall by the road with my mother when a man reached out of his car and grabbed my bum, slipping his hand between my legs. I was covered and I was not alone, but this did not stop him. I was furious, turned to face him and hit his car repeatedly with my hand yelling “haraam, haraam” (forbidden, forbidden). The whole street stared at the man in his car as he sped away. I think the power of my response lay in the cultural accessability, promptness and volume. I was not rude. I did not degrade myself and I shamed this disgusting individual.
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.
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.
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?
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.