Everyday and everywhere women get harassed.
I would like to share three stories that happened to me on a daily basis:
1. I got out of the subway and went up the stairs that guide you to the street exit. While I was climbing up the stairs a 40′ year old man was going down, passed right next to me and touched slightly my buttock. I look behind to see his face and kept on going thinking to myself “it’s not worth it to say anything right now…just keep going”. A minute later, I felt a finger pressing between my legs and I saw him (so he came back, climbed up and touched me again!) I pushed him hard and screamed: “What the f**k man!” really angry! He looked at me and I saw a glimpse of a smile. At that moment I felt powerless and went away quickly.
2. I was walking down a street with a friend to school some years ago when I was still in high school. We saw a man walking in the opposite way, towards us. There was nothing suspicious about the guy until the exact moment when we crossed he came close to my ear and whispered “I would lick all of you baby, you’re so fine”. Again I felt powerless because I felt that I couldn’t even reply and defend myself even in a verbal way because he could attack us or hurt us…it’s frustrating
3. Me and two girlfriends were having a great picnic in a park next to the river. We were having such a great time eating our snacks and talking until we realised there was an old man sitting in the nearest park seat touching himself on his baggy shorts, clearly jerking off, looking our way! We decided to pack our stuff and go away. At that time I couldn’t help myself and started screaming so that everyone in the park would look at him and see what was going on instead of just passing by without saying a word. I screamed “What the f**k are you doing! go home! that’s disgusting! people look at this man, he is touching himself! don’t you have a daughter, a grandchild? go home! you’re disgusting!”
We live in a country where the freedom of speech is guaranteed but in the streets we don’t feel that. We have to shut up, put our earplugs, walk quickly, look behind each street corner and don’t reply on any comment.
I was coming back home with my little sister. We were walking just around the corner from our house. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a motorbike behind me, and the guy who was driving grabbed my left buttock so hard, that I couldn’t even move…I was so shocked.
I felt very disgusted and powerless for not being able to do anything…
I was walking home from work. It was not even dark outside. A man walking towards me had a shifty look in his eyes. I immediately got a bad feeling but kept walking which was a huge mistake. Right before he got to me he said “nice boobs” and grabbed my chest and ran off like the coward that he is. This was years ago but I never forgot it. Now I am paranoid when I walk down the street even though I don’t live in the same city. I did report it to the police and they accepted the report without fail but they never “caught” the guy. After it happened I ran home and I had this overwhelming feeling of disgust. I wanted to vomit, it made me feel so violated.
I was delighted to hear of your website – what a wonderful idea.
I also thought it would be so freeing to share my stories. Don’t know if they will be very relevant, because it is a collection, but I decided to share anyhow. Keep in mind that I am an ordinary looking girl, quiet and modest in dress and demeanor. I am only reporting incidents that took place in the street or on public transport.
As a child of age 7-8:
• Two boys of about 10-11 followed me home along the road and tried to pull down my pants (I was wearing a dress). My parents later tracked them down and spanked them!!
As a teenager aged 13-16:
• while buying something at a roadside kiosk, a young man behind me reached between my legs;
• when at farmers markets I had men try to put hand on my backside (more than once);
• when walking down the street on my way home after school, a young man blocked my way, and asked where I was going. I said, “home”. He said, “where is home?” I randomly pointed to a stranger’s house across the street and said, “there!” I proceeded to march across the street while the man grabbed and slightly tore a frill on my blouse, and also tried to grab my hair. I opened the garden gate (fortunately unlocked), and walked right into the backyard of the unknown house. The young man finally let go when I pushed inside the gate. A surprised child was playing in the yard, and his kind mother let me call my mom to come get me and drive me home. After hearing the story my mom was very angry and wanted to track down the man who had harassed me, but I was terrified and begged her not to.
As a young adult (‘20s):
• Was flashed when walking the gardens of a public park.
• When riding in crowded tram, standing and holding onto an overhead grip, felt man press his body against mine from behind – uggggghhh! But unable to move because it was so crowded, and I couldn’t clearly see who was doing this. Felt helpless and so angry at that disgusting man.
• When walking through the edge of a public park, a man walking towards me suddenly reached up and put his hands on my breasts as he passed me.
• (This next story has a satisfying ending): I had recently attended a 1 hour self-defense presentation at my workplace, and was reading a book as I rode the subway home (BART). I noticed out of the corner of my eye, that the man seated next to me had put his hand on the seat, and was gradually inching it closer and closer to my leg as I read. I realized he was planning to touch my leg. My first instinct would have been to move, but because of that self-defense presentation, I decided to stay put because to move would be to just give in. I watched the hand s-l-o-w-l-y move closer until finally it brushed against my leg – and at the moment I instantly slapped his hand hard, and loudly said, “Get your hands off me, you creep!!!!!” Then I went back to reading my book (of course, not seeing a word on the page! ) The man pulled his hand back and cowered into the corner of the seat, and said, “Sorry!” I hoped that my response might cause that man to think twice before doing that to another woman.
These incidents seem very minor, but the fact that they stand out so much in my memory shows that sexual harrasment is no joke and truly causes harm.
I work in southern Italy during the summer and ride the trains to get to and from various places. On a Saturday, when returning from a visit, I was standing on the train with a few friends and a group of 20 year old guys got on. They were annoying, like a lot of guys that age can be – you know, talking loud, pushing each other around, etc. I turned my back to them and just kept talking with my friends. They started making smooching noises (kind of an Italian catcall) – I kept ignoring them. Then I felt someone grab my back. I really couldn’t believe it – trains get crowded, so I didn’t do anything. And then it happened again and I realized that this guy was grabbing me. And for the first time in my life, I froze. I didn’t know what to do at all. Here I am in a foreign country and I have no idea what to do. My sister (who works in India) would talk about women being grabbed and worse on the train – she herself had been groped. I remember getting angry at her for not doing anything about it – not telling anyone. But, standing on that train, being grabbed – I didn’t know what to do either. I was angry at myself for not standing up. I was angry at the guy in my group for not doing anything (although, he told me later, he was just as shocked too). All I could think about was “what if I do something and it just escalates?” I hate that feeling of powerlessness. And then I thought, well, it was just a grab – these things happen. But I’m still mad about it half a year later.
I was groped on the bus today.
I was groped by a man on a bicycle two days in a row in Astoria. Considering I have lived here for 3 years and have felt very safe, this is really shocking and difficult to comprehend.
The first incident happened on the corner of 43rd Street and 30th Avenue around 3:30 while I was walking to the gym. A man on a bike was riding on the sidewalk towards me. He stopped directly behind me while I was waiting for the light and smacked my butt. I was so shocked that I did nothing as he sped away. No one else on the street seemed to noticed what had happened. I daydreamed all of the obscenities I could shout at this perv if I could go back in time, thinking that that this was a fluke and would never happen again.
Oh no, the very next day I was walking down 46th street around 6:30 pm and a guy on bike sneaked up behind me, whispered “nice ass” and grabbed me. He then sped away. I screamed “Asshole!” but really, does this affect a person like this? I got a better look at him and assume he’s probably the same guy.
I called the local precinct and the cop who I spoke to said that other women in Astoria have complained about this guy, near the locations I was at. He told me I could file a report if I wanted to. I went but a different cop said that it would be a waste of time. “These things happen,” he told me. Thanks buddy, that sure makes me feel safer.
I was visiting my friend a University of Missouri and we went to a party. Me and my friends were pretty much the only ones dancing so when a strange girl came up and started dancing with me, I was happy that she was joining us. However, she then proceeded to bite me on my neck. Very hard. Shocked I just walked away. I told my friends and they thought it was just as weird as I did and we all kind of laughed at it. Later, I was standing against the walk talking to my boyfriend when she came up to me again. I said to her in a light but firm way “Don’t bite me again, because that really hurt!” She, of course, bit me again. I then tried to slink away but she had me pinned against the wall and started drunkenly pressing herself into me. She touched my breasts. My boyfriend then grabbed my armed and pulled me away.
It was such a weird thing and only now, reading this site, do I realize I totally underreacted. Of course, if a man had done this to me, not only would I have fought back, but my boyfriend would defended me. I was so worried about not hurting her feelings or making it seem like a big deal that I forgot about my self respect. This will never happen again, whether by a man or a woman.
I’m usually the person targeted for harassment, since I’m tall and multiracial (and confident), and therefore the most visible woman on any given block. But just now I witnessed an egregious harassment of another woman, and I followed up with the harasser, as I would hope others would do for me (but have NEVER done.)
A big man (at least 6’2″, maybe more, and maybe 220 lbs or more) lurched out of an alcove at a small woman (at most 5’4″ and 120 lbs, maybe 25 y/o or less) who was walking down the sidewalk. He went at her fast, but slowly enough that she could get out of his way. But, since he held his arms out in front of and behind her, she could only get out of his way by going sideways. He pushed her across the sidewalk and into a car, where she ducked under his arm and kept walking. She bumped into me because she was busy looking behind her at the man, who was leaning into the car, laughing at her.
This all happened too fast for me to react to it. Now, as you can tell from the photo and video I’ve included, the man is poorly dressed and dirty, clearly down and out, possibly a drug addict. I do understand the rage and the invisibility of men like this, especially when you add on the racial component and the pressure and invisibility that comes with that.
HOWEVER, it is NOT OKAY for an oppressed man to take out his rage on a woman, or on anyone who is more vulnerable than he is, or on whom he can become violent.
I had a few seconds to decide what to do. He was still lingering just a few steps ahead of me, adjusting himself to the success of his harassment. At moments like this, I have to figure out if I’m going to be harassed myself. If I see a potential harasser up ahead, I’ll generally cross the street to avoid them. But this time, I decided to take the initiative, because I was so angry about what he did to that woman.
I stood still on the sidewalk as I thought about it. During this time, a family of two women and two little girls came down the sidewalk and the man lurched out amongst them, although I’m not sure this time if he intended to scare them or if he was just substance-addled. But that was the last straw for me.
I pulled out my phone, switched to camera mode, and walked past him, glaring at him as I went. As I expected, he started to follow me, saying something to me (I don’t know what, I had my headphones on until I turned my camera to video mode.) I started snapping pictures of him and, as soon as he saw me doing it, he walked away from me. He kept ducking into the building alcove, hoping I’d walk past. I tried that one time, but he just came back out and continued following me, so I continued snapping pictures.
Then he turned down a street to get away from me. Unfortunately for him, I’d remembered my video camera and switched to video. I turned the corner and did a little interview with him, which you can see in the video. Of course, he denied it all. Too bad I didn’t get pictures of the harassment.
He took off down the street and I followed him for a block and a half. He kept looking back to see if I was following. I stopped taking pictures, but I kept my phone held up. Finally, he walked down an alley to get away from me and I let him go. I wonder if that’s the first time in his life he’s had the tables turned on him like that. He sure didn’t like being harassed or followed.
Let me emphasize here, though, that it was the middle of the day, there were lots of people around, and I’m pretty tall and imposing-looking. I don’t necessarily recommend that other, smaller women turn the tables quite so thoroughly on a big man who was willing to get physical with a woman. It could be dangerous.
To ensure that every bystander is as amazing as Claire, donate to the “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Claire has already donated, as if she wasn’t already badass enough.