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My name is Meiling and I am a senior in high school. While I have only been on this earth for 17 years, I have been the victim of sexual harassment a countless number of times, in fact, too many times. Every day I either have to deal with a grown man staring creepily at me and my body, or an inappropriate comment slipped at me while walking down the street. I cannot explain how uncomfortable this makes me feel and how frightened I am when this happens to me on a
My most memorable and frightening encounter with sexual harassment occurred about a year and half ago when I was walking home from school and a large man in a heavy coat walked by me and rubbed his hand along my arm. It happened so fast I didn’ t really make sense of what had just happened and thought it might have been by accident.
However, in the following days I saw the same guy about three more times and every time he walked past me he would touch my arm. I did not know what to do at the time. I felt helpless. This man was invading my personal space and made me feel very uncomfortable. Moreover, I was extremely afraid for my personal safety. Thank goodness I have never seen this man again, but this memory will forever stick with me.
It is unfair that we women and even young girls, because yes, girls younger than I experience sexual harassment, have to deal with this issue daily. Our personal safety is put into danger every time this happens because in addition to being sexually harassed we face the possibility of being verbally attacked or even physically attacked for rejecting a man who tries to talk to us in the street. This is why I am asking for a change to happen in our city of New York where I should feel safe walking by myself in the street. More enforced actions need to take place in order to stop sexual harassment and prevent it from happening.
I thank you kindly for taking the time to read my testimony and hope it better informed you on this issue.
When I was 17 years old (five years ago), I was in a Walgreens Drug Store purchasing a beverage. There was an older male employee there that I would see often and chat with him occasionally regarding the weather and such innocuous subjects.
This particular afternoon, he was restocking the beverages and I commented on how cold I was. He looked at me, laughed, and lunged forward… he wrapped his arms around me and said, “Let me warm you up, baby!”
After I managed to break free from his grasp, I left and never returned to that particular Walgreens again. At the time, I was naive teenager and the first thing I thought to myself was “What did *I* do to cause this to happen to me? What did *I* do that made him think it was all right to grab me in such a way?” I cried for a few hours over my lost dignity and respect, and it has still haunted me. Not until I came across Hollaback! did I realize I could do something. Thank you.
Submitted by Emily
I was walking home from [law] school last night around 10:20 p.m. My walk is only about 15 minutes, from Tribeca to the Financial District, and I normally walk very rapidly.
I’m always aware of my surroundings, especially at night, and am careful to remain in well-lit areas where other people are as well. As I was walking down Broadway, I noticed 2 boys in front of me. One was on a razr-type scooter, the other one (orange polo) was just walking.
Eventually I passed them, and as I did, the one of the scooter, who had been going around in a circle said, “Hey gorgeous.” I ignored him and walked faster. After about 30 seconds I could hear both of them behind me, and they were beginning to keep pace with me. They followed me all the way down Broadway, to Fulton Street. Along the way, they were muttering things to each other like “Yeah, she does have a nice ass though.” I probably behaved pretty stupidly, but I thought because there were people all around me, that these guys would give up and leave eventually. They seemed younger and weren’t overly intimidating. I pulled my phone out and had 911 ready-dialed in case it escalated too quickly. They continued to follow me down Fulton Street, but eventually the guy on the scooter pulled back. The second guy was still keeping stride, though, and as I neared a cross street, I heard the scooter guy yell, “Now, Man (Max, Mac?)” and the guy in the orange polo said “Now?,” began running past me, and grabbed my ass. He then slowed, stood at the next corner, and watched me pass. I felt so violated and completely degraded. I took a picture of him with my camera phone as I walked by him, because it\’s all I could think to do, but it came out very blurry.
I was out jogging on a Sunday morning around 11:00 AM while visiting my in-laws, who live 2 blocks from Frontier Park in Erie, PA. A tall, brown-fuzzy-haired, fit, attractive college-y looking guy in his early 20’s with wire-frame glasses in red basketball shorts and a grey t-shirt passed me, smiled, and said “hi.” I’m a New Yorker so I don’t usually greet strangers but I figured it was probably common courtesy in Erie, so I said “hello.”
A split second later he came up from behind me, pulled me up against him, and groped my crotch. I elbowed him and he bolted down the street where my in-laws live. My husband and his family drove around the neighborhood searching for hours and never saw him. To my knowledge the cops never caught him either.
The scene: an extremely crowded G-train shuttle bus on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone was packed onto the train, everyone’s bodies were touching each other, but I was surprised to feel someone’s hand squeezing my ass. I looked behind me and saw a man’s hand poised there behind his back–still in a cupped position as if he felt no shame or need to hide his covert grope. I was completely enraged and I turned around, grabbed him by the shoulder, and shouted “Did you just grab my ass? Because you totally just did!”
For the first instant he looked shocked but he suddenly became angry and yelled back (though much quieter than me), “Shut the fuck up, you ugly bitch, or I’ll smack the shit out of you.” Now, the bus was very crowded, and I knew he wasn’t going to hit me, though I wish he would have so I could have beaten the hell out of him. So I replied, “You’re going to hit me because you groped me on a crowded subway shuttle and I noticed? Are you kidding me?” at which point he turns around and starts ignoring me. I turn to the friend I’m with and say as loudly as I can “That douchebag just grabbed my ass,” she responds “What a fucking freak,” etc., and I stand close to him glaring the rest of the ride.
I handled the incident just like I always hoped I would, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t make me feel shaken and violated. It was absolutely horrible. From this incident onward (about 4.5 months ago), I tell street harassers to fuck off on a regular basis–even if they say “You look gorgeous” or “God bless you.” It feels good, but it doesn’t come close to completely counteracting the feelings of victimization, rage and sadness that come along with being harassed on a daily basis for being a woman.
Submitted by Rachel
I was 40 years old living in Encinitas, CA and I had a one year old daughter who was born with GERD. We had to go to the doctor frequently for check-ups and follow-ups and constant ear/sinus infections for her. Her pediatrician was a founding member of an 8 doctor pediatric practice. He complimented me on how I looked every time he saw me but I put it down to being friendly. Then one visit he had me holding my daughter in my lap while he looked into her ears. He straddled my leg to get in close to her and I started to feel uncomfortable. He then started slowly stroking his crotch across my thigh. He spent a long!! time!! looking in one ear!! He then looked in the other ear without straddling my other leg. I was so shocked and disgusted and paralyzed.
My sister’s children had the same pediatrician and so I asked her if she had ever noticed anything weird about him. She then revealed to me that one time during an exam of her daughter he had “accidentally” caressed her breast while reaching for her daughter. She said “I felt weird about it at the time, but I didn’t really know whether it had happened or not”.
This gave me the courage to report it to the other founding member of the practice, a woman, who dismissed my concerns completely. Needless to say I switched doctors. The truth is I know what I know and what I know is that my genitals are never in contact with another person’s body without my knowledge/awareness.
I know it’s not a street harassment but I needed to Hollaback about it. The creepiness of it still bothers me and I wish I could have done more to protect the next woman.
Submitted by Valerie
I was walking home from work yesterday – in fact, on the very block on which I live in Astoria, Queens – when I felt a hard slap on my ass. Stunned, I watched a man whizz by me on his bike. I managed to sputter “fuck you,” but I was so shocked that it didn’t come out nearly as loudly or aggressively as I would have liked. He was on a bike, so I barely got a glimpse at him – although he did look back briefly and I flipped him off. I’ve been subject to catcalls before, but never had I been inappropriately touched by a stranger, not even on a crowded subway.
Later, I wished I’d cursed him out louder and with more anger, but I was too shocked at the time to form a coherent response. My first instinct was to just go home and lock the door against the outside world, but I realized that letting this man’s behavior affect my own wasn’t the answer. So I changed into my workout clothes and went to the gym like I’d planned, trying not to worry that another stranger would see my loose yoga pants and spandex top as an invitation to assault or harass me. I’m still furious that someone would touch me without my consent, but I’m not going to stop wearing what I like or worry about walking home by myself. I’m not the one who should have to change my behavior.
Submitted by Sara
Editor’s Note: Last summer, a man was convicted of a rash of “butt-slapping” (AKA assault) in the Crown Heights area. For more information, check out this and this. We’re hoping what happened with Sara is an isolated incident and the guy is not out and about again, but if you experience something similar please let us know.
Recently I had the experience of traveling to Turkey with a university team. Being Canadian I was extremely excited for my first trip beyond North America. Overall it was a very pleasant adventure, and I could focus on one of the many positive memories that resulted, but there is another that always gets me.
Istanbul has a decent transit system, or at least the impression of one for tourists. After a day on the town we had accidentally timed our return on the train with rush hour. As warm bodies squeezed in, we huddled together as it can be uncomfortable isolated speaking only English and being the only white person to illicit stares. As the train started moving again I thought I felt something. I shrugged it off at first, with everything so packed the jostling can be confusing. Shortly after, my bum has been grabbed.
I was a little in shock. I moved quickly, to see an unassuming business man acting as if nothing has happened. The pervert just touched my ass! Not only that, he assaulted me in front of my friends AND boyfriend. I couldn’t believe it, told them in English, and everyone just stood confused. I wanted to punch him in the face, but by the time I had worked up the courage it was too late. If someone touches you and it is unwanted, that is physical assault, the end.
The worst part is that I started asking myself what I could have done differently. Knowing we were in a conservative country, we girls had dressed to show minimal (as in none) skin. I had a coat on at the time. Were my jeans too tight, was that asking for it in Turkey? I felt like it was my fault for trespassing with Western fashion in their country. Like the man just thought all white women were harlots. As if it was okay the man figured a woman should hide herself under swarths of cloth or be fair game for attack.
Even months afterward I still feel unsure of the incident. Am I bigoted for hating any Muslim stricture that has a line about being humble? I know that Islam is not exactly a feminist’s favourite religion, but we can’t liberalize such a widespread belief system by fighting it by banning minarets in Switzerland or whatever. But it feels right because I am so angry. All because some middle-aged pervert couldn’t keep his hands to himself, my views on so many issues have been changed.
That being said, I am thankful to be Canadian. There’s a long way to go, even here, but I can appreciate my daily commute far more now.
My friend and I were riding the 6 train downtown together. As we’re chatting, I feel something brush on my backside. I thought that someone was bumping into me cause the subway conductor was breaking every two seconds and people kept falling over and losing their balance. But, there was something about this that was different. It was really low on my backside and it was warm. I look and the guy behind me has a fucking ERECTION. It was right up against me. I freak out inside, but I’m trying to remain calm. I look at him, he had his head turned away from me
I was in the middle of talking when this all happened. I immediately stop what I was saying and turn to my friend and said (loud enough for the guy to hear) “can we SWITCH POSITIONS?” my friend switches with me, so now my friend is next to this guy. The guy gets off at the very next stop, and my friend asks me why I look so nervous. I whisper to him what happened and he was disgusted and angry, not to mention really weirded out. We both noticed that the man was wearing these blue shorts that had “pockets” but instead of fabric is was just a hole that showed his skin, and the man was clearly not wearing underwear.
I’m cat-called every day of my life. I take it as a part of living in this city. I literally cannot go out by myself without getting lewd looks or comments, most of the time by men who are old enough to be my father. What is saddening is that I am used to this. I should not have to “get used to this”, because men should never be doing this to begin with. This was my first ever physical encounter with one of these creeps. In the end I felt like I needed to take a shower.
Submitted by Susanna
Thanks for all the work you are doing in the city. I sent you a story a while back and wanted to relay another disgusting event to you.
I live in Queens and I was going home a little late getting on the 7 at Grand Central and this guy in a suit was like walking really close down the stairs behind me. So I stopped right at the bottom of the stairs where the train pulls up and he walked to my left like 20 feet away and I could tell the perv was staring at me. It took a long time for the train to get there and he was staring at me the whole time. So the train pulls up and all the sudden he is like RIGHT on my ass like pushing me in. I got in and there was a corner seat by the connecting door open so I sat there thinking he couldn’t rub up on me there. So he comes and stands right in front of me and is looking right down my top.
He was like 35, 6 feet, really good looking, wavy black hair with a wedding ring on. If you guys see him watch out. So I see that his hand is moving in his right pocket and he starts flicking his tongue at me. I was fuckin repulsed and like no one could even see him cause he had me in the corner. I am like 5’1″ and I was scared so I didn’t do anything but pretend he wasn’t there.
I could see his hard on and him rubbing it in his pants. He was like mumbling stuff too. I know one time he said o so u like that huh? It was so obvious. He was also like tapping my shoe with his foot like HEY look up at me jerking off and staring at you. My stop was 2 stops away but when the next stop came up I got up and got off. He purposely blocked me and groped my boob on the way out. I was scared and pissed too. This was on Monday and I havent seen him since. I cant wait to get the phone app you are putting out. I tried to get a pic but the train pulled away as I was trying to get his picture. You can share this story because I think it might help anyone else on that line at night.
Thanks for all your help.
Submitted by Krista