At around 5:45 yesterday I stopped to pick up some cleaning supplies and dinner about 4 blocks from my apartment on my way home from work. I decided to take the bus home and waited with a mixed group of about 8 people. A man approached me and offered to “keep me warm” and I ignored him. He watched me for about 5 minutes and then grabbed my arm, insisting it was too cold for me outside. I said “Please don’t touch me. I don’t know you.” He started screaming at me, saying things like “As big as you are? You’re lucky anyone is touching you!” I kept ignoring it. He walked up to the young man next to me and said loudly “I’m gonna go with her and show her not to disrespect men like that!” No one said anything so I went inside a nearby shop and asked to speak with a manager. Only then did I learn that a policeman had seen the entire thing and decided not to intervene. Instead, the cop just told me I did everything right and should take the next bus home. I left my food on the sidewalk and took the next bus home. I’m 22, 5 feet tall, and was wearing a medical boot for a broken ankle. I needed help and I still feel vulnerable.
While on the phone with a friend outside a bar, a man who was a complete stranger grabbed me around my waist proceeding to ask me a question.. I responded with, “don’t fucking touch me.” He responded by yelling and calling me a fucking psycho. I don’t know if not wanting to be grabbed by a complete stranger makes me a psycho.. But that’s just me.
I’ve only had two particularly bad instances of street harassment. There was one time I was walking to the charity shop I worked at at the weekend (bear in mind this was at around 9 in the morning) and one man who looked about 50 got all up in my personal space and said “hey sexy what’s your name” – I ignored him and tried to get past him but he kept blocking my way and leering at me. When I eventually got past he grabbed my arm and pulled me back to him so I had to physically shove him off me, which he responded to by hurling slurs and derogatory comments at me and spitting as I speed walked as fast as I could away from him. There was also another instance where I was doing this crappy minimum wage morning job handing out flyers for a pasta place in town and as I was working these two men decided that it would be an appropriate time for them to try it on with me. Again, they both looked old enough to be my dad. They said things like “hey gorgeous is your number on this flyer?” and “you’re too pretty to be doing this – you should be modelling” but when I ignored them and kept working they switched to more sexually explicit comments about my body and what they’d like to do to it, and they started trying to touch my face and my bum. When I told them to get the f away from me I got in trouble with my manager for being rude to potential customers. I actually quit that job because of the amount of harassment I received. Both times were in broad daylight on busy streets and I was under 18.
It was last year my senior year in high school. My small class had went to attend Grad Bash at Universal and Island of adventures. The park is open to only seniors until 1 in the morning. It had been a long night and hundreds of seniors were standing to be let out (we had to go in and come out certain parts of the parks.) I was wearing loose shorts and a guy behind me ran his hand up the back of my thigh, into my shorts, and grabbed my ass. I quickly turned around not being able to tell who did it with the group of guys laughing probably with who ever put his hand in my shorts.
Have you ever been catcalled, whistled at, groped, hugged, approached by a strange man, had your ass slapped or just had unwelcome comments. I have! From the time I hit puberty and ongoing. This is a common occurrence for me and I believe it has shaped the person I have become. I’ve received comments like more ounce for your bounce baby, nice body shame about the face, and does that skirt get shorter in the summer to mention a few! It has made me cautious and depressed. I hate walking down the street because I’m afraid of what comments might come out of people’s mouths. I’ve been stalked, followed, interrupted, and I hate it. I’m an overly tall woman so I often get looked at or gawked at and on more than one occasion I have even been asked to take pictures with. A few years back I worked for a Children and Youth centre and had to walk through a very unsafe area of Toronto. I again received a number of cat calls and whistles, and I don’t know what happened but I snapped. I turned around to the man who was cat calling me and I said that is not appropriate. I told him that I didn’t appreciate his verbal attack and could he refrain from doing it again. I think he was quite shocked by my response and he actually apologized. These types of activities are very damming especially for young girls. They encourage a type of inappropriate behaviour and I wish it would stop. It makes women like me, who generally are strong and professional feel demeaned and worth less than they are!
I was at a bar, wearing a Tina Turner-inspired fringe dress I had made for a contest in which I sang one of her songs. I was leaning over a counter to talk to someone over the loud music, when I felt someone behind me move the fringe of my costume. I turned my head to look behind me, and there was a guy bending over with his face near my butt for a closer look. Busted, he walked over to a group of people who were presumably his friends. I followed him, stood about 2 feet in front of him, looked him straight in the eye, and calmly but sternly told him, “If you touch me again, I’ll kick your fucking ass.” He looked a bit surprised, and quietly put his hands up like he was innocent. I kept looking him in the eye for a few more seconds to let him know I meant business, then walked away and told a bouncer what had just happened. The bouncer didn’t kick him out, but said he would if the guy bothered me again, but he didn’t bother me again.
Before I confronted this guy, I felt disgusted and humiliated. After I confronted him, I felt better again and was able to enjoy the rest of my evening. I wouldn’t recommend confronting a harasser in every case, but I felt it was safe to do so in this case.
I’m technically male but am more comfortable by dressing to look androginous and/or more female. I wasn’t dressed as a girl exactly, but while walking to my flat a guy who was perhaps in his mid 60’s, who was just standing there doing nothing, grabbed me and felt my private parts through my trousers quite thoroughly. As I looked at him in horror, he nodded, grinned and said “just checking.” I ran and called the Police. They came down and interviewed me. They then asked me what I was “expecting them to do about it.” I was very upset but I managed to ask them to press charges. They refused and just left. They weren’t rude to me,but he was still out there later. I just feel so vulnerable and powerless as if the Police won’t help me, what can I do? I’m still trying to work out who I am and how I feel and this has really set me back and hurt me. Why did he feel to need to check me like that?
A few days ago, I was walking off of the subway heading to a friend’s apartment. As I approached the stairs to head toward the exit of the station, a tall man walked past me and I felt his hand on my butt. Yep, he grabbed me inappropriately and kept walking. By the time I realized what had just happened, turned around to call him a disgusting pig, he was already on the subway. Shocked and disgusted, I ran upstairs to alert a police officer or MTA employee (as they encourage you to do) yet not one single employee or officer could be found in the entire subway station. There is even a police office located within the station, but the lights were out and no one was there. I was horrified to realize that I could not immediately report this and there was absolutely no one to help me. What if this had been a more serious case? What if I had been injured? It’s very disappointing to realize the lack of support I felt that day and I’m sure I don’t stand alone as a victim of inappropriate and unwanted sexual touching. So I called MTA and they deferred me to the police. The police offered to send someone to the station, but the man was far gone by then. Even more disappointing is the fact that when you try to submit a complaint on MTA’s website, you receive an email saying that someone will respond to you “within 15 business days”. This isn’t exactly what women want to hear after they just experienced something like this.
I plan to make a police report, but unfortunately I am just one of the countless women who experienced this and will probably not see any justice.
Here’s to ending street harassment, bringing awareness to the issue and supporting women.
The first time a man exposed himself to me I was 11 years old in Cinncinnati, Ohio.
I am now nearly 50 and I have gotten so used to ignoring street harassment that I stopped thinking about it years ago.
The list of serious street harassment experiences I have had is so long that it is pointless to list them all. Everything from the city worker in city uniform in a city truck wiggling his tongue through the crotch of his fingers, to men brazenly grabbing my ass as I walk down the sidewalk, to the every day “you’d look good on me”, and nowadays:”You still lookin’ good for an old lady, you a cougar baby?”….and the kissing sounds, those are the most revolting.
I’ve learned to ignore them, stay aware from those parts of town, and not to use the train or bus because of the harassment. It’s just not worth it to deal with it.
Sadly: it is just become a background factor in my life. I just live accepting that this is the way it has always been and will always be: no one has ever done anything about it, bystanders often laugh or jump in and join the harasser. You can call the cops, but they do not take reports. I have even had them say “Why do you want to report this and ruin the poor guy’s life?” or some other version of “boys will be boys.”
Now I watch the same thing happening to my daughter and I am furious.
My story is not specific, because it happens too many times a day to count. I currently live in Medellin, Colombia, currently one of the most notorious hubs for sex tourism, street trafficking, and child prostitution. Before I decided to come here to start a vegetarian food project with a friend, I traveled mostly solo or with one female friend throughout Colombia and Ecuador. Traveling on your own has its challenges, but traveling as an independent female is another story. You are always on the streets, and thus, are in a constant state of harassment. Before you set foot out of your own city, you are constantly reminded of ‘how dangerous’ it is for you, how you ‘should travel with a group, a boyfriend, or a male companion’, how you should ‘never walk alone’ because ‘you never know what horrible things could happen to you… as a woman’. Sometimes men (and women alike) like to take additional steps in making sure you don’t venture out to foreign streets. They say ‘you are being naive’ (thank you for completely undermining my intelligence), they say ‘there are safer ways to do it’, they say you could ‘just save up more money, and go someplace else’. Before I left on my trip, I had many people do everything they could to strip me of my confidence, condescend my abilities, and essentially tell me that I was setting myself up for a horrible demise. Me. It would be MY fault, if something terrible happened to me somewhere in which ‘wasn’t my place’.
Meet Colombia and Ecuador, two of the loveliest countries on Earth. Meet Colombia and Ecuador, where I didn’t manage to escape unscathed. I cannot make less than a 5 minute walk without being catcalled, hissed at, or looked up and down in any city I have been in. 5 minutes. That’s about 3 blocks. And I’m a fast walker. I have been called (translated from Spanish): my love, my heaven, my life, my sky, my little thing, my princess, my queen, my sweet, baby, girl, white girl, beautiful, pretty, delicious, and ‘wow’. While those might sound like more than compliments to some, I am not a fan of the comments. I did not ask for them. I do not want them. I do not have a choice. These men disgust me.
That’s the cakewalk. Then comes the hissing. You know that sound you make to call your dog? Well they use the same one for women. Hissing. Don’t worry, they still call their animals the same way. There’s not much of a difference. And there won’t be later either. It is symptomatic, and no one does anything about it. Women are dogs here.
What do the comments turn into? The hisses? Oh it doesn’t stop there.
I’ve been followed for blocks multiple times. I’ve had to hide. I’ve had to turn around and yell at men stalking me. They smile. Or laugh it off. Or ignore me. Or point at me and say how much they’d like to fuck me. Or ask if I have a boyfriend. Or if I will marry them. But it still doesn’t stop.
I’ve been groped in the metros. I’ve had my hips, my arms, and my ass squeezed. I’ve had every inch of my body purposefully pressed upon. I’ve had stiff dicks and sweaty hands invade my space too many times during rush hour. It never stops.
The winks, the catcalls, the hissing, the squeezing, the stalking, the sexual comments, they are everything that signifies the complete lack of respect for women where I currently reside, and that is on all levels.
At one point at a festival, I was drunk… like almost everyone else. I was talking to a guy whom I had never met. I do not know him still. I do not remember his name. I don’t know what we talked about, and I don’t know how any of it happened. I remember flashes. I remember walking into a filthy bathroom with him. Horrible things happened. One flash I have was of him pulling his pants down. No condom. My feeling of fear, disgust, entrapment, helplessness, isolation. I could do nothing. The friend I was with had no idea… I never had the heart to tell him. I was crushed. My soul was gone. I was dead for a long time.
I was so traumatized, I couldn’t feel anything for awhile. I didn’t want to exist, or move, or speak. I was a changed person. I went from vivacious, funny, friendly, and wild, to a shell in moments. No one knew what happened, but the friends I was staying with knew it was something terrible. I didn’t know if I would find any part of my old spirit again. That was the worst part. But a different me is back.
I refused to be defeated. Before, I almost always reacted to street harassment. I would yell, I would silently put up my middle finger, I would fight back. I was strong. I was vigilant, careful, and conscious. No one thought I would be the one, but 1 out of 5 is pretty staggering.
For women, going out into the street is a gamble. I lost just one time. But honestly, I’m glad it was me, and not someone else. I still react, but in different ways. I harness all of my intensity to shock men, to scare them, to let them know without a doubt, that what they are doing is wrong. Often, I am successful. But It doesn’t stop. You can’t get everyone. Street harassment is a gateway to vicious assault, denigration, and decimation of female integrity and safety. If there is anything that I have learned, it is this: IT IS ALWAYS YOUR PLACE TO SAY SOMETHING. YOUR BODY, YOUR VOICE, YOUR DIGNITY. It belongs to you. Be strong, fight back. This is your world as much as it is anyone else’s. You might not be next, but someone you love will find their time… it’s always when you least expect it.