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I’ve been a fan of Hollaback for about a year now, and I finally decided to share a story. There are so many experiences of harassers getting away with their words and/or actions, and leaving the victim feeling powerless and trapped. However, I am happy to say that this is a success story!
I work in an industrial neighborhood in the East Bay, California. Every morning, I take a walk in about a one-mile radius from my workplace. There is a tow-truck company whose trucks frequent the area quite often, as their headquarters are nearby.
Beginning around October of last year, there was one particular driver for the company who, everytime he saw me walking, would blare his horn. A shrill, jarring, airhorn-like sound. Truck horns are designed to startle someone in an urgent situation, and naturally when this first started occurring, I would immediately look towards the sound to see what was happening. When I looked, the driver would have this grin across his face that felt so… Invasive. Sometimes he would wave, as well. My standard reaction was to flip him off, but that wasn’t satisfying the need to make him feel the way that he made me feel. Cornered, on display. I should throw in that this would always happen when he was driving by (in motion), and never when he was stopped. Big surprise, I know.
A few months later, another driver for the company started honking, grinning, waving, etc. as he passed. This happened several times. Everytime an instance occurred with this company, it was one of those two drivers. They were always in separate vehicles, never together at the same time.
So, I began to recognize my options. I thought about notifying the police, but I then realized that harassment in the workplace is taken much more seriously, internally speaking. If a company discovers that one of their employees is harassing others inside or outside of the workplace, there are often serious repercussions. I decided to call the company.
I immediately- but non-confrontationally- asked to speak to a manager. I told the receptionist that I had been experiencing harassment from two of their employees for approximately four months, and that I was fairly confident the company was unaware that this was happening. The woman I spoke to seemed to understand the urgency, and transferred me to the manager’s phone line. He was not in the office, but I did seize the opportunity to leave an in-depth message. I addressed everything that had happened with the honking and smiling, and let him know how these actions affected my feelings and sense of safety. I noted the times that these instances occurred, and the drivers’ appearances.
I never did receive a phone call back from the company, but I am ecstatic to say that not one single harassment incident, from either driver, has occurred since. I still see the same drivers when I go for a walk, and they will look, but will not say or do a thing. In fact, the majority of the time, they can’t even look me in the eye anymore.
People need to know that they CAN make a difference. They DO have the power to change things. They need not be afraid to use their voice and take action. The harassers do not have any more power than those who are harassed, and this story proves that those who choose to victimize others will endure justified consequences, if we speak up!
I was walking from class home when these two guys yelled at me from the car. something about wanting to “break me”. I just gave them a dirty look and kept walking. By the time they had circled back I was livid. When they yelled more obscenities at me I flipped them off. That’s when they threw the bottle at me. I was so shocked at being hit and worried about the broken glass when it hit the concrete that I didn’t get the license plate number. It pisses me off that they got away with it.
I’m a gay male who’s on the rather… chubby side, and I’d always wanted somewhere reasonable enough that made me feel comfortable and not like i wad being judged, and thought I found that with a 24 hour gym. Perfect, I’m up late anyways and there won’t be as many people there at night! Little did I know, I’d be made uncomfortable by a completely different situation.
The first time it happened, a guy was staring at me while I was rinsing my face in a sink. I could see in the reflection of the mirror that he was literally staring at me and smiling. Then what does he do next? He pulls down the front of his gym shorts and flashes me! I went out and told the person at the front desk and lo and behold, “they can’t do anything about it unless there are witnesses.”
Flash forward a month or so, I go to the gym around midnight and stay til 3 am. At the end of my workout, which included a swim, I decided that since it was late enough I could probably shower without feeling embarrassed or having anyone see me. I go into the locker room and there was an older guy, probably in his late 30’s, early 40’s who had clearly just showered and was wrapping up to go home. No big deal. I went into a desperate part of the locker room and put some stuff in my locker and grabbed a towel, undressed, and wrapped it around my waist. I head over towards the showers and as I do, I pass the little section of lockers where he’s at. He makes eye contact and smiles at me and I kinda quickly smile at him and keep walking, when I hear him say, “damn!”
I ignored it, not really believing he was talking to me (my self confidence was pretty low at the time, I had no idea anybody would ever say anything like that to me, let alone a creepy gym locker room dude,) and went over to the little offshoot area where the shower stalls are.
I’m standing there with the shower running, washing the chlorine water from my hair when I hear another nozzle turn on. I was a little disappointed cause I thought I was going to avoid the embarrassment of anyone seeing me naked, but when I glanced over, it was the creeper dude, he had gotten BACK in the shower, straight across from my stall, and worse of all, he was JACKING OFF!!!! I was pretty damn shocked by that point and I turned to face away from him and rinse the shampoo out of my hair (I rushed so it shouldn’t have taken more than a few seconds,) and I heard him say something. HE WAS RIGHT OUTSIDE MY STILL MASTURBATING!!! I didn’t know what to do or say so I kinda backed up into my stall a little more to move away from him and he kept stroking and started reaching for me. I finally got myself together and realize what was going on and said “dude, if you fucking touch me I’ll punch you the fuck out.” He backed off enough to get past him and I grabbed my towel, threw on my gym shorts and shirt still soaking wet, and carried my shoes and took off out of that locker room so quick. I’d never been more afraid or shaken up in my life. I didn’t even want to stop to talk to the guy at the front desk.
I went back a few days later to report the incident and of course was told once again that they couldn’t do anything about it. It was sick and creepy and I don’t understand why because a man can “tell I’m gay” he thinks he’s entitled to invade my personal space and make me feel disgusting.
My boyfriend showed me a story on CNN about street harassment and that’s where I saw the link for this site. I’m very torn about this, actually. On one hand, I’m glad there is a forum for women to share their experiences and vent out how frustrating these situations are, without fear of getting horrible comments that make you feel like you “were asking for it”. That’s not what we want to hear after we’ve been victimized. It isn’t a question of shaming nor is it a plea for pity and attention, but some people take it that way. The reason I’m so torn is that on the other hand, my heart breaks that there is a need for a site to express how we feel and worse, that there are so many women who have undergone these traumatic situations. The most recent instance I have had of unwanted sexual attentions (I’m not even counting the catcalls this morning as I was crossing the street to work) happened about a month ago. I was dressed in slacks and a button up uniform shirt for my internship in an office. I was on a crowded bus and found a pole to grab onto when I felt a man place his hand at the nape of my neck and run his hand down the length of my spine towards my rear. I froze in place: there was no mistaking the man’s touch for a simple accidental bump. Fortunately for me, a gentleman witnessed what happened and stood up and gave me his seat while calling out the other guy on his inappropriate behavior. He informed the bus driver of what had occurred and the creep was kicked off the bus. But the damage was done. I felt dirty. Worse, I caught myself thinking “I deserve this.” That’s what angered me most. I’m grateful someone stood up for me, though. It reminded me that it wasn’t my fault and that there are people who will stand up against injustices.
This happened last week. I know it’s not on the street but it was still uncalled for. It happened in a grocery store. It was my first time in the store since I had just moved to the area. Not 5 minutes into shopping, I hear someone whistling. When I look up, there’s a male employee looking at me and making kissy noises. He does it twice. I immediately turn down another aisle and far away as possible. But since the incident, I have emailed the store who say they will discuss it with their employees. My husband was very angry when I told him about it. Now I’m just paranoid to go places by myself.
More than once as I’ve walked to and from TAFE I’ve had the people who approach you on the street (to sign you up to a charity, to make donations etcetc) actually stand in front of me and not allow me to walk past. The first time it happened I was terrified. It was 2 in the afternoon, there was a lot of people walking around and this guy was shouting at me trying to get my attention, demanding to know why I wouldn’t stop and speak to him about (whoever he was working for) and it wasn’t until I looked up at him, and he saw how frightened I was and he looked around and saw all the people staring at him that he actually stood aside and let me walk past, still shouting after me.
BY EMILY MAY AND CATHERINE FAVORITE
Today Gawker featured the story of a woman who witnessed public masturbation on the subway – and the pictures she took in response. While we are happy to see Gawker highlighting the issue of street harassment, their analysis was off. Way off.
“Obviously, there’s no proof of lewd behavior in these pictures, just one woman’s story so, who knows, this guy could be innocent [emphasis added].
What is it with the media’s insistence that women’s reports of sexual violence are untrustworthy? It’s an old myth that stands in the way of progress. The FBI says that “unfounded” rape claims stand at 8%. But that tiny little 8% gives the media enough ammo to question all reports of sexual violence. Articles like Gawker’s tend to have a silencing effect on the rest of us, which is perhaps why 75-95% of rapes go unreported, making rape the “most under-reported crime” according to the American Medical Association. But why stop at questioning the victim? Gawker also offered the victim a little advice:
Also, it’s probably wise to contact the police before reaching out to a gossip blog when a crime has occurred.
Oh, Gawker. We know you’re DC-based so let’s fill you in on how this goes down. If you tell the NYPD, they might ignore you. If they don’t, you have to sit in front of a big black book of all the sexual offenders in the subway. If you don’t get totally freaked out and run screaming, you *might* find your guy. And then what? It’s a long, painful court process. No wonder victims turn to the internet for reprieve. And no wonder we have a robust “no coulda woulda shoulda” policy. Victims of sexual violence deserve to have whatever response makes sense to them most, because after all, it wasn’t their fault.
So Gawker, next time someone shares their experience of street harassment with you, perhaps you could politely suggest that gentlemen of the world refrain from public masturbation? It seems like good advice to us.
About 10 years ago (~2001) while I was living in Alexandria, VA, a friend and I decided to hit the Target store. I drove, and after parking we walked through the parking lot towards the store. As we neared the store, a car coming from our right slowed and stopped as we approached it I thought, “how nice, he’s stopping to let us pass in front of him.” How wrong I was. As we stepped in front of his car, I looked over to see the male driver with his penis out, masturbating madly with a huge grin on his face. I was still holding my keys in my hand, and I was so angry I acted without thinking. I jammed my keys into his car hood as we walked past, leaving a huge gouge in the paint all the way across. He didn’t do a thing…didn’t yell, didn’t honk, didn’t say a word, and we continued into a store. I still have fantasies about what I could have done with a can of pepper spray, given that his window was open!
We’ve been sending personal responses to all our donors thanking them, and this reply really struck a cord with us. The writer anonymously agreed to share it with us.
Thank YOU for everything you do. I only wish I could contribute more. I live in New York City and when I was working in an office I would get harassed almost every day going to or from work. Now I’m a freelance writer and I work from home so I encounter it less on the street but have started experiencing truly frightening things in bars. In the last few weeks, I had a man walk in on me in a bathroom stall (the lock was apparently broken) in an empty women’s bathroom, and just stand there and stare at me for a good ten seconds. He didn’t say anything or act surprised that he’d walked in on me or that he was in the wrong bathroom, and then he just calmly left. A week later, I was at another bar with all male friends and a guy who was alone at the bar, only about five feet away from me, was turning around to look at me every 30 seconds. Sometimes he’d turn his chair around completely and stare for a solid five minutes and listen to what I was saying as though he was in the conversation. When I took my phone out at one point to check my texts and Facebook and such, he took his phone out and pointed it directly at mine, so that it was only like two feet away, and then immediately spun his chair back around as soon as I put my phone away. (That was one of the strangest things and really scared me.) He was completely undeterred by me and all of my friends and my very angry boyfriend giving him nasty looks, and he did all of this for over an hour until I was so uncomfortable that I had stopped talking completely because I didn’t want him listening to me and didn’t want to leave the bar for fear of him following me anywhere, even if I was with other people. I’ve lived in cities before, but have never experienced anything like this, or the level and frequency of street harassment that occurs in New York. I lived in Baltimore for college for four years. I was harassed on the street ONCE, and another man sitting near him got up and started yelling at him, “How dare you speak to her that way?! Have some respect!” So it actually ended up being a rather endearing experience. I’m constantly harassed in New York, always in front of plenty of people, and no one has ever come to my defense here. Not that I can’t fight my own battles, but the acknowledgment of others who witness it that it is not okay would be nice. (What a cruel joke it is that I pay SO much more money to live here than other places and I’m not even treated like a human being when I walk around the city.)
Sorry for venting all of this to you completely unsolicited. I just really hope you know how important this is to so many of us. If you ever have those days that are frustrating or hopeless, we appreciate what you do so much.