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I was 12 years old when I was sexually harassed for the first time. It was at a public event. I was seated in an auditorium and couldn’t get away. The incident involved verbal comments and touching. The harasser ignored my requests to stop. When I spoke up about what happened I was reminded that I was thin, had blonde hair and blue eyes so I should probably get used to it as “boys will be boys”.
These sorts of incidents have played out time and time again throughout my life. These days I wear a few extra pounds that I have come to realize are for self-protection. I’ve learned that if I dare to lose a few pounds and dress nicely, the harassment will begin again.
I also understand why men feel under attack by this campaign. I don’t believe most men engage in this sort of behavior. At the same time we need men on our side to help send the message that this sort of behavior is not funny or harmless and is certainly not “a compliment”.
I work behind a bar so take your pick! Last night a couple of lads shouting ‘stop staring at her arse’ to each other so I could hear as I was taking lights down from the ceiling….then the obligatory ‘bye gorgeous’ and sleazy wink as they left…. An older man at the bar holding onto my hand for what felt like forever while repeatedly telling me how beautiful I am and that it’s nice ‘to have something to look at’ for a change….
I was standing at a crossing waiting to cross the road when a guy turned around and said “Nice!” to me, and then took a photo of me on his phone and walked off.
One morning on my way to work, I got on the bus and was the only person on besides the bus driver when a man gets on and sits directly in front of me in the back of the bus. Although I had my headphones on I could hear the man trying to get my attention and motioning towards me so that I could give him my full attention. Thinking I should probably be cautious, I moved my seat and sat directly in front of the bus driver under the impression that if anything were to happen the bus driver would protect me or at least ask the man to get off the bus. This was not the case though. The man followed me to the front of the bus and began to yell at me and laugh maniacal. At this point I was terrified, yet the bus driver still did NOTHING. My stop finally came and I attempted to walk towards the exit, only to have this strange man attempt to follow me off the bus. I then took a step back looking at the bus driver with no prevail, but the man then sat back down and I got off the bus only to have the man get off on the next stop. Thankfully it was as though God was on my side and it began to rain very hard and the man ran opposite to the direction I was in. This experience has left me completely traumatized and in the realization that I am not protected in the streets and not even on public transportation, which I have to take every single day.
I’m not terribly attractive compared to a lot of other girls I know. Plus I wear baggy hoodies, jeans and my hair’s naturally messy. Even so, I did experience street harassment twice in the past. What happened recently took the cake; even if it wasn’t on the street, where it happened was as public as a street was.
I was at the library, buried in a book. All of a sudden, a guy just sat down on the other end of the couch and said hi. I gave a nod, politely said hi and turned back to the book. The guy looked to be in his 50’s or 60’s. When he started rambling, I nodded and replied with the occasional “mhm” because I was taught to respect your elders.
I began to notice he was slowly sliding over to me. And his eyes were looking everywhere else on my body BUT my eyes. Some of the language he was using made me feel uncomfortable and the stranger began asking me very personal questions.
I made up a quick act about how I’m running late to meet my friend, got up and hustled down the stairs. A moment later, while scanning the bookshelves, I noticed the same guy following me. Panicking, I fast-walked through the library to the girls bathroom. I stayed in there for a few minutes and when I asked another woman to see if the guy was still out there, he was.
Lucky for me, the bathroom had two doors. I used the other exit and ran down the hall to the elevator. I was back upstairs where I could hide out in one of the secluded areas and spy on the first floor through a special window.
It took an hour before that guy left the library. Entire time, he was looking around the first floor.
The library has always been my sanctuary to escape from stress and to relax for awhile. But that creep ruined the library for me. I can’t go back there cause he could return and the librarians won’t do anything about it. The library may not be the street. However it’s still a public place and women do have the right to be in public without harassment.
I was sixteen years old and my father sent me into Target to pick up a few things. While shopping I was followed around by a much older man. He would smile at me and he came up to me about three times asking me for my phone number. I tried to ignore him but he got more aggresive when I did. I told a store employee and was informed there was nothing they could do for me. But the part that upset me the most was when I told my father what happened and that I didn’t want to go into places by myself anymore, he informed me that this is just what happens when your pretty and that I just needed to ignore them and deal with the comments.
This is only the most recent story of harassment in my life. It’s not the worst either, not even the worst this month.
I didn’t have enough money to get out of the bus station. My husband had already gone through the barrier and was waiting for me on the other side. I go to pay at one of the atm like stations. While I’m standing there 2 men come up behind me, too close, and I ask them to back up. Instead they get in my face and says he isn’t doing anything, it escalates too fast. I’m terrified, I let my guard down because I was out with my husband so I didn’t have any pepper spray at the ready. I start freaking out and my husband rushes around the corner and starts screaming at these guys to back off. They don’t back off, they say they’re gonna hurt us. I really don’t want to say what my husband did next, but it was pretty obvious that he was going to kill these guys if he had to. I finally start thinking straight & run to jump the barrier and we ran for blocks.
There are too many, sadly, to report here but I’ll relay few of them: There was one good ol’ boy who was somehow in LA and when I walked by said “Mmmmmm, I’d LOVE to have you between my sheets!” One old man asked me “Would you be willing to model nude for me?” An elderly man was walking toward me on the sidewalk and when I smiled respectfully at the old fella, he leered back with “Mamacita!” (I do not dress provocatively.)
As has been mentioned before, I have often experienced first hand that a man can go from hitting on you to insulting you within seconds if you don’t play his game. It is frightening.
The stupidest comment was one time I had cut my hand badly on a broken glass while washing dishes. I was waiting outside on the sidewalk for a friend to come drive me to the hospital; the towel around my hand was growing increasingly heavier with blood. Two young guys walked by me and one of them said pseudo-suavely “Hello, beautiful”. When I looked away, painfully cradling my gushing hand, he lashed back with “Beauty is as beauty does” with a harsh tone despite the corny cliche. A woman can’t even be injured in peace!!!
Then there’s the bus driver who wouldn’t let me out of the bus until I gave him a kiss. It was bad enough but thank Heaven, not as bad as that could’ve been.
I was walking with my friends through Digbeth, in Birmingham. We were visiting a friend and she was showing us this really cool graffiti art. There was 4 of us. So, we were starting to leave the area towards the street when we noticed a man who was just staring at us.
We could tell that he was probably drunk – even though it was around 3pm – because, he was walking really slowly and in rough short movements. He started to walk faster and faster towards us until he was directly in front of us. We had no where to go as he had cornered us (we had linked arms). Then he walked straight up to us, nose to nose to my friend as if he was trying to intimidate her. Then she pushed him away with her hand, so he left us walking away slowly, but still staring. We quickly left the area and did not have another encounter, but we could still see him back there from afar, just waiting.
That is the closest contact I have had with someone before on the street and it was easily the most frightening thing, because we had no idea what he was intending to do or what we was going to do.
I recently came to France to study for a single semester and the 2nd day I was here, I was walking down the street with my new roommate (she and I were going to get some food and chat to get to know each other) and this RANDOM guy (who I’ll admit, I didn’t even notice at first because he was shouting at us in French) started following us and kept calling “Bonjour, bonjour.. Bon midi… HELLO? Excuse me, hello?”. I only turned around once I noticed someone speaking English (as that’s what my ear is used to) and he caught up to us and started trying to talk in French. Long story short, I didn’t understand him but my roommate did and she was translating for me… he kept calling us beautiful, kept saying he wanted to talk to us, kept saying that he wanted to know where we lived, TOOK OUR PICTURE (which I’m pretty sure were showed the most uncomfortable looking faces), then said he was going to kiss us goodbye (on the cheeks – as this is French custom) and wanted our numbers. When we said we needed to leave now, he asked us where we were going and we just said “out for some food” and he even INVITED HIMSELF TO COME WITH US. We obviously said no. But, I felt so awkward and under pressure even though I refused to give him any of our information. So he insisted on giving us his number and was like “promise you’ll call me when you get a French number”. HA, sure, pal. First thing on my to-do list.
Now, I’m not really used to that kind of thing because I’m not seen as a “conventionally” beautiful woman. I don’t have curves, I’m very petite. But this was insane. We were giving him very obvious signals that we weren’t interested and wanted to get away. I know that we stood our ground (to some extent) but we definitely should have been harsher and more firm. I guess that’s the patriarchal conditioning getting the better of me. Don’t wanna “let them down too hard”. I’m not a mean person but I don’t feel like men should find it acceptable to just approach women like that. Telling someone to have a nice day doesn’t seem so insidious to me, but all the other bullshit really gets to me. This experience in France so far hasn’t been repeated, but I was utterly shocked at how intense it was. I don’t want to feel like I have to look over my shoulder when I walk down the street because some dude with a self-entitlement complex feels like because I am female he deserves something from me.