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Earlier this afternoon, I was working on my laptop at the Steven A. Schwarzman branch of the New York Public Library, when I noticed a man, seated one desk away across from me, staring at me. I tried to ignore it at first, but he kept staring even when I stared right back at him to let him know I was aware of what he was doing. I noticed he had one hand on the desk and the other one under the desk, and suspected he was up to mischief. However, since I couldn’t really see, I did not say anything. I did not want to change seats because I already switched seats earlier (another story). Besides, I did not want to be intimidated into moving. At some point, the guy got up from his seat and shifted some chairs around so that my line of vision to his legs were blocked. Moments later, he got up and moved the chairs around again to clear my line of vision and I knew something was up (no pun intended). A few minutes later, he was back in his chair, staring at me and masturbating.
I took out my iPhone to photograph him and he quickly shielded his face with his hand. He then got up to leave and all I got was a picture of him walking away, his face turned to the side. I followed him, knowing he would encounter a security check point. He walked through–the security guard seemed to recognize him and they exchanged goodbyes. I told the security guard what happened, who shook his head and said, “This is the third time someone has reported this about him.” WTF? I looked at him incredulously and asked why nothing was being done, why he didn’t go after the guy. He said he could not leave his station and shrugged. I insisted that he contacted some one through his radio–the man would have to go through another security checkpoint–which he finally did, but by that time, the guy–as I later learned–had already left the building.
I got my things and was escorted to the library’s security office to report the incident. Two men in suits came to speak to me. As I was explaining what happened, one of them began to defend the guard for not leaving his station and said that the perpetrator had likely left the building. Meanwhile, the other suit whisked away my phone to another office without asking me. I insisted on knowing what was going on and followed the man who took my phone; he had plugged it into his computer at his desk. I politely reminded him that he had not asked for my permission and he returned my phone without, I think, downloading any files. It was not that I did not want to share the photo but that no one was telling me what was going on. One of them instructs a guard to begin filing a report. “For sexual harassment?” the guard asks. “No, for public lewdness.”
The suits then asked if I wanted to talk to the police and press charges, and since I felt like I wasn’t sure what the library was going to do about the incident, I said yes. While waiting, one of the suits asks me to look at surveillance images of a library exit to identify the man (again, it was his profile image) and “as best as I could tell,” it was him. 35 minutes later, the police came. After hearing my story, they explained that there was nothing they could do; even if they had caught him, no charges could be pressed since he had not “indecently exposed” himself. In the presence of the police officers, one of the suits told me that he had seen the perp around before, recognized him and will “ban” him from the library the next time he comes by. One of the police officers then walked me to a subway stop and advised me on how to respond should I ever see the man at the library again.
Years ago as a teenager, I had been harassed and was paralyzed with shock, fear and self-doubt, unable to respond. I’m glad that I had the presence of mind to react this time and not be intimidated, but oh, I am so angry with that guy for being so demeaning and for stealing my precious writing time. What upsets me more is that I had to insist before the security staff took any action and, worse, the security staff seem to have had previous reports about this man but never ever followed up because who knows why. Is it really too much to ask to be taken seriously when reporting an incident of sexual harassment?
Submitted by Fiona
I was on the #1 train yesterday going home from a long day of work. It was already past 8pm and the trains were acting up (many delays on 2/3 and 1. Passengers had to switch at least 3 times!). In any event I was finally settled on the #1 minding my own business when all of a sudden a flash goes off. I looked up and across from me this creepy guy has taken a picture of me with his blackberry. I had noticed earlier that he was looking at his blackberry but I thought he was reading it. I asked him, “what was he taking a picture of?” He responded nervously nothing and then when I repeated the question, he stated that the flash went off accidentally (yeah, it accidentally busted you!). I kept repeating, “what were you taking a picture of?” I told him I did not believe him and asked him to show me the picture. He started fiddling with the camera the blackberry and then claimed he couldn’t find it. I told him that was convenient. This conversation was taking place loud enough for other riders to hear and they were paying attention. A gentleman sitting next to the creep got up took the creep’s picture with his phone and then the gentleman sat next to me. This gentleman told me that he had noticed the creep taking pictures of me earlier. He gave me his card and told me to email him and he would send me the creep’s photo. What a hero!
The creep then became more nervous and showed me the picture on his blackberry. It was picture of my leg and feet (WEIRDO!!!). I had on a short dress and flip flops. I knew he couldn’t see anything else because my legs were together. (I know I shouldn’t have to say that part but every time I tell the story I feel compelled to explain that I wasn’t showing any underwear or something to cause this). I made the creep delete the picture. I asked him were there any other pictures. He then showed me a blurred picture of my leg. My hero had gotten off at this point. The creep started talking to me and said, “You see, I deleted the picture.” He repeated that a few times. I told him to stop talking to me. He walked away and stood a few feet. I was nervous about getting off my stop but I didn’t want to stay on the train anymore. So I got off. I will be taking another train for the next few weeks. I suspected the police could not do anything but I tried anyway. I spoke to the first police officer I saw. He informed me that no crime was committed. That it was not illegal to take a picture of someone on the subway and unfortunately, the creep can do whatever he wants with whatever other pictures he has on his blackberry. My hero emailed me the photo last night and tipped me about this website. It is good to know that for every creep out there, there are also great men too.
Lesson for the day: Ladies, pay attention. When you think they are reading their blackberries, they may be taking a photo of you.
Submitted by Nancy
This is (a sadly very blurry) photo of a subway masturbator I took on friday night at the Carroll street station. My friend (visiting from boston) and I were heading into the city to meet up with a group for drinks and dancing. Being a friday evening I knew the train would be a while so we sat down on the bench. Across the platform this man was also lounging on a bench. He had made himself comfortable- his bags were strewn around the bench and he was slouched across two seats. Upon seeing us he yelled across the platform “hello ladies” to which I gave him a nod as it had been relatively polite. As it turns out he had bothered my friend as she left the station earlier that evening- asking her where she was going, could he come along etc.
So we ignore him, talk about our new post grad lives blah blah when I hear a rustling which caused me to look at the tracks (I am terrified of getting rabies after a whole other story involving prospect park, a rabid bat and my friends vagina) to make sure nothing is climbing out (I’m aware this is crazy). As I look I notice the man across the platform masturbating furiously! I immediately blurted out, “He’s masturbating!” At first I didn’t think my friend believed me- so she looked over and I began rummaging for my phone. Of course he had heard me, and knew we saw him but it wasn’t until I got my phone out that he covered up! “No pictures” he smirked. To which I responded “no masturbating in public!”
It took me about a minute to even find the camera setting and the pictures aren’t good, but I wanted to freak him out. I then loudly told my friend about hollaback and how useful these pictures will be to the cops when I contact them. Seeing that my pictures were so bad she pulled out her own camera, snapped a few which she intends to touch up so they are more visible.
Thinking that was over, we started talking about street harassment. How common it was in the city. Her own terrifying experiences with men in cars. Then we heard some muttering and looked across the platform to find him at it again! Looking straight at us and mumbling “I like you both… Boobs… Bubble” (couldn’t really understand him). Again we yell at him- there are more people in the station now so I am hoping we can embarrass him. No such luck. We take out our cameras. He covers himself again. Still for the next 30 minutes that we wait for the train he keeps talking to us “I love you… Bubble.. Etc”. Now the normal thing would have been to move but I imagined that as backing down so we stayed, I yelled at him a few times, pretended to have reception and called the cops etc.
The train finally comes, we get to the city and I immediately try and report him. Of course no one is picking up and I keep mysteriously being redirected. My friend is on her phone trying to find the group we were meant to hang out with. It turns out that they had had to leave, as one girl had been roofied (she was thankfully with observant friends who took care of her).
Submitted by Kate
We are totally crushing on the changemakers social media blog – check out this post on NYPD’s manipulation of assault statistics, which includes a Hollaback shout-out!
“Between 80% and 100% of women have been harassed in public places, particularly on their way to work.” Holly Kearl tells us why employers should care.
Here is a hilarious list of harassment and assault prevention tips that are “guaranteed to work.” In response to constant warnings to dress modestly, walk in pairs, etc, this blogger provides the novel suggestion: DON’T assault people! My personal favorites are: “USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM, if you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public” and “When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!”
Human Rights Watch recently released a report on the harassment of female and transgender Cambodian sex workers on the street and in police custody. Just a reminder: no matter what you are wearing, how you gender present, or why you are on the street, STREET HARASSMENT ON THE BASIS OF SEX, GENDER, SEXUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY IS NOT OK!
Street harassment is a constant problem for women in Jakarta, and the Jakarta Press has started to pay attention.
Our Vision, Our Voices discusses the status of Street Harassment worldwide.
Check out the London Anti-Street Harassment Campaign!
It happened a few years ago while I was in college. I was working as a waitress at a busy restaurant/bar in town and would usually get home around 1:30 am. One night I came home at the usual time, took a shower and went to bed. The next morning I find a business card stuck to my door from a local police officer asking me to contact him ASAP. I called the precinct, and he tells me that a man was arrested the night before for masturbating outside of my window. Apparently, some people at a party in the next building saw him from their balcony and called the police. I was listening to my iPod when I went to bed, so I never heard the cops knock on my door.
Incidentally, I always have my curtains closed, but apparently there was an opening at the bottom where they overlapped (about the size of a quarter, according to the cops who were at the scene), so he could see into my bedroom through this limited space. As the officer is telling me this, I realize that this man saw me completely naked after my shower the night before and watched me rub lotion all over myself, too, so apparently he got quite a show.
The officer tells me the guy’s name and asks if I know him. He says that the day before this “peeping” incident the man had been released from prison where he had been serving time for a sex crime. I don’t recognize the man’s name or description, but now I am panicking. This perv knows where I live, where I work (due to my waitress uniform), what kind of car I drive, and he can probably guess that at the end of the night I come home with an apron full of cash…plus he’s a convicted sex offender. I ask the officer if I can see the guy’s mug shot, to see if I recognize him from the restaurant, and so I will know who he is if I see him anywhere near me, and he says no, that he’s not allowed to show me a photo because it would be a violation of the guy’s rights! So this guy can look at my fully naked body without my knowledge or consent, but I can’t look at his face after he’s been arrested for peeping and wanking outside of my window. So glad that his rights weren’t violated!
I seriously feared for my safety after that. I felt so exposed, and not just because he had seen me naked, but because I felt that I was denied the option to protect myself. This guy was a convicted criminal with a history of sexually assaulting women! I hated not knowing if he was out there following me or watching me again– maybe I had even unknowingly waited on him? I never spent another night at that apartment and moved three weeks later. I also never heard back from the police about the case. When I called to follow up, I was told that the charges had been dropped due to a lack of “evidence”, meaning that he had not left a DNA sample at the scene. He had been interrupted by the police approaching and so he never finished, and apparently the statements from my neighbors weren’t proof enough of his crime. I hope with all my heart that I was the last woman he violated, but somehow I doubt it.
Submitted by Anne
I didn’t snap a photo of this guy, because I didn’t know/couldn’t believe what was happening until much later:
Two friends and I took the downtown 6 train from 86th street to 14th street, about 6:45 on Saturday evening. The train was PACKED. I was pressed up against some dude, my back to his front. I felt something around my butt, but couldn’t tell what is was–I suspected a penis, but wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I made a face at my friends, who told me to elbow him, but I couldn’t really tell what was happening. I could feel his heart beating against my back, but again, it was crowded, sweaty, etc. Eventually I was able to move. Fine. When the train crowds eased up a bit I realized I had something on my backside, and on my legs. We got out at 14th street, went to a restaurant, and I checked the dress in the bathroom–the man definitely came on me.
I called the police the next day, and they came by my apartment to take a report, but it was mortifying–they kept questioning everythinng I said, and one officer “repeated back” to me what I had allegedly told him, not letting me correct his mistakes, and told me “I have a great memory so I know exactly what you said.” Eventually his supervisor came by, and she was nicer, and more sympathetic, but the
message was clear: why would you let someone stand that close to you, and why wouldn’t you say anything (at the time, or right afterward). The whole experience was awful, but I don’t really know what I could have done differently–I didn’t want to turn around to face the guy, and figured that SEEING him would be worse than feeling him, but I had no idea that he must have had his penis out.
Completely disgusting, and the cops’ attitude made it worse.
Submitted by Sarah
Today I was arrested for defending myself against a man who was sexually harassing me and verbally assaulting while putting my life in danger in my car. I was driving down Wilshire Blvd and there was a man who was driving a 4 Runner, driving alongside of me as I was driving my car. Intitally, he was on the left side on my passenger’s side making a pass towards me. I used my hand to indicate that I wasn’t interested and that is when he crossed lanes and got on my driver’s side and started calling me a “bitch,” and other hideous names. The whole time he was riding dangerously close to me. Feeling threatened, that is when I pulled out my mace and sprayed his car. He then proceeds to continue to stalk me as I drive through traffic. I arrive at a parking lot where I know the people and he gets out. I see him on the phone and that is when I call the cops. The cops came out after about 1 hr to 1 hr and a half minutes and the attitudes of the cops is what repulsed me even more. They tell that I shouldn’t of said or did anything, despite the fact that he was assaulting me (calling someone “bitch” is considered assault) and I really didn’t say anything. They told me that I should have called the cops even after I explained to them that in the past when I have called the cops for stuff like that, the cops would just dismiss it off as “A pretty girl complaining about a guy ‘bothering’ her,” and not take it seriously. They angrily told me that I shouldn’t of used the pepper spray and I saw them cajoling with the guy on “man stuff.” The worst thing of was when they said that, “All of this could have been avoided had I gone in another direction.” They also told me that had I cursed him out I would have been seen as the aggressor. They arrested me for it, then let me go, but not without taking my pepper spray and my camcorder. What I went through was pure horror and I didn’t deserve it. How dare a perp – who has prob gone to prison (I noticed he had prison tattoos) – have more rights over someone like myself simply because I was merely defending myself. The problem here is not me, but our society. No man or woman has the right to strike at someone simply because that person refuses to bend to their advances. Most importantly, that person shouldn’t have power to punish someone who was merely defending herself against a vicious assault on her personhood. Now I have to face the city attorney simply because I refused a man’s advances. Where did our system go wrong? I need legal counsel, information on places that deal specifically with ending street harassment and codifying it into law. The problem will persist as long as law enforcement not only turn a blind eye, but give the perps a “pass” by making it seem like it is a case of “boys will be boys,” while girls are supposed to be punished for being girls AND women. I don’t know what to do. I am pissed, but I don’t know what to do or where to go? If you have info on feminist lawyers or feminist/ anti-street harassment orgs, please forward them to me. This has got to stop. We live in America and, basically, in effect, the guy can curse me out, call me names, stalk me, etc, but the only way I can avoid issues is to not be seen nor walk out in public like women in Islamic countries. For the kicker, the man can attack me and call me any names he likes, yet, when I fight back by calling him a name or take action, it is MY fault! Funny thing was, when I had a man arrested for battery, the cops were cajoling with the perp with the male officer saying to me, “You know he can sue you for false arrest and imprisonment, right?” Basically, our judicial system is marred by a long time tradition of misogyny and anti-woman attitudes. What happened to me today; I didn’t deserve it NOR all the women victims of domestic violence who go silent since they know the cops will do nothing – as I explained to the three officers today – and will only then act when the woman decides to act in self defense all because the cops didn’t do anything!
As an addendum, when I tried to call the police (I filed an internal complaint regarding that comment) at 6:55pm, the phone call was not able to go through as if it was blocked by their system. When I called from an alternate number, surprise, surprise, the call went through, yet when I told them my name, it was blocked!
Submitted by Raven
There is something that I never reported which happened to me in New York back in 2006. I live in California now and, despite some of the things that happened to me, things are generally good and no one for the most part bothers me as evidenced by guys apologizing for making crude passes when I flip them off or tell them off crudely. However, you guys in NY have one helluva up hill battle to climb when it comes to street harassment and the general overall abuse and misogyny towards women that seems to prevail in that climate and this story shows why.
Back in the Summer (June or July?) of 2006, I was the victim of rape. I don’t want to say for sure my status since I never got or heard the results from the rape kit, but the bruises on my face along with the black outs I suffered and the constant yelpings from the perpetrator asking me to, “Just have sex with him,” tells me that something took place. As a backdrop, I lived in Queens at the time. I was coming from a bar in Manhattan alone (I’m a loner and have done this many times.) I was drunk AND tired and fell asleep until I ended up in the Bronx (not sure where.) I spoke to a man who offered to show me the right way home. We left the subway and he went to buy us some food which he gave me a sandwich. He gave me his number and I took it since, in my inebriated state, I didn’t want to seem rude.
I recall he went into an alley. I followed. When he went in, I recall him saying, very specifically, “That he sells drugs.” That is when I was out of there. All of a sudden, I felt an arm choke my neck. That is when I experienced my first black out and kept going in and out of consciousness until dawn. A couple founded me with the man asking, “What was I doing out there?” They called the cops on my behalf.
I recall how insensitive the cops were towards me. One cop said about me to the other cops, “That’s probably a girl on the stroll.” As I was placed in the ambulance, an ambulance driver said to me, “That necklace got you in trouble,’ referring to the pentagram I wore around my neck! I underwent the rape analysis, was given a morning after pill (thank goodness for that), and was told to come back for a prescription for AIDS preventative medicine.
As a fighter who fought to come into this world and fought a hole in my heart as a newborn infant, I fought against this time despite what had been through so that I could look forward to commencing my new job at JP Morgan Chase as a personal banker at the time. Despite the severity of what had happened to me, I had to fight to get a detective in the special victims unit in the Bronx assigned to my case. When I went in there, they made a mockery of the victims whom they worked with as displayed by a picture on the wall of a picnic with the words: “Special Victjms Only” or something to that effect. I spoke to the detective, a woman, by the name of Mary McClennon, about had happened. I even offered her the perp’s phone number. At my insistence, she put me in contact with an ADA.
The ADA started accusing me of being at fault. She asked, “Why was I out at night?” “Why was I dressed the way I was,” and the whole 9 yards…And yes, it was a woman! Even more bizarrely, this woman, this ADA, whose tone was getting more belligerent by the minute, asked me what was my dad’s name, my mother’s name, my elementary school’s name (seriously), the principal there and my high school, where was I working, where was my dad working, etc. I asked her what do these things have to do with my case and I even went as far to remind her of the illegality of what she was asking due to rape shield laws. She asked for my employer’s phone number, his/ her contact info, address, etc none of which had ANYTHING, absolutely NOTHING to do with my rape. My bosses at JP Morgan Chase didn’t rape me, my dad and mom in Louisiana sure as hell didn’t rape me, so how that information was pertinent was beyond me. Even more sadly, when I walked out and talked to a robbery suspect, when I told him the BATTERY of questions I was asked, he said he was never asked those things.
That day, I got on the train and I couldn’t help but break from my hard and bust out crying. I knew what had happened. The detective deliberately set me up to go to an ADA who would effectively keep my case from going to trial, despite bruising, despite evidence, despite having the man’s number. What happened to me at the hands of the SVU of the Bronx along with the assistant district attorney was a real crime and a miscarriage of justice.
Fast forward later, today as a matter of fact, I tried to get the case info (since it was so long ago) to file a report with the Attorney General’s Office. Again, I nearly cried at, not only the way, I was being treated, but how potential other victims will be treated too. Again, I was met with a barrage of hangups, rude people yelling at me and overall refusing to cooperate. This is how the SVU which deals with women, child victims and the most vulnerable members of our society treats them. For them there is no serve and protect but to conceal and deny. If you love NY, please don’t take offence to what I am about to say, but it is not a woman friendly place. Incidents like this seem to be more common along with the severe street harassment which I experienced which borderlines on rape. Any woman who lives up there to me is a brave soul since I couldn’t do it at all and I could barely get past the 2 1/2 years of my living up there. What you are doing is a great thing by awakening people’s eyes to the things which offsets horrible things.
Submitted by Raven
Reprinted from Metro New York, written by HOLLAhero Amy Zimmer:
Georgia Warren felt “disgusted” with what she witnessed on a Brooklyn-bound N train as it pulled into Pacific Street around 8:45 p.m. on Feb. 1: A man shoved his crotch against a woman and touched her shoulder. The man then walked toward Warren, but she shouted, “Don’t you f—ing touch me, you pervert.”
She alerted the conductor as two “good Samaritans” blocked the man from boarding another train. Police arrived 20 minutes later but said they couldn’t do anything because the man was “crazy,” Warren said. Despite subway PSAs encouraging riders to report lewd behavior, they didn’t take a report, she said. The victim left before police arrived, but Warren and another witness were willing to give statements.
“I just wanted to make sure this guy is not still out there touching people,” Warren, 24, said. “They released him — even as he fondled himself in front of them.”
Warren said the incident was reported to the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The NYPD’s Transit Bureau chief last year said subway sexual harassment is the “No. 1 quality of life offense on the subway” and officers are required to take reports. The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment.
Now, here is where it really pisses me off. I saw some cops, a male and female, on the other side of the street where they were heading (but not on the opposite or same side of the street where the crime took place.) When I went to report what had happened, the male cop – an indignant chauvinist – asked what happened. I said it was a case of sexual harassment, with the punk getting upset since I wouldn’t meet his demands. He then belligerently asked exactly what did I say. When I told him that I told the guy what the fuck was he staring at, the cop, a Hispanic man, said, “Well, that set him off,” effectively blaming me for what happened. That comment set me off. To blame me for that attack simply because of what I said is an insult to my humanity and character. I feel that that statement typifies what most cops feel towards women, especially women on color, in circumstances like that. We are just supposed to grin, smile, and put up with it and not challenge their male authority/ entitlement. Esp. being a woman of color, I feel that statement basically shows what the cops think of us as women of color; that we are animals to be subject to animalistic behavior and we are not worthy of being treated like human beings. I told the cop that I knew a guy who justified rape who said the SAME exact thing he said. Then, when I informed him that my area is a place where a lot of pimps troll for vulnerable women and girls and that does who DON ‘T say anything and are docile get treated the worst, he went on to state that the are is FULL of prostitution, not PIMPS, but prostitutes. Basically, this chauvinist piece of shit thinks that it is more of a crime for a woman to charge for her own body rather than a guy who attacks a woman simply for rejecting his compliment. Then he asked what did I DO for a living, so as to justify treating me like trash! What a sick fuck. My dad was a cop and it is a fucking shame when you have someone like that on the police department who harbors such views. I will report him. As to what good that will do, I don’t know. But hopefully that file along with other complaints will take his ass off the force. His badge number is 34473 and his name is Lopez.