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When I was a senior in college in New Haven, CT, I was walking from my dorm to the gym and had to walk through a somewhat narrow passageway between two other college buildings. There was a man standing in a corner and he motioned to me to come over to him, he didn’t seem sketchy, just sort of random. I had to walk past him to get out and I realized he was masturbating while staring at me and following me. I ran away and when I got to the other side of the alley way, I call the police to report it, but I never heard anything back from them. It was so disgusting and I was afraid to walk from my dorm across campus to the gym alone for a very long time.
Submitted by Abby
In a follow up to her “New Phone Apps Aim to Combat Harassment” article published in the NYT on Monday, reporter and now HollaHERO Karen Zraick publishes her own personal hollaback in today’s City Room blog.
As if we couldn’t have guessed, within hours, there are 47 comments all containing one, two, three, and sometimes more, horrifying stories of women’s own personal experiences with street harassment. And it isn’t over yet. NOW THAT IS ONE HELLUVA HOLLABACK!
“It’s infuriating to see this described as a ‘quality of life issue’, writes one woman. “This isn’t a ‘quality of life’ issue, okay? It’s not my neighbors having a loud party, or a dog barking next door!”
At Hollaback, we couldn’t have said it better.
Now this is one holla the city will NOT be able to ignore. Read Karen’s story and the accompanying comments here.
If I had a dollar for every NYT reporter who has come forward with her own hollaback…well, I wouldn’t have very much money. But if I had $5 from every woman who read this story, including you, now I might have something to talk about…raise us $5?
I was sitting on the train in Queens around noon today when I noticed that the guy sitting across from me kept scratching himself under his jacket. Then I realize that’s not scratching… that’s his penis. And he’s wearing dark sunglasses so who knows who he’s ogling. Me? Lovely. I pulled out my cell phone to try to get a photo but he must have realized there was about to be evidence of his nastiness because he immediately got off the subway. I hope the next person who notices him will be faster on the draw.
Submitted by Sharon
Seen more penis on the NYC transit lines than a Grand Central Station urinal? NYC FAIL. Please give $5.
I wish I found this website sooner because I would have done something to stop the d*chebag that sat across from me on the bus. (Just for reference, we both had two seats to ourselves.) At first, upon boarding the bus, he didn’t seem threatening even though he glanced at me.
But boy, was I wrong.
For about 3 hours, I had to endure this nasty, nasty man (who had appeared relatively normal-looking) masturbating to himself. I was FURIOUS. Absolutely furious. What made it worse was the fact that he made it SEEM like he was SLEEPING the entire time. Ugh. And this is the first time this has EVER happened to me on a bus. And I’m a frequent traveler to Boston; I’ve been doing this for five years!
Now that I think about it, I should have taken a photo of the creep. I should have yelled at him when we stopped at the rest stop. I should have at least done something.
But because of this website, I now know that I have the power to make a change. No matter how small it may be.
Submitted by Leslie
Hello, my name is Grace. I live in Brooklyn and am in 11th grade in high school. Thank you so much for holding this hearing today to listen to the stories and issues faced by so many New York girls and women every day.
I cannot remember the last time I walked out of my house and returned home that night without being sexually harassed at some point during the say. Be it the slimy grin and the threatening eyes, or the erection digging into my back in a sardine-like packed train.
The subway is where I experience it the worst. My phone does not work on the subway. I cannot quickly move away or off the train. I am completely alone. But this should not have to mean that I am completely vulnerable.
The moment which I have felt most degraded, belittled, and humiliated was at 6pm on a Saturday getting onto the 1 train at Chambers heading Uptown. I got on and noticed everyone on one side of the train. I didn’t think too much about it and sat down on the two-seated bench furthest away from everyone. The doors closed and the train moved away from the station.
I suddenly noticed a man sitting across from me I hadn’ t seen before. He was white, old, and wearing a big tan jacket and a baseball cap. He had a friendly face.
His eyes flashed up to meet mine and I quickly dropped my gaze into my lap. I didn’t want to make eye contact with him, just like with any stranger; I was worried he would misinterpret the eye contact. But it is ridiculous, really, that I feel I cannot look a stranger in the eye because it would give them reason to think I may be provoking or leading them on in some way. Has it really gotten to the point where I have to watch and reserve every move I make to ensure he doesn’t make any of his own?
He shuffled his hands in his pockets.
The train stopped at Franklin Street.
No one got on.
The train doors closed and started on again.
He was fidgeting again, from what I could see from the corner of my eye.
I glanced up at him, against my better judgment.
The hands I thought were in his pockets were not. They were under the big sides of his tan coat.
I can’ t even remember what I felt at that moment. It was such a rush of so many emotions; it all washed over me and made me feel smaller than ever.
“ Don’ t look at his eyes,” I told myself, trying to keep calm, telling myself this wasn’t really happening. How could someone possibly comprehend doing this? I tried to concentrate on my hands. They were turning ghostly blue as I squeezed them so tightly for any sense of comfort or release of pain, whichever one it was. I did look up, only to realize the one thing I wished above all was not true. He was staring right back at me.
I guess I must have been angry. I don’ t think I could feel it though. My fear and shock overpowered everything else such as the shame and embarrassment. The vulnerability and victimization. The fact that I was frozen. Unable to say a thing. Unable to move. Unable to fully comprehend or at least not letting myself. The train stopped at Franklin.
“ Why me? Why now? What do I do?!” I screamed at myself inside. I thought I was going to explode. I knew that I should move or say something, anything.
The doors opened to the platform.
I wanted to get off then. I wanted to run off the train so badly. I wanted to scream at that man, who was so sick in the mind and inconsiderate, I just wanted to hurt him. I wanted to yell at the other people on the train, all huddled on the other side. They knew something was wrong, I could read right through their poker faces. I was in despair, and they did nothing. They didn’t even glance in my direction. I was in an incomprehensible state.
I stared longingly at the platform. My eyes fixated, yearning to drag my body out of this nightmare, off the train, or even onto the next car. But I was stuck. Crushed.
I did not move. I did not say a thing.
The doors closed and the train moved away from the platform again. I stared down at my hands, concentrating on their wrinkles and creases.
I blame myself for the event. I could have moved to the other side of the train. I could have yelled at the creepy man. I could have gotten off at Franklin or Canal. I could have asked for help. But in the moment, I just could not do it. I ignored the masturbation five feet in front of me and suppressed my feelings. I clenched my jaw and carried on, just the way all girls and women seem to react to the harassment they face every day.
I got off at Houston, as quick as possible. I was relieved to even be that far away from the stranger. But at the same time the relief settled in, a wave of anger and regret panged inside my chest. I almost instantly wished I could have gone back on the train and had the courage and power to stand up to the stranger and let him know, in any way possible that he was sick, that what he did was messed up, that I shouldn’t be blaming myself for it. That he was in the wrong and should be punished. It’ s basic morals, taught from when you’re a kid. He had no right. Yet he got away with it.
I walked up to the street that day and continued on. I did not think to mention it to anyone because it didn’t seem to matter. Who would care? And if they did care, what could they possibly do about it now? I cannot tell you how many times I have wished I could go back in time and done something.
I did not know what I would do for a while. But once Hollaback came to visit my class, I knew there was something I would do. I did not know that what happened to me was not unusual. That men frequently masturbated openly to girls and women on the subway. I was one of many cases. I did not experience anything out of the ordinary life of a girl living in New York City.
But how messed up does that sound? How morally contorted are we that young girls are normally subject to such degrading public embarrassment? How messed up is this system that if I hadn’t heard about the Hollaback organization, that if I hadn’ t heard about this hearing, I would still be burying these feelings inside, internalizing my pain and blaming myself for all the wrong that strange men have done to me.
I was not wearing anything that day to provoke him, just jeans and a T-shirt. But that should not have to matter. As my right, I should be able to wear what I want without having to worry about men taking advantage of me. I shouldn’t have to leave social outings early just because it’ s past 9:30 PM and it’ s considered too “ late” for a girl to be taking a long train ride by herself. I should not have to worry about the man at the Chambers Street station who every morning compliments me with a sexual subtext in his words.
Once, I was walking once just behind the playground of my school courtyard. I was not 3 feet away from the school premises when from behind, a man came up and pressed his body against mine. I could feel the heat off his skin, I could smell his hot stale breath as he blew my hair. “ NICE ASS,” he yelled in a loud, rude, and hostile voice. It was like he was putting me in my place, hammering me down, and reminding me of his authority and control over me. I felt helpless, a feeling I knew was exactly his goal, consciously or not.
I want other girls to know about organizations such as Hollaback. I want girls to know how to handle the terrible situations they encounter on the subway. I want people on the trains to help when they see something happening. I want to be able to ride the subways without having to be so constantly alert and cautious. I want to be able to wear what I want without it being an instigator for harassment. I want to be able to live in this city without having to feel below or undermined simply because I’m a girl.
I thank you for hearing me out. I thank you for listening to my stories that I have shoved to the back of my mind for so long, keeping them bottled up and disregarding them.
Please remember, that the experiences I shared are not unusual. They happen on a daily basis. I do not know one girl or woman in my life that has not experienced some form of sexual harassment in their life. I’m sure that this is true for almost every female you all know too. It is happening every day here in our city. I am only 16, and already I cannot remember half the traumatic experiences I have experienced due to male harassment. Thank you for listening, and please remember how great a help you all can be.
I was on the train to 34th street and this man got on the train. He took up so much space with his bicycle and then continually asked every woman to sit down next him. Most women said no and ignored him. Some retaliated when he shouted out to them. One woman felt so pressured that after telling him no four times, she eventually had to sit down because he insisted so hard (disguised with politeness).
To add to the obnoxious objectification and sexualization of women, he stared at two girls and kept rubbing his genitals. He continued harder by placing a bag in front of his crotch and then pushing into that to seem less obvious.
He also sang loudly to himself and seemed a bit crazy. I would not trust being alone on the train with him.
This happened on the 3 Train Downtown from Grand Army Plaza (Brooklyn) to 14th Street (Manhattan)
Submitted by Julie
I was sitting on a blanket in Prospect Park on the grass (near the baseball fields off of the 9th St/PPW entrance) having a lovely time, when squarely build dude of medium height in jeans with a hoody pulled over his head started prowling around hear the “Tennis House” (looks like a pavilion) in the trees behind me. My alarms went off so I kept my eye on him and, sure enough, he positioned himself sort-of behind a bush, pulled out his dick and started beating off while staring at me.
I stood up and yelled at him to leave but he just kept on and wouldn’t budge. Just stood there, staring at me for several minutes. Finally, I summoned a guy who was walking past and told him what was happening, and the perv retreated back into the woods when the guy saw him. Called the cops, who drove to the park but who just stared motionless at me when I suggested they get out of their car on Prospect Park West to come into the park and so I could show them where the guy was hiding. Told some nearby ladies and couples on blankets. A dude who was with his wife and toddler daughter kind of laughed at the story and said “Oh yeah, I know. I heard you yelling at the guy.”
Well, dear gentleman, if you knew what was happening why didn’t you come over and back me up?
I’m so pissed. It’s a gorgeous day but this made me too uncomfortable so I left the park.
Submitted by Sarah
The New York Post reports that last week a brave Brooklyn student named Annie Jiang helped to catch a guy who was masturbating against her on a crowded train by taking his photo with her cell phone camera. “I tried to take a picture of him because I didn’t want to scream on the train,” Jiang said. “It was blurry, but I got it.”
The story reminds me of the inspiring story of Thao Nygun, who almost five years ago exactly photographed restaurant owner Dan Hoyt with her cell phone camera while he was masturbating on the train. Thao said, “I knew I would feel terrible afterwards if I didn’t do anything.” Thao’s brave act inspired us to launch Hollaback! and today she’s a member of our board.
Two incredible women taking bold actions for a better world. Now that something to HOLLA about!
I was sitting on the 2 train at approximately 8:45 pm tonight. This man very purposefully stood above me, though it wasn’t a crowded train at all. He had his hand in his pocket, and was clearly touching himself while staring at me. He was holding honda 3-d glasses. I don’t know why. I took this picture of his face and said “excuse me pervert” and got up and off the train. I am still nearly hyperventilating. Please post this. I don’t want anyone else to feel this way.
Submitted by Annie
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