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Everyday in the early morning I have to walk a few blocks to the bus stop that my uni bus picks me up. One early morning when there were hardly any people on the street. I saw a guy staring at me in the gas station. Like any other time I ignored him. While I was walking I felt I was being followed and I walked faster. Then when I tried to bring my backpack from my shoulders behind, I felt a hand grabbed my butt. I yelled what the f*** is wrong with you!, the harasser ran to the alley on my left and he looked back smiling, right after he touched me. There weren’t anyone on that block when it happened. And months after the incident I saw the guy not sure whether it was him or not at first. But after seeing him more than twice (I think he lives near my area) I’m sure it was him.
I’ve had a number of encounters with harassers, which I distinguish from men who just say “hi”, smile, wave or just move on. The first truly terrifying encounter I had was when I was in my twenties and living in a small Northern California town in the Sierra foothills.
Two of my closest girlfriends and I were walking down Mill Street on our way to some ice cream. It was high summer and we were dressed in cutoff jeans and sleeveless shirts. We heard the roar of a car engine, honking, and shouts and looked up to see a trio of young, shirtless men in a convertible with the top down coming up the street toward us, shouting, waving their arms and pointing at us.
“Three!” they yelled, pointing at themselves. “Three!” they repeated, pointing at us. While impressed that they could count so high, we shook our heads in unison and kept walking.
“Wanna go to the river?” they persisted. “We’ve got beers!”
“No thanks!” one of my girlfriends called. “We don’t drink!”
We kept moving and figured they would too. But no. The driver spotted a parking place up the block and his companions shouted, “Stay there! Stay there!” “Come to the river!”
We assured them we did not want to go to the river—shaking our heads and making emphatic gestures that were lost on them. (Maybe they thought we were signaling “no catch”—which was essentially correct, but in the wrong context).
We didn’t stay there, of course. We walked faster and ducked into a clothing store at mid-block. Behind us, the car pulled to the curb with a squeal of tires.
My last glimpse of the guys before I slipped into the shop was of all three jumping out of the car. We scurried to the rear of the store and tried to disappear behind the clothing racks. The guys loped by the front of the shop asking each other “Where did they go? Did they go in there?” They went up the street a few stores, then turned and came back, this time slowing to peer through the window.
My friends and I scooted into a changing room and pulled the curtain closed.
So eager were these guys for our company that they came into the store and asked the clerk if she’d seen three girls come in or walk by. She had seen us, but she shook her head no. “Sorry,” she said.
The guys wandered off at last and we emerged from the changing room only when we had heard their car engine rumble out of earshot.
Several summers later, the same friends and I were at the river for a girls’ day out, lying in the sun at a secluded pool. As we chatted drowsily, we heard a shout from the trail about twenty feet above us.
“Look!” cried a man’s voice. “Bitches! There’s bitches!” I looked up to see several young men in cutoff jeans looking along the trail for a way to get down to our beach.
We didn’t hesitate. We grabbed our shirts and shoes, dove into the river and swam to the opposite side. By the time the bitch hunters had reached the sands, we’d hidden ourselves in the rocks on the opposite bank.
“What do we do if they come after us?” one of my girlfriends asked. There was only one answer we could come up with; each of us picked up a rock.
We were lucky—they didn’t come after us. They didn’t know the river as we did because they were from out of town. I know this because one of them said, in disgust, “We oughta go back to Oakland if it’s gonna be like this.”
Years have passed. Not that long ago, my husband and I were waiting at a Southwest airlines gate for a flight when a group of about four college-aged men in shorts, tank tops and sneakers rambled into the waiting area. When they plopped into seats near where I and my husband and I were standing, all the hair on my body stood on end and I wanted to bolt and run. I was seized with a bizarre, visceral, completely unexpected fight or flight reaction to their presence.
I did not connect this to the first two incidents until I began to write my story down. But they are connected. I am afraid of groups of young, white men to this day.
As an afterthought, it occurs to me to wonder why any man would think a woman would find him attractive when the first thing he says to her or about her is “Look! Bitches!”
I was walking a few blocks to a friend’s house one evening. Immediately a man crosses the street, runs up to me, and asks if I have a man. He walks beside me all the way there, saying he would be my teddy bear and keep me warm at night. I don’t say any thing, because it’s night in the student ghetto. He gives me a hug when we arrive (yuck) and laments that he’ll never see me again because I won’t take his number.
December 1, 2014 I was getting out of my car to go shopping at the strip mall on Airport Blvd in Pensacola. There was a man who was putting his groceries into his car and took notice of me. I could hear him making comments about me as I walked past.
I walked into the shoe store and noticed he walked in behind me. He followed me throughout the store and then walked out. A moment later he walked back in and I left to go to another store. He walked out and began stalking me again. I walked into Marshall’s and immediately ducked behind a spinner rack. He walked in and I saw him looking for me. As he walked further up the aisle, I dashed back out the front door and walked to my car.
I am 5’10” and 55 years old. I have been followed before and I am not afraid to confront a stalker. I was prepared to confront him if needed, but was glad I did not have to.
I live in one of my university dorms and was leaving for class in the middle of the day. Often, men, never women for some reason, hang around the corner by my building. Normally I don’t experience issues with the ones that are regularly there and have had some good conversations with them. One day there was a man I didn’t recognize standing at the corner. While I was waiting at the light he asked me if I had any change, which I did not as I rarely carry cash or change. When I said no he responded that it was ok, that my beautiful smile made up for it. Which was innocent enough and kind. As the light changed though he then remarked to his friend that “[he] would do [me]” and then commented to me that “[he] would f*** [me] given the chance.” I said nothing and crossed the street to get to my class and hoped that walking away would be enough to end the crude comments. Rather, he followed me for a couple of blocks until I reached my class. I was very glad he didn’t do anything but his remarks sent chills through my body and left me feeling very violated as he followed me to my class.
Well. It’s been a week ago, I started seeing this guy on the street. He kept staring at me until I went inside my house. He wouldn’t even leave his eye off me and my sis. We are teenagers. (13). But he looked like he was in his late 30s. For about 2 days he waited outside of my house and kept staring. I felt soo uncomfortable. Than the 3rd day he waved at me. I thought maybe he thinks I’m someone else. But the most scary part was that my mom was with me. And he still did it. But my mom didn’t noticed. Than again he waved at me and my sis. I wanted to tell mom but I was really scared bcuz I’m from a culture where my parents will think that it’s my fault. Than for another 2 days, he kept staring but I pretended like I don’t even know him and I didn’t even looked at him. Than this day my mom wasn’t with me. It was only me and my sis. So we were really scared. We decided to he late home so maybe he won’t be there. But he was there wondering around our house. So today when me and my sis were entering the house, he through a paper folded at us. I got soo angry and scared. I didn’t think golf anything and I yelled at him but not face to face. I was something like “why the fuck is wrong with you nigga. Leave us alone.” My voice sounded horrible due to nervousness. But that was the first time I ever yelled at a stranger and defended myself. It was like my brain was confidant but my stomach was nervous. I don’t know if he heard me or wht. I told my sis not to touch the letter but she wouldn’t listen to me and she read the letter. It said his phone number and said that ” call me cause I like you” my sis ripped the paper and threw it on the street. But I wish that he is scared and tommarow god protects me. It is mentally disturbing us. I couldn’t sleep these days due to him and I hate it. Plzzz for heaven sake, stop the street harassment.
A few months ago I was followed and harassed by a man on the street. He verbally harassed me and did some very displeasing noises while he walked nearby. This went on for a few blocks and I kept telling him to stop, but he wouldn’t. The street was relatively lonely and I felt nervous and very angry. Some people on the street saw what was happening but did nothing; if anything, they looked away. When I finally got to a main road, I saw a policeman and decided to report what was happening. The policeman looked very confused and asked the man what was happening, to which he responded that he was just giving me a compliment. I told him that I had asked him to stop several times and that sexual harassment was a crime. The policeman kept doing nothing; he just asked for the man’s ID. I was feeling really angry and impotent, so I caught a bus to go home. When I looked outside the bus window, I saw the policeman letting my harasser go. I felt even worst than before, I was frustrated and a part of me felt that what I had done was wrong.
When I told my friends about wat happened they tried to be comprehensive but some of them made me feel like I had overreacted. They made me feel guilty and exaggerated.
A few days later I was walking on the same street (It was very near to my workplace), and I ran into the same man. He recognized me and started calling me names and saying “report me again bitch”. He insulted me from a distance and shouted really demeaning and hurtful things at me, such as “I will fuck you, whore”. I tried to defend myself but got really scared that he would hurt me physically, so I tried to walk away fast. Two men were going by while this happened and didn’t to anything, they just stood by and looked down, although this man was clearly threatening me. I told them that they could have done something to help me and they just ignored me. After this happened I felt really helpless, depressed, nervous, angry and scared. I cried all my way home, thinking that I should never have reported this man; If I had walked by and ignored him nothing would have happened. I knew, rationally, that I hadn´t done anything wrong, but I felt so guilty and foolish. For the next few days I felt terrified to walk to work and run into the man again. Still, sometimes when I walk through this area I try to make myself unnoticed and I feel really nervous. I know that I did the right thing, but I was silenced and now I look dow when I walk near there. And this makes me so angry. Public harassment is real, it happens almost daily, it is hurtful, and it needs to stop.
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 was biking home from work last night, way after dark. I had stopped at an intersection because a few cars were crossing. A man pulled up in his car next to me. I remember his car was an SUV with an Auburn University sticker on it. I could tell he was looking at me, and I thought he was saying something. I figured he was lost, so I asked if he needed help. He couldn’t find a certain road, he said, so I gave him directions, then pedaled off toward my house. I expected him to turn at the intersection behind me, because that was where I had told him he could get to the road he was looking for. Instead, he followed me. I was worried, but I thought he may have forgotten the directions, so I hoped he didn’t mean any harm. As I was riding down a hill, he pulled alongside me. “You want to make some extra money tonight?” he said. I was so freaked out that I replied, “No thanks!” If I had had the presence of mind, I would have told him to fuck off. I braked my bike, hoping his momentum would carry him past me, but he braked, too. We repeated these maneuvers several times. I remembered feeling guilty for wearing a tank top and shorts, riding my bike so late at night, but at the same time realizing that what was happening was not my fault. I was terrified that he was going to knock me off my bike and rape me. And I remember being furious that a man had the power to make me so afraid. I was about to reach my apartment, and I wasn’t about to show him where I lived, so I cut in front of him and pedaled down a dark street a block away from my apartment. Luckily, he didn’t follow. I pedaled for couple of blocks and finally stopped, hiding in the darkness under a tree, still so angry that I was hiding, fearing for my life in a supposedly free country. I called my roommate and kept her on the phone the whole ride home. I never saw him again. I knew I was lucky, but I didn’t want to have to call it lucky. “Lucky” isn’t being able to keep your rights, is it? At the time, it never occurred to me to call it harassment.
Okay, so to start off I’ll give you a little bit of history- this incident happened 3 years ago (I was fifteen at the time). I got on a bus by the local shopping center. Only one seat was open by the time I got on because I made sure all of the elderly people had found a seat first. I was wearing a t-shirt that said University of Virginia Rowing Camp- it wasn’t revealing, just stated that I was a rower attending one of the local training camps.
This guy claims to have been a rowing coach, tells enough stories to convince me that he at least knows a bit about the sport, but I tripped him up on the difference between port and starboard- in maritime world “Port” means the left side, “Starboard” means the right side. In Rowing, this gets reversed. Any real crew coach would have caught on to the difference.
So, after realizing this (and that i didn’t have my cell phone or pepper spray with me) I got off the bus at the next stop. So did the guy. While I’m waiting for the next bus to appear, he proceeds to compliment me on my “southern accent”. I am from Connecticut, okay? The only way I have a southern accent is if you are from either Maine or Canada. I switched buses three more times. Each time I switched, so did he.
Eventually I made my way back to the center of the city and had to walk into the local police department to get this guy to stop following me. And that is only the first time this happened (it has happened three times since, in three separate cities. I was followed by a drunk guy in New York City who kept persistently trying to start a conversation about my shirt. My friend and I were both approached while walking to our local movie theater and asked by some guy who you could literally smell the cloud of weed smoke rolling off of if we wanted to go to a party. And the third time was during my first month of college here in Willimantic. A guy in a red Toyota four door pulled over and asked me: “Excuse me, how old are you?” While looking at my boobs in a way that implied what he was really asking, which was: “Is it legal to have sex with you”. I guess my real question is will it ever stop? I’m no more or less attractive than anybody else. What makes it okay for a man (or anyone ever) to do that to someone- taking away their sense of security to the point that they don’t feel safe to walk alone without pepper spray?