We shouldn’t have to live in fear of going for a simple walk or jog, but many people do. A walk can quickly turn into being sexually harassed ten times in all of twenty minutes. This harassment would not be acceptable if it was done within the walls of a classroom, or a place of business. But for some reason, many people consider it acceptable when it is done from a car or on the street. The victim, always a stranger. Always someone minding their own business. Always a person who simply wants to get their morning exercise done, or reach their destination to buy lunch for themselves. And when they try to recount their experience, they are often told to suck it up, or that it was probably just what they were wearing. Or – perhaps worst of all – that they should take it as a ‘compliment’.
The first time I experienced street harassment, I was only twelve years old. Think about that for a moment. Twelve. Years. Old. I was not yet old enough to understand that I was more developed than most of my other twelve year old friends. I seldom wear skirts now, because I identify as transgender. Back then, I tried to deny my identity and I tried as hard as I could to be normal. To ‘fit in’. I borrowed a mini skirt from my friend who was less curvy than me, and I wore it. I wore it with the matching top. I was more filled out, too, but I never noticed. I didn’t notice until adult men – read that again. Adult. Men. Slowed down long enough to call me a slut. I was twelve. I did not even know what the word meant, but I quickly found out. One would think my refusal to wear skirts has to do with my gender identity, but it actually has more to do with that day.
That was only the beginning of many years of street harassment. I wish I could say it has gotten better, but it has only gotten worse. Within the past year, I have taken up exercising. I want to be healthier. So, I walk daily. Sometimes, for an hour a day. Sometimes, more. It all depends on how busy or not busy my day is. Living where I do, it is hard to avoid walking on the main streets. I am literally harassed – on average – three to five times a day. There are some days where that number is easily ten, depending on how busy traffic is. The harassment ranges from honking (which is mostly just an annoyance – I startle very easily and do not appreciate being ‘honked’ at), to having kisses blown at me (degrading and rude), to having words shouted at me (which I can never hear regardless), to downright obvious harassment (such as being offered a ride by a creepy man at LEAST thirty years my senior [I am only 23, and I am often told I look even younger], to being asked ‘Yo, girl, how old are you?’, to being questioned about my sexuality, and on the worst days even rape threats when I ignore my harasser). I used to just keep walking, and take it in stride.
I realized that doing so just gives them permission to keep doing it. I realized that if I didn’t stand up for myself, I was teaching these men (and occasionally women, too) that it was okay to harass me. That calling me sexy, whore, or making humping gestures at me is ‘okay’. But when I was walking home from college, and a group of at least six men were following me, asking me how old I was… I realized that it is NOT okay. It was terrifying to me. It is annoying, and it makes exercising hard. So, I have started to take a stand. When a friend honked at a pretty woman, I asked him why. He explained that he thought it would make her feel good. When I explained that, often, the only thing it does is scare us or annoy us… he was honestly surprised. Education is imperative. As many of these people don’t really mean harm. Then again, there are many more that do. And when we experience harassment daily, we can never tell the difference.
The other day, I was walking home from the Kangaroo after just filling my Roo cup, and an older man in a white truck honked at me. I ignored him. But when I crossed the highway, I caught him from the corner of my eye turning around to chase me down. This happens a lot, and is downright terrifying. So, I assessed my situation. I had two paths I could take. One down the business area, where there were bound to be people around. One down a hill, with a forest on one side and houses on the other. I took the safer route, the business area. He honked again, stopping. And this time, I stood up for myself. I pulled my cell out, a way of letting him know I wasn’t afraid to call for help if I needed to and I firmly told him to leave me alone. When he drove away, and I kept walking I felt a surge of fear, but this time it was coupled with a surge of pride. We don’t have to put up with street harassment. But as long as people behave as though it is acceptable, people will believe it is.
Also, I am transgender. I wear traditionally men’s clothes most of the time (and only wear women’s clothes maybe once a month). So I dare anyone to tell me ‘It’s probably because of how you dress.’ I dare them.
I worked retail in the inner harbor most of this past year and there was a man that came into the store just about every day. He was well dressed and always accompanied by the same taller man every time. When asked if he was local or just visiting while being cashed out, he refused to say. They bought women’s lingerie very often but sometimes just came in, walked around, and didn’t buy anything.
One day I was over in women’s activewear fixing a display and he came up behind me without his bodyguard guy and started hitting on me, asking for my phone number, asking for my weekly schedule and when I got off. He asked me to call him, and when I refused, he told me he would wait outside for me if I changed my mind.
I reported it to the store’s security but they can’t do anything unless he actually does something and there is no protection for me once I leave the store. He came back to the store frequently after this first incident and would ask other employees if I was there.
I became afraid to go to work, afraid to ride my bike home after work, and concerned that he would find me. To me, it sounded like he was running some sort of sex trade or prostitution ring and that was terrifying that a man could harass me at work and make me afraid for my life.
Walking alone at night, trying to get home. Asshole loitering around with his friends whistles at me. A guy–don’t know if it was part of the group or just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time–starts following me. Managed to get into my house without him seeing me go into the building but feel shaken nevertheless.
I live on a busy street in San Jose and cars are always flying by at a fast pace. Across the street is the salon that I frequent, and it is literally a few steps away across four lanes. I normally do not cross the street without using the crosswalk, but there is one day that I felt that I needed to jolt across. I waited for a red convertible Mustang to go by before I crossed the street, but they slowed down and then pulled over. He said, “Hey, don’t you go anywhere with an ass like that!” He then started screaming, “Come back here!!”, over and over. I ran into the salon and told them the man was harassing me.
They called 911 to report the man, as he was still outside looking at the salon while in his car. He stayed there for about 15 minutes waiting. The salon locked all of the doors and everyone was looking at him through the window. He pretended to be looking for something in his car and then finally drove away. What was he planning to do to me? Did he think I was actually going to walk back? I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life.
My friend and I (15 and 14) were walking from Panera around 9am when two large men came out of a bank and said “Hello beautiful ladies.” We kept walking and again one of them said “can we party with you?” I said “no, thanks,” and we kept walking.
Finally we were almost away when he said “do you not like big dicks?” as if we would know their penis size from looking at their clothed bodies. Later, I went into CVS and my friend waited outside. The two men came by again and she ran in with two coffees and breakfast in her hands out of fear. We were both wearing athletic shorts and t shirts.
One of my friends went to the redbox outside of this mcdonalds and was physically intimidated, leered at, verbally harassed and gestured at. The dude stood right next to her as she tried to interact with the machine, and then as she left, his buddy walked towards her harassed her again about if ‘she was single or wanted company’. This is also a neighborhood where many women are harassed from vehicles of men trying to solicit sexual services.
This happened to me in the summer of 2010 when I was sixteen-years-old. I was walking home after shopping in Union Square in San Francisco. I was at a stop light waiting for the light to turn and there was a man on the other side of the street waiting for the light to turn as well. As we waited, I could see him staring at me from across the street. I was very uncomfortable but gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that maybe he was just looking at something behind me or was in some sort of daze. The light finally turns and we cross paths. He keeps looking at me but doesn’t say or do anything. I thought I was in the clear. Two blocks later, I was at another stop light. I can hear someone panting and running towards me from behind. I had a weird feeling that it might be that man from the previous stop light and I turn around and I was right. He comes up to me, and starts walking next to me and strikes up a conversation. He asks me my name. I ignored his question and told him that he shouldn’t be talking to me because I’m sixteen (this guy was clearly a lot older, probably in his thirties).
He then sees that I have shopping bags in my hands and asks if I’m going home. I shouldn’t of responded but politely, I told him yes. He then asks me if I’m living with my parents. I say yes. And then he has the guts to ask me if they are home. At this point, I am freaking out internally since we are nearing towards my house. I end up passing my house because I didn’t want him to know where I lived. After not responding, he asks me if he can have my number. At this time, it had only been a week since I moved to the United States and didn’t have a cell phone. So I told him that I don’t have a cell phone and he asks if I have a home phone. At this point, I was fed up, scared, and had no idea what else to say so I blurted out that I had a boyfriend. He then laughs, stops walking with me, and turns around to goes back towards the direction he was originally going.
This was six years ago but I remember it like it was just yesterday.
I lived in the NY/NJ area for 7 years – and over that time, I had men expose themselves to me on the subway, call to me on the street and then masturbate, and one time I wasn’t even off of the steps to my building when a guy said “nice tits”. But the worst experience I had was when I was living in Jersey City, NJ and working in Manhattan.
I often took the bus in and out of Port Authority. One night, I was out in NY with friends, and was going home about 11 PM so the terminal was pretty empty and quiet. It was summer, and I was wearing a white sundress that fell just below my knees. As I was standing on the escalator going up to the next floor, I felt my skirt brush my leg. It was odd because the escalator wasn’t crowded, and when I turned to see what caused it, I discovered a man lying on the escalator behind me, peering up my skirt. I immediately started shouting, “Stop it! Get away from me!” and I ran to my bus platform as quickly as possible, because I knew there would be other people waiting there as well. The man followed me. As I neared the platform, I continued shouting, “That man is following me – he just looked up my skirt” By this point I was crying and very upset. The worst part of it, however, was the indifference of the people waiting. Someone actually said, “what do you expect?” and everyone literally avoided me, as if I was crazy.
When I got on the bus, I was sobbing uncontrollably, and no one wanted to sit next to me (which was fine with me). Then one man politely and respectfully asked if he could sit next to me. After he sat down, he apologized for the behavior of everyone else. He asked me if I wanted to talk about it, and I told him what happened. He again apologized for my experience. And then he started asking me random, small talk questions in an effort to divert my attention and make me feel better. He was the only person in a bus load of people that didn’t treat me like a leper. He even offered to walk me to my door, but there was no way I was going to trust him just because he was nice to me. I don’t know if he was trying to take advantage of my being in a vulnerable state, but I like to think that he was just a good guy in a sea of creeps.
I was on holiday in NYC for 2 weeks- here are some incidents I dealt with during that time.
-I walked past a guy, and he made that “psssst” sound, three times as I was walking past. I ignored him, naturally, and carried on walking, while grimacing.
-A lot of “HEY!”/”Oh, beautiful”/”mm sexy”/”GOD DAMN” comments in my face or as I was walking past
-“SUP! SUP! SUP! ….SUP! SUP!!!! (all the while, I’m ignoring these guys but have noticed them all staring at me and smirking)… “ARE YOU A SUICIDE GIRL? THINK I’VE SEEN YOU IN MAGAZINES. HEY! OI!” – I ignored them the whole time, and they carried on
-Someone made some noise at me on 2nd ave (I don’t remember what exactly, but it was insulting that’s for sure), so I turned round and noticed him laughing, and shook my head and said “that’s really f***ing rude.” – he looked taken aback that I’d replied
-I was on my way home from a show in Brooklyn at about midnight, and two guys were following me down the platform (there was no-one else down there) and were whistling and smirking at me the whole time- that made me feel SO safe… really. I could feel myself panicking but couldn’t do anything until my train came- luckily they didn’t get on
-We were coming through Times Square one night on the way home, and were stopped by a group of guys. To cut a long story short, they were quite intimidating- they asked a lot of questions and basically kept asking if we wanted to ‘hook up’ and have them show us NYC. I replied that I know my way around and that I don’t think my boyfriend would like that. This guy was pretty persistent and didn’t really seem to care… oh and the whole time (about 5/10 minutes, even when he was talking) he was staring directly at my chest. I hate how these guys stand around in big groups, especially on 42nd street, seemingly targeting young females/female tourists and attempting to pick them up. It doesn’t work with me, but I’m sure it works on some girls who are perhaps younger, more naive and vulnerable than myself. You know this group of guys wouldn’t have even looked twice at me if I had been with a guy (whether that’s my boyfriend or a male friend), but as it was two females on their own, they thought they had a shot.
-I think the worst was when we were waiting to cross the street (also near 42nd, duh), and a guy in his van pulled across in front of us, in moving traffic, stopped the van, opened the window and gestured at me to get in. He did it a couple of times, and I was not in the mood, so I gave him the middle finger and shook my head in a pitiful kind of way. He then gestured at me to get in again, then drove off. All the while holding up traffic. We got to the next block and waited to cross again… he was back. He’d driven round the block in about 20 seconds to give me more shit.. this time he actually leaned out of the window (again, stopping moving traffic) and said something while grinning at me, so I just waved him on (the whole time there was a load of people standing with me and on the other side, just watching me and him) and told him “I AM NOT INTERESTED, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE, JUST GO” (being in a crowd of people, I still felt so threatened, not to mention embarrassed that he was singling me out, out of everyone there). Finally he drove off. So that was that… then to make matters 10x worse, two guys crossed from the other side and came towards us. One said to me “he just stopped traffic for you! He wanted to talk to you!” and I said “yeah well i’m not interested, it’s pathetic. I don’t want to talk to people like that, it’s gross.” He replied “yeah, it’s horrible, what can I say. I’m sorry. It’s New York. You don’t want to talk to guys like that.” This whole time I was looking monumentally fucked off, was being very disinterested in him and wasn’t even making eye contact, clearly wanting to just get on with my day. He then asked where we were going, and then said “how long are you going to be around? Do you want to maybe meet up again with me and my friend here?” (his friend then flashed a creepy smile at my friend and I – SERIOUSLY?! I couldn’t believe that in one breath he was seemingly sympathizing with me and the next trying to ‘hook up’ with us, despite seeing how upset I was.
Back in the UK- the other day, my best friend and I were walking around her town, and were walking past a man – he says to us “alright girls?” to which my friend replied “hello” and he then said “fancy a shag?” – why? why is this necessary? It’s degrading, disgusting and sad.
– Yesterday I was walking along a main road and a builder’s van passed me, unfortunately with the windows open, so I had to hear that “OW OW OWWWWWW” woofing type noise the ‘men’ inside felt the need to scream out at me as I walked past.
I walk every night. I carry my phone with me and listen to a book as I walk. I live in a nice area made up of residential homes, but even so I still am aware of my surroundings. Along the main road sometimes some people lean out their window and stare or or say something rude to me. Some people try to see how close they can get to me without pushing me off the road. But tonight I experienced something that was really odd.
I hear a car coming and I glance back. It’s a police car, the car slows and I think the man Is going to stop and talk to me. As I look back again he slows until he’s about ten feet behind me then sits there. He crawled along at me at me walking pace for about five minuets. He then proceeded to pull up to the stop sign in front of me and stare at me through his rear view. I crossed to the opposite side of the road not wanting to be near him. I stop and look for oncoming traffics to see if it is safe to cross. No one was coming. I cross to another street the whole time aware of his gaze on me.
When I’m just about getting out of his sight he pulls up and continues to follow me. After a few mins he drives down my street and out of view. I understand the police have a duty to watch people who might he showing suspicious conduct. But all I was doing was walking. And if he had a problem he should have spoken to me. If it had been anyone else in a normal car following me I would have called the cops. But what do you do when it’s the cop who’s the problem?
He knew he was making me uncomfortable and yet he continued. I kept checking over my shoulder the whole way home he made me so nervous. I shouldn’t have to feel that way from someone who’s there to protect me. My gut was telling me it was wrong.