Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
When I was 15, my friend and I were walking along the beautiful downtown area of Hoboken, NJ in the summer of ’04. We had just left dinner and were making our way toward the train station to go home. As we walked past the McDonald’s on the corner of Washington & 3rd, two men who had been leaning against the building talking to each other approached us. They looked to be about 30. They struck up a conversation with us, and then asked if we would like to join them for dinner. We said no, thanks. Then they asked if we would go back to their apartment which was right down the road in Jersey City. They even threw in that they had an indoor pool. At this point I was way creeped out by them, so I just nudged my friend and was like, “Let’s get out of here.” But she didn’t seem too threatened. And then they asked us, “Do you girls want to make $1500 each tonight? If you come back to our apartment to hang out for a little, we’ll give you $1500 each. You can make that kind of money in a night if you start hanging around us.” Finally I grabbed my friend’s arm and pulled her away and we started walking really fast. They followed quickly behind us. I panicked and decided to make a huge scene to get everyone’s attention so that they would leave us alone. I started yelling obscenities and was like: “THESE MEN ARE TRYING TO KIDNAP US!” Passersby paused and looked at us, and the men immediately darted off. We ran to the train station and hopped on the next train home.
I think that what surprised me most about this experience was not that these two men were trying to take advantage of two young girls– but that nobody really seemed concerned enough to do a damn thing about it.
My sister was walking home alone one night in a desolate small town (where she was a high school student) and became aware of a man following her. This went on for a block or two until she spun full around, stared at him (from a short distance), and then yelled, “I have seen your face, I can identify you to the police, leave me alone and stop following me!” and ran. He did not pursue her.
I was on the bus one time in San Francisco and had to stand up as the seats were all taken. I stood right next to where an older white man was sitting, just inches away from him, and for whatever reason(?) he reached up and put his hands on my hips. I slid out his grasp and shouted (on a completely silent bus full of people), GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME! and everyone looked over. He did, but he also said “it’s just as much your fault as it is mine”. EW.
Once I was with my best friend on the streetcar (in Toronto) and this old(ish) man approached us and started talking to us. I find it very hard to simply ignore people when they do this and he just seemed like a harmless, lonely old man. Then he started asking us if we’d go to dinner with him. We politely declined. Then he started asking if he could pay us 1000$ each to just have dinner with him. We kept declining, and his offers just kept escalating until he was offering 2500$ each to bring us up to his apartment so we could meet his female friend Kitty.
Since we had just been taking the streetcar for fun we decided to get off. He followed.
He kept walking beside us and talking, not being overly threatening, but I was sure to keep myself in between him and my friend (she’s two years younger, and I have a black belt in karate so I know I could handle myself).
She then bumped into something and said “ow” to which he responded “oh don’t worry girls, I won’t hurt you” – then he grabbed my arm and continued “well, I might”.
At this I just knew we had to get away from him. I tried to mouth the word “HELP” to passers by. I made eye contact with numerous people (including three guys who looked like they could have been College football players) but none took notice. I even thought about running up to one of these guys and pretending that I knew them. I didn’t though.
We were in a somewhat chic neighbourhood, and the only places around were expensive lunch restaurants, and our misplaced sense of decency made us not want to disturb people’s meals.
Then we passed by this upscale salon and someone was handing out flyers at the front door. We walked over and each took one and tried to strike up a conversation. Then the old man started talking to this flyer guy. This was our out we thought! We snuck behind him and walked briskly to a corner store just up the street.
Once in the corner store we both looked shook up and the owner of the store asked us if anything was wrong. I quickly told him to call 911 (which he did not) and that a man had followed us off the streetcar and we were trying to get away, but before I could finish the old man walked in and walked straight towards us.
He turned to the owner and said “these are my daughters! This one’s a pilot” – he said pointing to me “and this one’s a nurse” – he said pointing to my friend.
-let me just say that my name is Amelia, like Amelia Earhart, which I hadn’t told him. As well my mom wanted to be a pilot when she went to military college but being a woman she wasn’t allowed. And my friend’s mother is a nurse. Just a really weird coincidence… anyway…
Since he was situated in front of us we were both shaking our heads vigorously to let this store owner know that this was not the truth (plus we were both obviously in our teens, so being a pilot and a nurse was a little out there).
He distracted the man enough that his son could sneak us out of the back of the store. The son escorted us to Bathurst, and from there we walked quite briskly down to Queen street. I don’t know if the police were ever called, but this guy was definitely creepy. At certain points I was sure that if he had found the chance he would have tried something horrible.
Submitted by Amelia
I was walking out of work one night. It was around 9 pm on a Sunday. As I started down the street towards the subway, I saw a group of guys come out of a club next the my work’s building. I didn’t really think much of it, because it is New York City.
When I got a little closer, they started hollering at me, and one guy came up to me and started saying things like “Listen, all these brothers want to fuck you right now, right here, okay? They want to fuck you so hard…”
I told the guy to screw off, and I crossed the street. They they followed me. This was a group of about 15 guys, and I am one 125 lb girl, and I don’t get scared that easily, but I felt like it was time to run. When they started trying to grab at me, it was absolutely time to leave. So I took off in the other direction, and ran into the Trader Joe’s on 6th Ave. They didn’t follow me.
Now here’s my question. There were three clubs on that street with bouncers standing outside of them- including the club that these guys had come out of. Where were the bouncers, and why didn’t they help me?
Submitted by Alex
I was followed for about 30 minutes by a man while walking alone midday in downtown Port of Spain, Trinidad. At first, I thought I was being paranoid, but as he recognized that his following me was making me nervous, I could see he was enjoying scaring me and he made more of a show of following me. I finally ran into a church and hid for another 45 minutes until he went away.
Submitted by Naomi
This happened a long time ago, when I was 15, but it still sticks out to me as one of the creepier things that has ever happened to me.
I was walking home after school, it must have been April or May and it was warm out. There was a Mr. Softee ice cream truck on the corner on 2nd ave and 11th, and I wanted to buy some chocolate soft serve with my leftover lunch money. I walk up, and the ice cream man takes my order. He gives me the ice cream, I give him my money, and before I can start to walk away he asks me my name. I lied and said “Nancy,” he told me that that was a very beautiful name. He asked me where I lived and I said “in the neighborhood,” then I smiled and started to walk away. I was walking downtown, in the direction of traffic, and moments later I realize that *he is following me in the ice cream truck.* He yells out the window and asks where I’m headed. Completely freaked out, I turn around and walk against traffic without responding.
I was 15 years old and I only wanted some goddamn ice cream, but instead I was made to feel completely disgusting. Thanks, ice cream man.
Submitted by Syd
I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life and have experienced all sorts of street harassment (cat calling, inappropriate touching, etc.), but what happened recently has really made me question if I should even bother responding to small talk from strangers at all.
On the night of 2/17 (approx. 8:30pm), I was making my way to the train station after my evening class and was approached by a man who looked to be in his late 30s-40s. He told me he liked my boots. I said “Thanks.” My wardrobe was basic: hoodie, scarf, long thermal + t-shirt, jeans and bright red Dr. Marten boots. He then proceeded to keep the conversation going by asking me my name, where I was heading and if we could walk to the train station together. I started to feel uneasy at that point considering that a classmate told me about a series of sexual assaults near the campus. However, despite my uneasiness, he looked harmless and seemed like he was lonely and needed someone to talk to. I was raised to be polite so I agreed to his request, but made a point to be very cautious by walking under the light and close to other people.
Once we made it to the station, we exchanged information about our goals in school, where we lived, just basic ‘get to know you’ stuff. The first red flag that I noticed was when I told him about my train exit, he responded with: “Oh well, I have the extra money to visit there so I’ll get off the same stop as you.” I was immediately taken aback and got really nervous since his train is on the opposite side of the platform. Earlier he told me that he was going home then all of a sudden changes his mind? I asked him “Do you even know anyone in the area?” and he said, “Yeah, I have a couple of friends who live there. In fact, I got my first car there.” I got my cell phone out of my backpack and started texting my boyfriend, unfortunately, since the train station is underground I couldn’t get any reception! I panicked, but did not show it.
The second red flag was when he started commenting on my looks and told me how pretty my smile was and that he was glad he met me. He sounded so OBSESSED and creepy. The way he looked at me made me feel dirty. With cell phone in hand, I told him that I had to make an IMPORTANT phone call and he should stick around so we could take the train together. He said “OK, I will be waiting for you.” I didn’t bother letting him finish his sentence and ran upstairs as fast as I could and notified the station agents about my situation. I could barely speak because I was terrified at that point. When I finally got reception I called my boyfriend and told him that I was really scared and asked if he could pick me up. The wait (about 15 minutes) felt like hours! The man never came upstairs to check on me (thankfully!) and finally my phone rang. I felt so relieved… who knows how the night could have ended if I would have never made that phone call.
I was pretty shaken up that night and still am. As I’ve mentioned in the beginning I have dealt with my fair share of street harassment, but nothing to this degree. This guy was willing to get off the same exit as I did even though he lives the opposite way! This story may not seem like a big deal, but I will never forget the look in his eyes. The last time someone followed me home I ended up being sexually assaulted so this incident brought back a lot of bad memories.
As of now, I don’t have any solid plans for my after school commute, but have decided to ignore compliments from strangers entirely. My politeness seems to be an open invitation for harassment or inappropriate behavior. I can’t dress up or dress down. Nothing seems to help! What’s a girl to do?
Thanks for reading and stay safe out there.
Submitted by S.P.
This was long ago, but I was maybe 12 or 13 and had just moved into a fairly pricey, secluded suburban neighborhood that was still building new homes. I had my own bathroom with a window that happened to face a house being built next door to mine but alas, I lacked a proper window shade. I would shower at approximately the same time each day a bit after getting home from school when one day I had the most awful feeling and peered out my bathroom window. Not just one construction worker but a few others were just standing there, looking right back at me. These perverts had presumably been watching me get into my shower for several days. Freaking pedophiles! Gross! I still feel the same indignities every time a dirty man slows down his vehicle while I’m walking down the street, every catcall, leer or lewd gesture. I despise the fact that some people have no shame or decency.
Submitted by Liz
I studied abroad in Holland and loved almost every second of my semester in the country of gouda, tulips and tall, tall men. Almost. It’s sad that I’ve grown to accept the fact that verbal street harassment will forever be a part of my transit. I reluctantly came to terms with their format – usually verbal and often racial. I learned that the word “ni hao” meant “hello” in Mandarin, not through a book or friend, but because from an early age, it was so often shouted at me in passing. Of course, I no longer expect any of these men to suspect that they actually coexist with a diverse range of Asian Americans, but that never prevents me from responding with an forceful, “I’m not Chinese!” or keeping it sweet and simple with a flip-off.
It’s true that aggressively responding to such harassments can be reckless and lead to escalated incidents, but I’ve never been able to shut up the voice inside my head, which tells me that no man should be allowed to make a woman uncomfortable in her own city and not at least have his stupidity met with clear resentment. This is weird, but I seriously think about my nonexistent/hypothetical daughter during each catcall and refuse to think about her growing up in an environment where these actions aren’t met with some consequence. I don’t want her constantly on guard and uncomfortable in her own world when the only thing she should be thinking about is getting from point A to point B.
So, I might have not been fine with the state of street harassment, but for the most part, I felt physically safe when confronted in public areas and city streets. Unfortunately, my perceptions were skewed when my mom and sister came to stay in Amsterdam and my sister and I were making our way back to the hotel. We were taking a very crowded tram when I noticed that a man was staring at me from across the car. I glared back at him as he continued peering around people to continue smiling at me, raising his eyebrows up and down, etc. When it got to the point where I felt the need to mouth something obscene to him, his smile faded and he became noticeably irate. My sister and I exited the tram on one of the busiest tourist spots in the city and were immediately followed by our new friend, who began shouting obscenities and things like: “What’d you say to me, China?!” He followed us down the street until we took refuge in a theater venue. We made the decision to ask for security when we saw him pacing back and forth outside the box office and were directed to a back door exit. We made our way back to the hotel with our eyes darting around faster than our feet and never relayed the message to our mom.
I may not be proud of my gut reactions and the situation wasn’t all that bad in retrospect, but what if my sister wasn’t there to back me down or what if we had chosen a more desolate tram stop? Words cannot describe how disparaged I feel when faced with the harsh reality of what my gender so often deals with on a day-to-day basis. Much of my frustration is rooted in the simple fact that we cannot retaliate without taking at least some physical risk. I hope websites like Hollaback! continue to act as a channel for women who want to retaliate with a cell phone photo or simply share their story. I remain optimistic that more people, both women and men will empathize and understand the need to shed serious light on the issue. After all, I’m not the only one with a nonexistent/hypothetical daughter in mind, right?
Submitted by Melanie