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I’m not terribly attractive compared to a lot of other girls I know. Plus I wear baggy hoodies, jeans and my hair’s naturally messy. Even so, I did experience street harassment twice in the past. What happened recently took the cake; even if it wasn’t on the street, where it happened was as public as a street was.
I was at the library, buried in a book. All of a sudden, a guy just sat down on the other end of the couch and said hi. I gave a nod, politely said hi and turned back to the book. The guy looked to be in his 50’s or 60’s. When he started rambling, I nodded and replied with the occasional “mhm” because I was taught to respect your elders.
I began to notice he was slowly sliding over to me. And his eyes were looking everywhere else on my body BUT my eyes. Some of the language he was using made me feel uncomfortable and the stranger began asking me very personal questions.
I made up a quick act about how I’m running late to meet my friend, got up and hustled down the stairs. A moment later, while scanning the bookshelves, I noticed the same guy following me. Panicking, I fast-walked through the library to the girls bathroom. I stayed in there for a few minutes and when I asked another woman to see if the guy was still out there, he was.
Lucky for me, the bathroom had two doors. I used the other exit and ran down the hall to the elevator. I was back upstairs where I could hide out in one of the secluded areas and spy on the first floor through a special window.
It took an hour before that guy left the library. Entire time, he was looking around the first floor.
The library has always been my sanctuary to escape from stress and to relax for awhile. But that creep ruined the library for me. I can’t go back there cause he could return and the librarians won’t do anything about it. The library may not be the street. However it’s still a public place and women do have the right to be in public without 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?
watching the video reminds me of what I go through everyday of my life since I was 13 years old. I have had men grab my arm, one man crashed his car just to say vulgar things or try to talk to me. I have had notes left on my car that I was being followed, I even got attacked by a cable guy installing cable once who then decided to move into my complex to watch me everyday. I am 40 now and even as I write this story by 8:30 am today I already got 3 cat calls from the gas station to walking into my building at work. It’s literally everyday. I hate to see what the count is when I go out at lunch. I had a scary incident recently where I had a stalker and he actually came up to me and said “hey during sex do you like to be tied up and choked?” I mean really!!! everyday he was in my parking lot at work, security had to get involved. I lost a good girlfriend because of her husband’s advances. I try my best to ignore it and watching that video just makes me see I am not the only one that goes through this everyday of my life!
Have you ever been catcalled, whistled at, groped, hugged, approached by a strange man, had your ass slapped or just had unwelcome comments. I have! From the time I hit puberty and ongoing. This is a common occurrence for me and I believe it has shaped the person I have become. I’ve received comments like more ounce for your bounce baby, nice body shame about the face, and does that skirt get shorter in the summer to mention a few! It has made me cautious and depressed. I hate walking down the street because I’m afraid of what comments might come out of people’s mouths. I’ve been stalked, followed, interrupted, and I hate it. I’m an overly tall woman so I often get looked at or gawked at and on more than one occasion I have even been asked to take pictures with. A few years back I worked for a Children and Youth centre and had to walk through a very unsafe area of Toronto. I again received a number of cat calls and whistles, and I don’t know what happened but I snapped. I turned around to the man who was cat calling me and I said that is not appropriate. I told him that I didn’t appreciate his verbal attack and could he refrain from doing it again. I think he was quite shocked by my response and he actually apologized. These types of activities are very damming especially for young girls. They encourage a type of inappropriate behaviour and I wish it would stop. It makes women like me, who generally are strong and professional feel demeaned and worth less than they are!
I’m an American and was walking down by the Seine River in Paris one night in 2010. A guy ran to catch up with me, and asked me a question in French. I turned my head to glance at him briefly, then immediately looked ahead again, without slowing down or stopping. When I looked at him, I quickly sized him up. His size was comparable to mine, and he was obviously drunk. I figured I could take him on if necessary, but if I needed a Plan B, there were groups of people around whom I figured I could run to for help.
Me: Je ne comprends pas le français. (I don’t understand French)
Him: (asked another question in French that I couldn’t understand)
Me: Je ne comprends pas.
Him: French (pause) kiss?
Me: (sternly) No.
He reached for my arm, and his hand brushed my elbow as I pulled it away and stopped walking, then threw my fist toward his face and stopped it just inches from his nose. Looking him dead in the eye, I told him slowly and sternly, “Get, the fuck, out of my, face.” He stood stunned for a few moments, looking at me as though I was crazy, then walked back in the direction from which he came.
In the four months I stayed in Paris, only one other guy followed me for a few blocks and tried to talk to me, but he wasn’t as annoying as that guy, nor did I feel threatened. Not like one guy in particular in Michigan…
I was working for a friend who owned a gas station. It was Saturday night, and I was all alone when a guy came in with his friend. This guy was very persistent asking me out, and I kept telling him I wasn’t interested. After several minutes, his friend finally told him, “She’s not interested. Let’s go,” and they left. Later that night, the guy came back by himself. I wasn’t behind the counter that time, and he was standing right next to me. He was much taller than I am, and I felt very intimidated. I kept telling him I wasn’t interested, trying to be polite but not too nice, but he kept asking me out. This whole time, I had my hand on my pepper spray, discreetly, ready to use it, but he was standing too close to use it safely, and was standing between me and the only way out of this small building. I was very nervous, and didn’t know what he was capable of doing. I finally lied and said, “Ok, meet me at (strip club 45 minutes away) tomorrow night. I’ll be working there.” He agreed, and started to leave. Once he reached the door and was far enough for me to use my pepper spray if needed, I said, “No, wait. I can’t let you go all the way out there. I won’t be there tomorrow night.” He asked why I lied, and I said, “Because you wouldn’t take no for an answer.” He was visibly upset, but left. I was worried that he might come back again and jump me as I was leaving for the night, but thank goodness, he never came back.
I don’t know why this guy seemed to believe he could change my mind when I was being very clear from the beginning that I wasn’t interested, but at the time, I only figured that if he didn’t respect my “No” to a date, would he not respect my “No” on a date if I had gone out with him? I hope that he was simply ignorant, and that I planted a seed in his mind that night that he needs to respect a woman’s “No” when she says it.
I attended college in a different county back in 2008, Miami Dade College. I would take the Miami bus then I would transfer and take a Broward county bus. When I first got on the Miami bus to go home I was with my bestfriend. As we got to our seats and sat down, she told me that this old man keeps staring at her. She got off her stop first, and then I later got off to walk to my next bus stop. That same man got off and started to talk to me in a very low voice. He had brown rotten teeth and messed up dirty hair. He looked like he was in his 50’s and was around 6ft tall. I’m only 5’3 and was 22 years old at that time. The man asked me, what was the next bus I was going to take? He then said how I look good, while sizing me from the back. The man also kept asking me for my number. Bus number 2 came and I quickly got on and sat next to a young man, so that the older guy won’t sit next to me. That young man eventually got off the bus and that old man sat down right next to me. The old guy again kept asking me for my number. My stop eventually came and I quickly got off that bus. Now I was a 40 minute walk from my house which is about 2 miles. I could easily take a third bus home or walk, but since I just missed the third bus I decided to walk. I didn’t know I was being followed at that time. I called my bestfriend and then all of a sudden the old guy started walking behind me. He walked so close to me that he was brushing up against my back. He kept saying, “Take my number or I will follow you home.” A lady around my age watched from behind along with a middle aged man. They kept saying out loud, “He is following her.” I yelled at the old man that was following me to leave me alone please. He walked away from me and turn back around. I was still jumpy so I walked to the McDonalds since it was right there. I stayed there for 20 minutes until I felt safe enough to walk home.
I’ve been followed a few times after that incident, but never again to that extreme. Now I have pepper spray and a stun gun.
Night time in the Mission, I’m leaving dinner to meet up with a friend at a bar 8 blocks north. It was later in the evening, most businesses were closed, and the amount of people walking on the streets were fading with each passing block. I was near my destination, and after spending the entire day in Mission, I felt comfortable enough walking to my next destination alone. In San Francisco. I thought, I’m from Detroit and feel safe back home, how sketch can SF be?
It got to the point to where I needed up put my hood up. The only people left roaming the streets were those severely intoxicated to the point of not being able to hold themselves up, groups of men, and the occasional cooky stung out homeless character. Having my hood up and hands in my pockets you think would indicate I am not walking around to have a chat. This man walks up to me and starts walking the same pace as me. Comments on the weather and continues to try to make small talk. I do what Detroiter’s do: look him in the eye, give him a civil head nod, and continue on my way. Apparently this isn’t enough of an indication to this man that I am NOT trying to have a chat.
He asks me if I’m going home, and tells me how beautiful I am (I’m wearing a freaking hood, you can barely see my face). I pick up my pace, so does he. I slow down, so does he. We are the only ones on the street and there are barely any cars driving by.
Finally I look at him and put my hands in front of me to suggest “halt” and say look, I’m not trying to talk. He makes a couple more comments about my hair and my legs and continues to follow me (mind you, I am wearing jeans, sneaks and a baggy coat).
Suddenly he is gone, as if to duck behind an alley. I put my hood down to ensure my peripheral vision is clear. Then luckily see a cab across the street dropping someone off. In a bit of a panic I run across the street to catch the cab, and went back to where I was staying. There went my comfort zone, my plans with a friend I hadn’t seen in over 2 years, and my ability to feel safe in this beautiful city I was visiting.
A man (who had harassed me once before) started following me and asking many personal questions – do I have a boyfriend? well ok you have a boyfriend but you’re not married right? etc.
The same night, I was followed down the street on the way to the metro by men calling after me. One of the men followed me and proceeded to try and “buy” me as if I were a prostitute. He said he had a beautiful room, comfortable bed, until another person grabbed me and said “no” (which I am still confused about). But after I tore away (as I am used to being grabbed), the fruit stand guy grabbed the guy who had been following me and stopped him. I will never forget him: someone finally helped.
Later that night, I went out clubbing and took a taxi home with friends because I was drunk. The taxi driver told me to stay in to pay, which my friend had already paid, and my drunk friends left, which is when he took advantage of my state. Sadly, this isn’t near the first time. I am tired of being raped, sexually assaulted, groped, stalked, etc. It needs to end, and people need to step up. Unfortunately, women often can’t speak out for fear of more violence. This is a moment where men can stop up and help women who are continually being victimized.
So recently i moved to Padova Italy to work there for a while. And since i got here i noticed that the amount of catcalling and streetharrasment is much higher than it was in my home town, which is also a big town. It made me feel very unsafe. When i go out of the house i get catcalled almost every 15minutes. And last week a man followed me for at least 10minutes. Iv never been in a situation like this where is so overwelming and so constant. The friends iv made here are experiencing the same, and even worst than me. Today I saw a short documentary about catcalling and street harrasment and it was very inspiring. I usually ignore my harasser’s but talking back seems like an empowering thing to do naturally when a man grabbed my arm on the street not half n hour later all I did was run away and try not to make eyecontact. Baby steps.