I work at a building community next to a large produce market from the port. To get coffee or lunch, I often have to walk through the market while produce is being loaded, unloaded, and purchased. Nearly every time I walk through this area, I am harassed by whistles, catcalls, winks, and sometimes followed to my destination. Most of the time I ignore them, sometimes I make a point to tell someone if they should be ashamed of themselves for making women feel unsafe. Sometimes I even laugh at them really loud and make a point to make them embarrassed.
Walking to college through a shopping centre a “gentleman” held the door for me. Same man then follows me gets ahead of me and constantly kept turning around to make sure I was there this made me anxious but then he walked down and alley and I just thought what a creep so kept walking and he appears at side street looks around for witnesses, asks the time and proceeds to verbally assault me with explicit sexual language. Contacted police all caught on CCTV. No charges. Not my choice. WTF.
My friend and I (females) were walking home around 1am on Main Street. We were walking behind a man who was following two girls. How do I know he was following them? He was walking too close to them for comfort, the girls were looking behind them at the man frequently while walking very fast, and when they started crossing the street he did the exact same thing. They girls noticed, so they came back to the original side where my friend and I were. He disappeared into the neighborhood.
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.
Running Encounters in Beechview – Part II
Saturday morning I decided to do a run in my neighborhood – Beechview. I left the house around 7am. Heading South on Broadway Avenue, a man (I would guess him in his 60s) gets off the “T” and is walking toward me. As I approach, he asks “How’s that concrete treat your knees?” I respond “they are fine.” As I pass, he turns and begins running with me, asking “Do you mind if I run with you a little while?” I look him up and down (he’s in street clothes, but is wearing some sort of New Balance type shoe) and slightly baffled say “Are you kidding me?” No, he says. “I’d rather you didn’t. This is my time.” Oh, okay, he says I will just follow you for a while. Then I hear his voice trailing off – have a nice day… As I’m heading North by the No. 28 Fire Station, I see a guy walking on the sidewalk and I move over into the street, as we pass, he says to me “Keep on runnin’, little girl.” “Why do you think it’s okay to say that to me?” I ask. “uhh, I was just trying to be encouraging” “It’s not okay”, I respond. I’ve continued running so I hear some unintelligible yelling and then very loudly “F*** YOU! F*** YOU!
So, in case you don’t understand what is wrong with this – a good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say it to a male, don’t say it to a female (ESPECIALLY ONE YOU DON’T KNOW). I highly doubt either of those encounters would have happened if I was male.
I was only baffled by the old guy – Sir, I don’t know you, you are in street clothes and I’m trying to exercise. This isn’t social hour. A good morning is appropriate, but keep moving. The other guy, I would guess at 30s – 40s. What you said, could be interpreted as menacing – Keep on Running – like if you don’t I”m going to get you AND calling me a little girl is wrong on every conceivable level. Calling a grown woman whether you know her or not a little girl is sexist and demeaning. My husband was mortified that I spoke up to this second guy, but my argument is if we don’t speak up, how will anyone get the message? I can’t keep my head down and pretend like I didn’t hear it and I’m not going to fake smile at the guy awkwardly like “aw gee thanks”.
So glad to find out that an organization like Hollaback now exists. When I lived in New York, I was followed by men, got cat calls from men in cars and generally harassed on a daily basis. It never occurred to me at the time that it was a form of sexual harassment and in fact, could be dangerous. It is a form of power that some men use over single women. A woman walking alone is an easy target.
After awhile, it makes women afraid to be women. Just going to the grocery store becomes a drama filled occasion. It’s not even about dressing sexy. Women get harassed in just a t-shirt and jeans.
The worse would be when I was groped in a crowd. It’s hard because you really learn not to trust men. Then, you finally meet a good one, like my husband. I’ve always missed my time in New York, but now I remember how hard it can be.
It’s hard to be a single woman in New York. Harassment is never cool. hollaback!
A few years ago I was in a store in the feminine care aisle. There was a guy standing there in front of the brand of pads I wanted for a long time so I went to do my other shopping and then went back to get my pads that I was looking for. He was still there but in a different section of the aisle. I took my pads off the shelf and put them in my basket. As I was walking out of the aisle (which had one exit) he sort of blocked my path and asked if he could “ask some questions” I said no thanks and sort of shuffled to the side to walk around him and he blocked me again. So I said fine ask your question. He proceeded to ask me a series of increasingly personal questions about my love life which I tried not to answer. After about five minutes of this he aggressively asked for my number and I did the old “oh sorry I have a boyfriend” thing. Then he proceeded to give me this lecture about how I should dump my boyfriend for him and all this stuff about how manly he was. I continued telling him I wasn’t interested and eventually he let me out of the isle. I made my purchases and walked back to my dorm feeling quite uncomfortable and shaken up. About a week later I was at my job, the front desk of the building I lived in. And he showed up and kind if hung around the lobby. My next shift he was there and asked if I had dumped my boyfriend yet. He showed up a few times after that and I started asking my friend who lived in the building come pick me up from work (I work late) even though I only lived a few floors above. I was afraid he would corner me in the elevator or stairs or follow me to my room.