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Last year, a man went on catcalling at me almost every morning the moment I left home on my way to work. He was always riding in his car, and shouted something like “hey beautiful” while he drove past me. He even purposedly changed route, just to be sure to greet me every time he saw me approaching. That pissed me off so much, but I was never able to answer back because I was always too angry or he just drove past too fast. Sometimes I also considered changing my morning routine in order to avoid him! That stopped when I actually changed my habits, luckily for other reasons.
My friend and I were walking to get coffee, it was a bit dark outside, a group of highschool boys started following us, we turned a corner, they turned a corner, they started yelling things at us asking us to turn around, to say high, we kept ignoring them, finally I felt something hit me in the back, they had actually thrown a rock at me, and not a small rock either. This isn’t something that only happens sometimes, it’s every day. It’s disgusting, and it needs to stop.
When I was 14, my female friend and I were walking around the mall, when this group of guys a couple years older than us started following us. They were about a foot behind us, and one of them was telling the other to touch my friend’s butt. He was reaching his hand out, and we walked faster and hid in a store until they moved on to play that really funny joke~ on someone else probably
Every day I walk from my house to my gym. It’s only a half mile. I wear compression shorts because I’m a runner and because I like them. Every single day some guy tells me how hot my ass looks in my spandex shorts. I’m serious when I say it’s every day. 100% of the days that I walk to the gym it happens. Most of the time it’s just a quick “you look GOOD!” and nothing more. I ignore it and keep walking.
This week a guy was walking out of his apartment as I was walking by. He quipped “DAY-UM! Where you work out at??” I ignored him and kept walking. He followed me and continued to ask “Why aren’t you answering me? you don’t want me to get in shape like you?”
He followed me a half mile to the gym. My heart was racing. I didn’t know if I should start screaming or start running or turn around and tell him to go to hell. I knew that once I got to the gym, he wouldn’t be able to follow me inside because he’s not a member, but when I was walking home I was shaking with fear that someone would follow me in the opposite direction and there would be no one to help me if the street harassment turned physical. This is the fear I live with every single day. Just because I am female and walk alone to the gym.
I was competing in a beauty pageant in the Wisconsin Dell’s. After the competition my family and I went down to the waterpark. As I’m walking, I see this guy with a video camera watching girls. Then he sees me see him. He smirks and he points his camera right at me and watches me walk away.
I was walking through the parking lot with a female friend and a couple of guys followed us, demanding that we give them a hug. We said no and they kept saying “Come on, give us a hug!” They followed us until my friend said something to another guy we were passing, telling him that the guys following us needed help. He started talking to them and it provided enough of a distraction for us to be able to walk the rest of the way to our car without them bothering us any further.
I was working one Friday night until close. Throughout my 5 hour shift, 4 men had stopped at my desk to talk to me. After a certain point (usually after 45 minutes of them standing there) I would kindly say that I needed to get back to work and EVERY SINGLE ONE stayed and kept talking to me. The conversations turned into asking when I would be off work, where I was from, and if they could have my phone number. After I explained to one that I had a boyfriend, he replied that he didn’t want to be my boyfriend… He was just “trying to get it in.” It is not right that I went to bed that night with fears that one of those men followed me home. Women should not be scared to go to work because MUCH older men don’t know how to keep it in their pants.
Stopped at a gas station with my family in upstate Alaska. this guy held the door open for me then kept watching me as I walked around for like 15 minutes until I found my grandpa. He still stared at my body even when I walked out the door. I felt like I was having a panic attack as I got in the car.
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.