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Called beautiful and cute. Man tried to get me to touch him.
I am a surgical resident (physician-in-training). On one of the first days our NY hospital re-opened after Sandy, I walked into a perioperative area to interview a patient at 630am. I wore scrubs (not the tailored attire of Grey’s Anatomy, but the burlap-bag, unflattering uniform of hospital employees). A group of 6 middle aged men, contractors in hardhats, passed by, and the one in front says, “nice can, doc.”
I was walk to work (in loose slacks and a puffy coat mind you) when a man sitting at a bus stop reached out and grabbed my butt. I was terrified he was going to do something worse, but I still turned around and told him off. When I walked away he screamed that I was a “frigid bitch”
This Friday afternoon whilst trying to cross the road outside my street, a white van slowed down and stopped in the middle of the road in front of me to whistled at me and shouted slurs like ‘sexy’ and ‘hello love’. When I responded with a grimace because I felt offended by these slurs, I was cursed at by them, calling me ‘pussy’ and a ‘bitch’. I felt embarrassed, unsafe and vunerable, and this is the road where I live.
As a student, I commute everyday through public jeepneys here in the Philippines. Considering that jeepneys are open vehicles, people outside are able to see the passengers inside. Every single day, I get to encounter a few men giving me insulting signals or whistling at me whenever I’m inside the jeepney. I usually just ignore them, although the first time I experienced it I got really scared and uncomfortable. But this one time really struck me that even the littlest types of harassment such as this, has got to stop.
It was 9:00 in the evening and I’m on my way home. The jeepney was stuck in traffic, and I was sitting at the other end at the back of the jeepney, and beside me was a middle aged man. I assumed he was sleeping so I didn’t really mind at first, but then I noticed that his head was slowly moving closer to my chest. So I shuffled a bit, which woke him up, so I politely told him to move a little farther away. He just smiled, which made me uncomfortable. A few minutes later I noticed that it was his hands that were moving closer to my thighs, so I quickly asked the driver to stop the vehicle. As I was gathering my things, the man quickly covered his head, because maybe he thought I was about to punch or slap him. Which made him even more guilty. I just walked the whole way through while crying, hoping it would never happen to anyone again.
“Hold my dick” he says, standing across the street with the two other guys that just left the taxi van with him. The other jokes “What?” To which the first guy says, “No, not you,” nodding in my direction. As they start to cross the street, the other one says “Damn girl.”
I am prepared to destroy them all.
In the summer I was 17, my parents left me alone for two days. We lived in a quiet subdivision, and I was accustomed to taking evening walks. On this one, I felt I was being watched. A block later I decided to stroll through the power line field. Bad idea- I was isolated, and then he came out and approached me, menacing and masturbating in the dark. He told me not to move and he came closer. I pulled out my phone and he ran. Weeping, I called my best friend and her mother took me to the police.
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.