Nonverbal Harassment, Story, Verbal

Ashleigh’s Story: “These words are my way of fighting back”

Dear Hollaback!

Thank you for your work and for this opportunity to share my story.

While in New York, I experienced an inappropriate interaction while with my friend on the subway, in which a man “gave up his seat” for us. Though we had no need to sit down, nor did we event want to, we sat down and just tried to continue going about our conversation. The man spent spent the rest of the ride standing directly over and in front of my friend, whom he moved closer and closer to. All the while he was trying to engage us in conversation, as if that made what he was doing with his body somehow ok. It was a total violation of space and his physical closeness was extremely uncomfortable, offensive, and unwanted.

I was so upset by the whole experience, but wasn’t sure what I could do after the fact. I was upset with myself for not having said more during the interaction, and was at a loss for what could be done differently next time. With such frustration and confusion, I took to writing and composed a poem about the whole experience. I wanted to capture these emotions in the poem and to give myself a way to work through and do something about the interaction.

Until I can find something more, these words are my way of fighting back.

Positions Switch

It was on the subway
He was one
And we were two
We were female
And he wasn’t
He gave up his seat
We gave up our choice
His giving felt more forced
The gift was not asked for
Did he give or did he take?
And what was it we received?
Positions switch
We sit, he stands
He stands, we sit
Positions switch
This time of power
He is too close
Too near
To her
He rocks
Evocating lewd gestures
It’s hard to imagine he doesn’t know
Exactly what he is doing
What exactly is he doing?
He rocks
He talks
I listen clearly to his unclear words
Desperate for a clue of intention
He has to know
She knows
I know
His rocking body too close, too close
To hers
Still he rocks
Still I remain
Silent, frozen, confused, paralyzed
Mind racing ahead
To the silences yet unsaid
I fear myself almost more than him
For if I am to remain silent
On the populated subway
How much more silent
Might I remain
Trying to navigate through the corners of my mind
I who call myself a feminist
Sit in silence
And anger
And confusion
He should know
I shouldn’t have to tell him
He rocks
He talks
He gets closer
To her
He tells her like she doesn’t know
To look at the view
Of the Brooklyn Bridge
While his body
Blocks her view
Of the Brooklyn Bridge
And his words
It isn’t hard to tell
Aren’t true
Doesn’t he know?
How much she knows?
Each rock brings him closer
To her
The loudness in my head, spirit, body
Is only matched
By my outward silence
He rocks
Until finally the subway
Says the words we didn’t
And we leave him
To rock

-Ashleigh Montgomery

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Story, Verbal

HOLLA ON THE GO: “I felt really unsafe and uncomfortable”

Two men walking past me in the metro station looked me up and down loudly declared that they would “hit that”. They were big, young men and I felt really unsafe and uncomfortable, I pretty much ran to my train.

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Stalking, Story, Verbal, youth

Maddy’s Story: Early morning street harassment

My friend and I (15 and 14) were walking from Panera around 9am when two large men came out of a bank and said “Hello beautiful ladies.” We kept walking and again one of them said “can we party with you?” I said “no, thanks,” and we kept walking.

Finally we were almost away when he said “do you not like big dicks?” as if we would know their penis size from looking at their clothed bodies. Later, I went into CVS and my friend waited outside. The two men came by again and she ran in with two coffees and breakfast in her hands out of fear. We were both wearing athletic shorts and t shirts.

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groping, Story

Ka’s Story: Groping is no way to say “thank you!”

On my way home from work a man in the seat next to me rubbed the inside of my thigh as a way of “thanking” me for giving him directions.

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Story, Verbal

HOLLA ON THE GO: “Saying ‘nice titties’ isn’t a compliment

Saying “nice titties” to a girl you don’t know as you walk by her isn’t a compliment or appropriate in anyway.

It creeped me out.

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groping, Story

HOLLA ON THE GO: Seeing red

On my way home yesterday walking through town (at 7pm, in daylight), a group of three middle aged, fat, balding men passed me and one of them decided to casually pinch my skirt, lift it and grab my skin. I immediately saw red, turned round and punched him in the bridge of his nose. This angered the other two, they got straight up in my face shouting “What did you do that for?” at me, I shouted back and one of them pushed me by my shoulder so hard that I fell into the road. I’m fine, but shaken.

I've got your back!

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groping, Story, Verbal, youth

Cindy’s Story: “I felt violated”

I was suffering from sciatica and scheduled for spinal fusion surgery; in the meantime I was walking with a cane. A shop I loved downtown was closing and they were having going-out-of-business sale with a contest to earn points for prizes. I was on of the top contenders. One of the ways we could earn extra points was to carry a sign advertising the sale in front of the shop. So I signed up to do this, despite my pain.

Now, I am not a young girl. I was, then, in my later forties and a bit plump. It was summer, so I was wearing sandals. As I walked back and forth in front of the shop with my sign in one hand and my cane in the other, a young man of about 16 came up to me. He at first asked me if I wanted to buy a video game console. I said “No, but you can try up the street in the campus district. A lot of college students play video games” and continued my task. He walked away for a little bit and then came back and began to make remarks about my feet – how pretty they were, what kind of nail polish I was wearing, etc. I shrugged it off but he persisted. Then he began to try to touch my feet and offered to kiss them and suck on my toes. He actually bent down and tried to grab my feet, which nearly threw me off balance. I let go of the sign to catch myself and told him to leave me alone. He started to follow me, apologizing, but I went back into the shop early, willing to give up my prize to get away from him.

I told the shop owner what had happened, which naturally shocked them. They gave me my points anyway, but I went home and never returned to finish the contest. I felt violated. All he touched was my feet, but I still felt violated. Despite the heat, I wore socks and tennis shoes for a week before being willing to wear sandals in public again. I’ve been cat called and had passes made at me in my younger days, but this was the most bizarre and creepy thing that has ever happened to me. I still regret not calling to the police to at least give them a heads-up on this guy.

I've got your back!

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groping, Story

HOLLA ON THE GO: Tram groper

It was about 4 years ago now which would of made me 22. I was getting a tram back home during rush hour and felt something touching me from behind. I turned to see a man looking me straight in the eye and decided to move away from him. Moments later I feel it happening again but now the tram was so cramped I couldn’t move away. I turned my head and the same man had followed me and was groping me again. I didn’t know what to do as he smirked at me when I began to panic.

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Story, Verbal

HOLLA ON THE GO: Harasser’s request to smile

I was once walking down the street with my sister, and two men on a rickshaw said “Smile baby, come take a ride!” and they both started snickering.

I've got your back!

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Story, Verbal

Emmy’s Story: “No matter what you wear, it’s gonna happen”

Around 8pm last friday, I was on my way back from fabric sourcing in Manhattan with my business partner. My dad was picking me up in the car a block away from the train station. As soon as I exit the turnstile, I see this twenty-something guy in a basketball jersey leaning against the wall of a bodega that sells flowers- I knew he was gonna say something as soon as I saw him. Mind you, I was literally wearing pants, converse, and a collared shirt- business clothes, that no one would find “provocative” in the slightest, and I looked like shit since it was a long day. So as soon as I start walking past the bodega, this guy starts making all these suggestive noises and calling me “baby”.
So I flipped him off. And kept walking. Quickly. How does he respond to that?
“Suck my dick!”
“I’d rather not.”
“Suck my DICK!”
“You’re the one who catcalled me, so no. Fuck off.”
I sped up my already quick walking and didn’t turn around. Thankfully, he didn’t follow me. By the time I got to my dad’s car, I was shaking.
And the whole experience really pissed me off, because I should have the right to walk around my neighborhood without fearing for my safety. Not that I don’t need too- it’s obvious that I do need to worry- but it shouldn’t be a necessity. No one wears a bulletproof suit to avoid getting shot. Women shouldn’t feel like they have to wear a certain type of clothing to avoid harassment- but the kicker is, no matter what you wear, it’s gonna happen. And that’s just plain wrong.

I've got your back!

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