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A guy sitting next to me on the bus and constantly badgering me to go out with him until I got off the bus.
I was biking home from work last night, way after dark. I had stopped at an intersection because a few cars were crossing. A man pulled up in his car next to me. I remember his car was an SUV with an Auburn University sticker on it. I could tell he was looking at me, and I thought he was saying something. I figured he was lost, so I asked if he needed help. He couldn’t find a certain road, he said, so I gave him directions, then pedaled off toward my house. I expected him to turn at the intersection behind me, because that was where I had told him he could get to the road he was looking for. Instead, he followed me. I was worried, but I thought he may have forgotten the directions, so I hoped he didn’t mean any harm. As I was riding down a hill, he pulled alongside me. “You want to make some extra money tonight?” he said. I was so freaked out that I replied, “No thanks!” If I had had the presence of mind, I would have told him to fuck off. I braked my bike, hoping his momentum would carry him past me, but he braked, too. We repeated these maneuvers several times. I remembered feeling guilty for wearing a tank top and shorts, riding my bike so late at night, but at the same time realizing that what was happening was not my fault. I was terrified that he was going to knock me off my bike and rape me. And I remember being furious that a man had the power to make me so afraid. I was about to reach my apartment, and I wasn’t about to show him where I lived, so I cut in front of him and pedaled down a dark street a block away from my apartment. Luckily, he didn’t follow. I pedaled for couple of blocks and finally stopped, hiding in the darkness under a tree, still so angry that I was hiding, fearing for my life in a supposedly free country. I called my roommate and kept her on the phone the whole ride home. I never saw him again. I knew I was lucky, but I didn’t want to have to call it lucky. “Lucky” isn’t being able to keep your rights, is it? At the time, it never occurred to me to call it harassment.
I was leaving the west village to meet my boyfriend, after having worked a long shift at the west village restaurant I’ve worked at for the past two years. I was wearing jeans, boots, a hoodie with the hood up and my glasses were on. I think I put the hoodie on because it was cold out and wanted to cover my head, not to make any kind of “statement.” It was a Tuesday night. As I’m walking along Macdougal past Turkiss Falafel shop, some guy looks me up and down and says “Wow, you look like Super Girl, and if you took off your glasses you would probably look awesome!” I get endless catcalls leaving work in this area, but this one stuck with me mostly because the nonchalant way this guy said this subversive comment, with no concern for how it actually came out, like he had just sneezed and kept on walking. Who are you to tell me what I do and do not look like to you?! Would you ever say that to a guy who had his hoodie up? And who are you to tell me if I would look better or worse without my glasses on?! I do not just exist for your viewing enjoyment! I am not the couch in you and your roommate’s place that you can just say, hmm it would look better on that wall, and maybe without the couch cover. I am human being. I need glasses to see. And if girls with glasses are not sexy to you, why would you feel the need to say that to a random stranger who wasn’t even making eye contact with you.
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?
I was sixteen years old and my father sent me into Target to pick up a few things. While shopping I was followed around by a much older man. He would smile at me and he came up to me about three times asking me for my phone number. I tried to ignore him but he got more aggresive when I did. I told a store employee and was informed there was nothing they could do for me. But the part that upset me the most was when I told my father what happened and that I didn’t want to go into places by myself anymore, he informed me that this is just what happens when your pretty and that I just needed to ignore them and deal with the comments.
This is only the most recent story of harassment in my life. It’s not the worst either, not even the worst this month.
I didn’t have enough money to get out of the bus station. My husband had already gone through the barrier and was waiting for me on the other side. I go to pay at one of the atm like stations. While I’m standing there 2 men come up behind me, too close, and I ask them to back up. Instead they get in my face and says he isn’t doing anything, it escalates too fast. I’m terrified, I let my guard down because I was out with my husband so I didn’t have any pepper spray at the ready. I start freaking out and my husband rushes around the corner and starts screaming at these guys to back off. They don’t back off, they say they’re gonna hurt us. I really don’t want to say what my husband did next, but it was pretty obvious that he was going to kill these guys if he had to. I finally start thinking straight & run to jump the barrier and we ran for blocks.
This is not that recent, but I’d like to share. I was 33 and minding my own business on an airplane. The guy next to me started chatting me up and telling me what he did for a living (military, arms development). I played along because I didn’t want to be rude. I thought, “Well, I’m on a plane to Memphis, and I’ve heard that people are more outgoing or friendly or whatever in the South.” Then it turned into a dinner invitation, which I hedged. THEN it turned into this guy knocking repeatedly on my hotel room door and saying “Helllllooooo? You were going to go to dinner with me?! Hey!” several times in a row. I was cowering in my hotel room, at the age of 33 and with several years of being in a male-dominated profession. But what could I do? This still creeps me out.
I’m so glad you guys exist. When I was 13, I accidentally strayed away from my parents as we were walking in Manhattan one Sunday afternoon when a tall man cat called me saying, “hey baby.” It was the most scary, uncomfortable and traumatizing experience of my adolescence. I quickly ran away from the man as my eyes pinpointed my parents location. As a 30 something adult now, I still get chills walking alone because of this experience.
I can’t even recall all the things I’ve heard, street harassment is real everywhere in the world, but it seems to be taken to a whole new level when we are talking about Brazil. Since it is a country that is pretty much in summer all year long women tend to wear shorts and tank tops pretty much everywhere and I have lost count of how many times my mom told me she would not let me out on the streets wearing what I was wearing–she didn’t mean wrong, it’s just that she was afraid for my safety, what makes me sad is that she had to be, is that I have to be worried and constantly looking back so that I can spot a potential raper and have time to run or call for help, it is simply not OK to walk around in fear 24/7. Once I was walking down the street with some friends and a guy catcalled us, we had been catcalled at least 10 times in a short period of time and I’ve had enough, so I showed him my middle finger and told him to fuck off (sorry for the vocabulary), don’t get me wrong I know this is not the best way to handle the situation, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. You know what my friends did? They were horrified that I even answered the guy and told me I should have just stayed quiet and kept walking. No, I’m sorry I can’t stay quiet anymore. It is not fair that I can’t run in the street anymore because my gym outfit is too provocative, it is not ok that I’ve never taken the public transport of my city because I am too afraid of being harassed, it is ok that I have to be scared of being a girl.
In my 20’s and 30’s I was regularly subjected to verbal harassment on the street, inside shopping malls, and basically in public places. Eventually I carried what appeared to be small business cards (which I bought at a NOW convention). I would turn and smile at the harasser and give him a card, which he inevitably assumed contained my phone number. Instead it said, “You have just insulted a woman. This card has been chemically treated. In 3 days, your prick will fall off.” It was my way of taking control.