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I walk from Saint Nicholas Avenue on 149th street in Harlem toward Broadway almost everyday for work. One beautiful summer day, I began that walk to catch the 1 train in order to get to an audition downtown by 1:30.
I’ve always been able to trust that walk. Tune out and focus.
When I crossed Amsterdam, a man, about 5’3/ late 20’s, caught my attention.
Since I work in the area, I know the majority of people who live on that block. There’s always at least four people I get to say hello to on that block.
As I walked past this man sitting on the white bench next to the very first stoop, I hear, “Wow! Look at this thing not wearing earbuds! Today must be my lucky day.” This line brought me crashing back to reality and I suddenly realized I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. I wasn’t doing what I had done every day since I moved to New York City. And I was so angry with myself.
As I quickened my pace, he stood up and began to follow me. He asked me where I was going and why I was walking so fast.
I told him that I had somewhere I needed to be and if he could just leave me alone.
His response was, “What? I’m not doing anything. Just walking with you.”
He began to walk very close to me. To the point where he was walking behind me but leaning into my left arm to talk to me.
I continued to ask him to leave me alone, but he persisted.
I could feel myself shutting down. This had never happened to me and I wasn’t able to find the strength or knowledge to get away.
He then told me that he had a friend in the Bronx that could “hook me up” and I could “make a lot of money.”
I couldn’t even respond. I remember a man passing us and looking at me with that “that doesn’t look right” look on his face but said nothing.
My plan was to make it to the coffee shop and ask for help.
Thankfully, a woman I know from the neighborhood was walking her dogs and said hello to me. When I couldn’t respond, I began to cry and she was able to get me away from the man and told him to get lost. He then walked a little farther down the block, sat on a stoop, and watched us. When she threatened to call the cops, was when he finally left. By then, I was sobbing and couldn’t thank her enough.
I haven’t walked down that street since.
It’s a tradition that me and my mother, as creative writers, go to Barnes & Noble every Sunday. Once we arrived at the rather busy place, we found our seats, settled down, and my mom went to get in line to order some food. I had started typing on my laptop when a very suspicious elderly man (60-70’s of age) was awkwardly walking past me. I was wearing an appropriate kind of tank top with a plaid shirt and leggings. I am always vigilant of strangers and I do have trust issues. The elderly man whispered, only loud enough for me to hear, “Nice tits.” All the heat literally drained from my body. This guy had his wife with him for Christ’s sake! This was my first experience of harassment, and my first instinct was to see that he was alone and straight up kick his ass. I wanted to leave. I lost my appetite. I lost my will to enjoy my time. I lost my creativity. I’ve never felt so vulnerable or scared. I’ve developed a form of insomnia, even knowing that I will not see him again, but also knowing that this is only the first round of harassment. And I’m only sixteen.
I don’t even know if this is harassment…all I know is that since is happened I can’t stop thinking about it. The whole thing makes me very uncomfortable.
I flew into Heathrow on Saturday evening around 9:30pm after a quick trip home. I requested a car from a very well known App, and the driver soon rang me to say he was outside the terminal. After some confusion it turned out he was parked outside the arrivals (which seems logical!) but I was after coming out the departures exit (my fault – I was after a few glasses of wine. Certainly not drunk, but not all that sober either). He was nice enough not to cancel the trip and instead drove around to meet me, which given the size of the terminal and the direction of the one-way roads took him about 10 minutes. I was grateful that he didn’t leave me stranded, once he arrived I expressly thanked him for this.
We chatted on the ride in towards the city, partly to be polite, partly to show my appreciation for his earlier help. I asked him general questions about his life, family etc., as you do in situations like that. He asked me where I was going, I told him to meet my husband at a party. to which he replied something along the lines of ‘he’s so lucky’. Husband rings and I confirm with him that I should be arriving in about 15 minutes (as per drivers suggestion upon overhearing convo with said husband).
As we get closer to destination (a pub I have never been to in Chelsea), he starts getting more ‘complimentary’; “you are so beautiful”, “my ex was not as pretty as you”, “any man would be lucky to have you”, and more stuff I can’t quite remember fully (partly out of tipsiness, partly just to forget). What do you bloody do when a cab driver starts talking to you like that alone on a motorway at 10pm anyway? I just put it down to slightly inappropriate compliments, as I decided that to voice my slight discomfort would make the rest of the journey even more strange. I thanked him (weird I know) and stated I am texting husband again to say I am almost there.
So I am rambling on about something at this stage, trying to change the subject and make the time go faster, and I notice he has pulled up the car. Now, at first I take little notice of this, I guess we have arrived at destination and I’m going to finish my point and be on my way. But after about a minute I kind of register that we are on a residential street and although I’ve never been to this pub before, I’m pretty sure it’s not in between these flats we are parked outside.
I have a bit of a ‘what should I do’ moment here. I mean, I’ve just been nice to this guy as I feel he’s gone out of his way to find me at the airport when he could have just buggered off, so I don’t now want to get all sassy with him (or presumptuous that he’s up to no good). But at the same time I immediately feel unsafe and vulnerable, and his ‘compliments’ are suddenly starting to feel loaded with intention. I decide to play dumb.
Me: ‘Oh, we are here! Where exactly is the pub? I don’t see it.’
Driver: ‘The pub is up around the next corner on the main road’
Me: ‘OK – why are we stopped here?’
Driver: ‘Just because I thought we were having a nice chat and we could continue to get to know each other for another few minutes. I like being with you’.
Me: ‘That’s very sweet thank you, but my husband is waiting for me so I better go’.
So he starts the car and drives the final minute along this darkish street on to the bright main road to the pub. Car stops, I thank him, and get out. I feel – even now – very strange about the whole thing. Was I too drunk? Was I too nice? Was I too chatty? Did I not make my situation clear enough? Does any of that matter??
Topped all off by Husbands reaction when I told him on Sunday – well, you must have given him a reason to act like this. You are always too nice, guys can read that the wrong way, it can be taken as flirting. THIS HURT ME MORE THAN ANYTHING. I feel let down by men TWICE; first my the man who took advantage of my tipsy-niceness in his position of control as driver of the car, second by my husband who claimed immediately that it was my own fault.
As I said at the start of this ramble, I don’t know if this counts as harassment because he didn’t touch me or say anything really explicit, but I just feel that grimy down-in-the-gut stink you feel when something just doesn’t add up to OK.
Thanks for reading my story. x
The exact words uttered by a woman trying to pick me up at the club
I’m Brazilian, and I experienced this many times. Two years ago, when I was 15, I was at an elementary school party and I was talking to some friends, when a guy (who I didn’t know) suddenly hold me and asked me for a kiss. I refused, but he held me closer, tried to kiss me and whispered disgusting words in my ear. I felt really bad, and the girls who were with me didn’t do anything. Luckly, my mother called me to tell me she was on her way to pick me up.
I had just left a bar with several male friends when they decided to stop by the food truck right outside. I didn’t want anything, so I hung back away from the line. Most of the crowd were men and I didn’t know anyone outside of my friend group. I stood firmly with my arms crossed at my chest, scowl on my face, wearing very modest clothing, while I waited for my friends. My unapproachable demeanor was intentional, and reserved for such scenarios.
I noticed two men coming up the wide sidewalk, decided I was not in the way of foot traffic, and continued to wait. They were walking together, until they got near me, where one guy walked right up to me, to the point his chest was touching me, as if to say “Move, you’re in my space.” I waited a few seconds in the obvious power play and eventually pivoted because it felt too aggressive. The other man he was with then grabbed my waist in a very familiar manner as if to set me aside, or grope me, I couldn’t tell which. Maybe both. I resisted the urge to punch them, though my fist was already balled and ready to go. I may have done it, had I not suspected they could inflict greater harm.
Three instances around the same area in Chelsea:
1. On my way to the mailbox before heading home-
Random Guy 1: Hey, I like your sunglasses!
RG1: Hey, can I ask you a question?
RG1: I’m having a party next weekend, do you want to come?
Me: Uh, no that’s okay, bye.
2. On my way to work at about 7:50 AM
RG 2 veers off his path and towards me: I wish every girl were as pretty as you. (he proceeds to make kissing sounds at me)
3. On my way to work at about 7:50 AM
RG 3: Hey sexy, hope you have a great day! (also makes kissing sounds at me)
Three completely different people with varying degrees of verbal interaction that made me uncomfortable.
Harassment is a frequent problem for runners. I occasionally announce to other men on the trail (because there aren’t as many women & they already know it anyway) that “The guy I just passed is creeping me out.” Today I was fortunate that one of the men near the trail was a uniformed police officer. The Creep said to me, “I’m going to take you in my arms. I’m coming to get you.” So hopefully the officer did something about this.
Visiting family in CA and they convinced me to tour Golden Gate park alone, immediately knew it was a bad idea when I got off the bus. As I wandered in, I accidentally made eye contact with a man walking with a group of friends. Sped up and looked straight ahead but he moved over to my side of the path, bent down and got a couple inches from my face to say “How you doing boo” before strutting off with his friends. Wanted to yell at him but he had a whole group and I was alone, and didn’t see many people nearby. Later that day I thought I would walk downtown to get some chocolate and virtually the same thing happened–creepy guy who just looked like he had something to prove makes eye contact a ways away, then approaches, gets right in my ear this time and says in the creepiest voice I can imagine “hey baby” as he walks past. At least that time there were more people around, but he walked by too fast for me to think of a response. Thinking if that same “technique” is used again I might loudly warn everyone to watch out for the “street harasser in [insert clothing here]” and point at him. Definitely a mild experience compared to most but really creeped me out how close they both got to my face.
I was walking to work this morning and found a run in my tights. My side of the street was fairly empty so I walked into an isolated area and took off my tights and saw this man (in his late 40s) continue to stare at me as he walked past. He did this multiple times until I asked “what are you staring at?” He stopped his walk, turned to me, and started aggressively gesturing towards me, angry that I had asked him why he was staring. I crossed the avenue and at the following intersection, saw that he was still staring and angrily gesturing and saying things to me, waiting for the light to change so he could accost me at the next intersection. I got so scared that I hailed a cab in the opposite direction of my job and ducked down in the seat until I arrived at my office and ran inside. This is my regular walking path to work and I am terrified of running into him or him following me.