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BY RITA PASARELL
When I heard of Hollaback a few years ago, my first thought was: “finally!” I was so glad to see a place for people to share their stories and speak out against street harassment— a place where the issue was taken seriously.
I remember thinking back to when I was repeatedly, loudly,aggressively street harassed for almost two years by a neighbor who was more than twice my age. After many confrontations where I told him to leave me alone,I became so fed up that I decided to report him to the police.The first time I described his behavior, the police would not take a report. No crime had taken place, they said. I told the police how this man had pulled his rusty, broken-windowed van next to me as I walked down the sidewalk, shouting “get in!” after months of explicitly shouting comments about my body. I told them he had been harassing other women, that I was embarrassed to walk in my own neighborhood, and that I was worried he would escalate. Ok, but did he touch you, they wanted to know. He hadn’t. I went home.
It wasn’t until after my third visit to the police station, many months later, that this man was finally charged – with stalking. I had given the police detailed lists of the street harassment I’d experienced, and I remember thinking “it shouldn’t be this difficult.” The charge was ultimately dismissed.
Although I am frustrated that the legal system failed to hold a serial street harasser accountable for his inappropriate behavior, Hollaback’s work gives me hope that in speaking out against street harassment, our voices do have an impact, even if not immediately.Every shared story of street harassment says I do not accept this and joins with other stories to make it clear that street harassment will not be tolerated. Hollaback reminds us that we don’t have to be silent, that our experiences deserve to be taken seriously, and also reminds the world to listen.
“Hey lady, wanna..” I said “come back and let me take your picture.” He came back and shielded his face when I took the snapshot, asking “why do you wanna take my picture?”
I was riding the number 3 bus northbound. A man boarded, sat down and loudly cracked a beer open. He then started to come on to the young Asian woman sitting next to him, trying to get her attention in Cantonese, making kissing motions at her, draping his arm over the back of his seat. She was visibly ignoring him and feeling uncomfortable. I reported him to the driver – first for the beer, then for the assault. The driver notified transit police but did nothing more.
I was on the bus with my sister, mother, niece, and nephew on our way home when an elderly man holds up his phone at my sister and I, and I see the flash go off. At that moment, I look at him and tries to play it off like he’s just taking random photos and points his camera somewhere else. I start yelling at him and he tries acting cool and like I’m talking nonsense and then starts laughing. He moves to the back of the bus because I didn’t stop berating him. Just before I got off the bus I made sure to get my own picture of him.
Skate World In Michigan-
Male about 15 years old, having sex in public when younger children were around.
This post, by Nicola Briggs, is part of a series of posts that we call Nicola’s Got Nerve. You may remember Nicola from this incident caught on camera which was viewed by more than 1.5 million people and which sparked outrage from all corners of the globe, bringing street harassment to the forefront of women’s rights issues. We admire’s Nicola’s ability to turn a traumatic event into focused action through writing and activism, and we think you will too.
“It’s not your fault, even if you did nothing.” Many women who have been the target of a sexual attack, whether in the form of public groping, molestation, or rape, have heard this said to them, but find it hard to believe this true statement, because they “didn’t try to get away” during the moment. There are so many valid reasons why this is factual, and must be taken to heart. In many situations, it can be extremely unsafe to act against a predator, which include a fear of aggravating the situation and incurring further harm; but what most survivors of sexual violence don’t know is that their response, freezing in the face of danger, is actually one of the most common and natural responses to a threat.
For example, imagine a herd of impala grazing peacefully by the river. They are alert for danger, but also relaxed and enjoying their afternoon meal. There is a gentle breeze that blows across the river, and on this breeze, mingled with many other smells, they can detect something very familiar, but not exactly reassuring. A few heads look up from their grazing, but they don’t spot anything out of the ordinary, so their heads go back down, concentrating on their meal. This is the moment the cheetah has been waiting for. He charges out of the nearby tall grasses where he’s been hiding and the herd instantly reacts. As one unit, they start racing across the Savannah and the chase is underway. But one young impala trips on a rock, and even though he immediately recovers, that split-second of vulnerability is all the cheetah needs. The young impala tries his utmost to get away, but the cheetah overtakes him at 70 mph and, with one last lunge, brings him down. In the moment either just before or at the moment of first contact between the impala and the cheetah, the prey, the impala, suddenly drops lifelessly to the ground. And he’s not even wounded yet.
So why does this happen? It’s called the “immobility response,” or you might know it as “playing possum.” It’s one of the three ways that reptiles and mammals have to react in the face of overwhelming threat, the other two being fight or flight. All are instinctual efforts at self-preservation. The young impala may be torn limb from limb in the next instant by the cheetah, so “freezing” allows his body and mind to go into another state where they feel no pain during this brutal death. This instinctual “freezing” would also allow him to remain in another state, perhaps while his body was dragged into the cheetah’s den to be consumed later. In which case, he would effectively “wake up” and have a chance to try and escape again.
I’ve used this nature tale to not only illustrate how animals are effortlessly wise, but to validate an often maligned response to danger– freezing– which for many survivors of sexual violence can be a key to surviving the trauma of being attacked. Remember, it’s never your fault, especially if you did nothing. Because you did nothing wrong at all.
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These guys on the bus are threatening a young woman on the bus for seemingly no reason.
I’m Mexican, but I spent 6 months at Bordeaux, France as an international exchange. It was my first time traveling alone, and I arrived really tired. A friend there helped me finding my place (I decided to rent a room at Village 2, Pessac) and everything was perfect, but I wanted to send an e-mail to my family saying I was alright. I discovered the internet wasn’t free, because my iphone couldn’t receive the internet without a password, so I was a little bit sad because I felt alone and not communicated. I decided with little hope to go through the aisle near my room to look for some internet signal and when I passed through the showers I saw a guy. This guy told me if I had any problems and I asked him about the internet, he told me that it wasn’t free, so I said it was ok that I could fix it later, and I said thanks, but he told me he could lend me his laptop to send and e-mail if I wanted to. So I told him it was ok (I really wanted to send my family an e-mail), then he told me he could go to my room with my laptop (I should have been more cautious about this I know, but he was another student, and I thought he would be decent), anyway I said yes and told him the number of my room. Then after some minutes he was on my door , I opened, and left the door opened while talking to him. He gave me his laptop but the internet wasn’t working either, so he told me it should be something wrong, however he didn’t try anymore to fix it , and then I told him it was ok, and that I wanted to rest, but he told me that he could give me a foot massage. I felt really uncomfortable after that, so I get up and told him I was fine and I wanted to be alone, but he got nearer and told me that he could really help me unpacking my clothes and then maybe pass the night with me. So I really became afraid because he started to get really close to me, so I told him to leave me alone, so he was upset and told me that I was afraid, but I shouldn’t be, that every woman in France is like that, so I told him to leave me, and he really didn’t want to. After that I left my room making him leave it to, and then I turned quickly and told him to leave me alone, so I closed the door quickly and couldn’t opened it until the other they in the morning. I felt so scared, was alone at night, and I thought the worst thing, I also felt really bad considering I felt vulnerable and alone, without any friend to call neither any kind of communication, I was alone in an unknown country. I cried that night, and felt horrible. After some nights he came again knocking my room and told me to please talk, but I never answered and asked him to leave, I almost asked to change my room, but then I never saw him again. My international experience got better as I met many persons and I started to feel secure. It wasn’t a good experience as my first night in France, but hopefully everything turned out ok and I really love that city ,and with such good persons , but it is really sad some people like him live in a such lovely place! 🙁