Verbal

Lou LaRoche’s story from Bristol: Asshole Sandwich

It’s 2:55pm and I’ve just gotten off the bus ready to get my son from school. I’m loaded down with shopping (board games in big, flat, colourful bags) and I’m clearly in a hurry.

I’m walking along in my typical “Leave me be” fashion – not making eye contact with anyone; keeping a fast, purposeful pace; trying to keep a look of determination on my face.

I pass a cook shop. There’s a guy in the doorway. “Good afternoon, Young Lady,” he says to me. Seems innocuous enough. For community’s sake, I reply “Hi” without slowing down. This was a mistake.

“Hey! Baby! Why so hurried! Get your ass back here, baby!”

I’m still processing this (In my mind, my cocky, confident persona is taking a bashing, “Does this guy know who he’s messing with?” I saying to myself in an Emergency Inner Pep Talk, “I’m going to ruin his ass come August”) as the guy immediately in front of me turns around to see what the first guy is yelling about. He stops right in front of me so suddenly I almost pile into the back of him.

Asshole #1 is still calling to me from his doorway. Asshole #2 decides to join in.

This is the first time in YEARS I’ve experienced a moment of panic; there’s no escape route. Major road to one side, buildings to my other. Harassing Guy #1 is behind and this other asshole is right in front of me. Better yet, I’m frozen in the spot wondering what the hell to do while Guy #2 is reaching his hand out toward me.

“Get the fuck away” I mumble. I move the shopping to my other hand, so it forms a barrier between me and his hand and push past him. Everything I’ve learned about rape and sexual assault is scrolling, Terminator-style, through my mind. My first thought isn’t to hurt him to defend myself; my only thought is to escape.

Five yards ahead is a shop where I go sometimes with my son. I fumble my way in there and stand with my back against the wall. Not quite sure what to do now, I wait a couple of beats while the guy behind the counter asks me if I’m okay. I am, I tell him so. I look at my watch – it’s almost time for my son to get collected.

It’s only this thought that gets me moving again. The truth is, I could have stayed in the shop for an hour, but my son needs me to be at school.

I step out, both assholes have gone: it’s just another rainy day in Bristol and while their days are continuing uninterrupted, mine has been marred. That same old feeling of powerlessness is back again, the “What Ifs” are playing in my head as I get to school and wait for my son to come out. Suddenly I can’t wait to get home, to log on and to Hollaback. And now I’ve written out what happened, I’m already feeling calmer and safer.

I’m starting a Hollaback in Bristol in August; I like to think I know enough about street harassment to remain cool and unflustered. Goes to show, you can never really be prepared – all the responses I’ve drilled in my head came to nothing. Now I’m home, fear has turned to fury – I find I’m blaming myself: did I overreact? Should I have answered the first guy? Did I really need to use that bus-stop instead of the next? Was I “asking for it” by reciprocating? Was my aggression really warranted?

The truth is, in that moment I was trapped between two guys who were giving me obviously unwanted advances: one was shouting for my attention, the other was making physical advances. I’m now feeling incredibly angry and more determined than ever to end this kind of culture that allows men to randomly surround a woman who clearly wasn’t interested in anything other than getting where she was going.

I’m more determined than ever to stop these assholes.

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demonstration, Verbal

Maureen’s story from Northern California: In-school Harassment

I don’t consider myself particularly hot or sexy. I am 15, 5’9″, and a size eleven. I am not curvaceous, at least not compared to some girls at my school. But still, I get holla’d at. During school. The first time it happened I was walking through the quad during break, and suddenly I hear “How you doin’ gurrrl, you lookin’ fine to-day!” I look up, confused, only to see a large boy, (He was probably 18, but can someone who has the nerve to holla at a girl publicly be called a man?). He stared right back, leering. I didn’t know what to do. At the time I was 14, I had never received this kind of attention. I responded, “I’m fine, and you?” and quickly walked past him. I was shocked. Not only had it happened in the center of the quad, surrounded by people, I was wearing sweatpants, a loose t shirt and no makeup. I couldn’t understand why he had singled me out. I was definitely not “looking’ fine to-day”. Nothing like that happened that year, and I eventually forgot about it.
Then only a week ago, I was called into the office during class to clear an absence. As I was about to open the door of the main building, I hear “How you doin’ guuurrrl?” through the glass. I see a group of about five boys, all seniors I believe, standing just inside the door. If I had been farther away I would have turned around, but I didn’t want to show that they had any power over me. I entered the building to a chorus of how-you-doin’s. Like before, I responded “I’m fine, and you?” Again I was dumbfounded. Why had they chosen me? I entered the building, and turned down the hallway. Unfortunately I was wearing a team t shirt for lacrosse, and it had my name on the back. They started down the hallway after me, now saying “How you doin’ Maureen?.” Although they stopped after a few steps, their voices followed me down the hallway. I was so afraid, probably unreasonably so. I entered the office, and cleared my absence. I didn’t say anything about the boys. I was hesitant to go back out into the hall, and when I finally did, they were gone. But just to be sure, I took the long way back to my classroom. Now everyday I see them sitting in front of the lunchroom as I go to buy lunch, and I pray they don’t remember my face.

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Verbal

Kate’s story: a run cut short by fear

Last month, on a Friday after work I decided to go for a run, it was a cool evening and it was starting to rain, which quickly turned to sleet and then light snow. I was less than a 1/4 mile into my run when I heard yelling — my iPod was between songs, otherwise I might have missed the specifics of it. There was a guy (I am assuming high school age) leaning out the window of a car on the other side of the street who screamed out, “Nice ass………WHORE!!!!!!!!!” I have to be honest, it wasn’t just the words that upset me, it was also how he said it — there was anger in his tone, and it felt threatening.

I tried to shake it off as just a bunch of immature kids with poor judgment and kept running.

Maybe a mile later I was on Beacon St in Cambridge when the same car drove by me again with this guy again hanging out the window screaming at me — I had my iPod cranked up so I don’t know what he said but the tone was, again, unmistakably angry & threatening. I was freaked out that this was the 2nd time they’d driven by me, and I was getting into less residential neighborhoods where there were fewer people on the streets — I had visions of the next time they drove past me, what if they pulled over? got out of the car? pulled me into the car?? I decided to listen to my gut, cut my run short, and turn around & head back for more populated streets & home.

Unfortunately I was not wearing my glasses & did not get the license plate #. I am getting over this but had an anxiety dream about it Friday night that involved me being cornered by a large man and calling for help that never came. I remain disturbed by the fact that at some point in their lives, the boys/men in that car learned that harassing & threatening a woman in this way is somehow ok.

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groping, Nonverbal Harassment, Verbal

ARW’s Story: The power dynamics of a man

This seems to be a fortnightly occurrence and I am unable to escape it.
Thank you perverts!

Women are just as much to blame; the social power dynamics have shifted and while employment may be regulated by male approaches dating definitely has a blurred line.

I seem to fairly often be a victim of somebody grabbing or slapping my behind, I have had my testicles cupped and on many occasions experienced inappropriate contact and remarks.

This weekend a young lady pinched my behind while I stood at the bar in the Victoria pub, Birmingham, I turn around and give her a filthy look and ask her to stop but as I turn back to the bar she decided to grab me again; this time when I turn all of her friends are staring at me and making remarks like ‘hey handsome’ or ‘hello cute ass’

Unfortunately as a man I have little support so when I open my mouth to criticize I am immediately set upon by the eyes of every person in the room and offered tokens of aggression by some woman and men who stand up, but why?
Because the power dynamics of a 6″3 athletic man standing over four much smaller females dictates that indeed I should be the aggressor.
So I am oppressed twice simply for buying a drink and standing up for myself.

Power dynamics exist in many facets and social normality, especially for the socially responsible, is damaged when certain power dynamics are ignored; the main reason I wrote this.
The truth is a lot of this is about social molding and in my experience, women can be just as bad as men because they realize how strong the social power dynamic is in supporting them.

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Verbal

Zoë’s Story: From beautiful to ugly in a matter of seconds

Because I’m always late to work, and I always like to wear lipstick, I often find myself applying makeup on the bus en route to my job. Usually I just get a few glares for primping in public, but last week, it got nasty. I was sitting on the bus (22 outbound) and two middle-aged men sat down near me – one across from me, one in the seat beside mine – and immediately began harassing me. “You look real good tonight, honey” said one. The other: “That’s some sexy red lipstick.” I turned to him and calmly said, “please don’t talk to me” while making eye contact.

Immediately their tone changed. “Ugly bitch!” “My sister told me pretty girls know how to take a compliment and only the ugly ones don’t!” I responded, “It’s funny how as soon as I speak up, I go from being beautiful to ugly.” One scoffed and said “Oh, you’re trying to be funny, bitch? Shut up.” I just kept glaring and eventually they moved but were still within earshot and continued complaining to each other and other passengers about how “rude” and “ungrateful” I was. It really rattled me and I had to call a friend to calm down, but once I got off the bus I felt really good that I had spoken up. Thanks Hollaback!

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Verbal

Sara’s Story: A conversation with the harasser

You think studying in the middle of a common study area wouldn’t turn guys on.

I had my face buried in a book, studying for my finals in two weeks. (I had read your website some weeks before, so I was ready!) He walked in front of me and when he was just out of range, I heard, “Girl, you gorgeous.” I was sure it was for me because there was no one behind me, or on either side. I was so surprised and indignant at his remark I blurted out “Excuse me?!”. Then I realised I had just started something I might not be able to finish. He turned around and I got a good look at his face.  He was 25-30 years old, 5’6″? We exchanged in somewhat-friendly conversation, and I told him that he didn’t know me and shouldn’t call me gorgeous. No heated argument, but what surprised me was that I was studying… With 5-10 people in the same room! Why was it his business to tell me I was good-looking? Or to interrupt my studying?

What was the thing that made him pick on me? Was it my shirt? my hair? my face? Not cool creeper!! I don’t think he’ll pull another stunt like this after our conversation.

one comment 
demonstration, Verbal

Kaitlin’s story from St. Louis: High-school horror boys

It was a chilly St Louis Sunday evening in March and I had just finished up a meeting with some local LGBT activists at my favorite cafe, Coffee Cartel. One of the people I had met with offered me a lift home, but I said I was ok walking since my apartment was just a couple blocks away.

As I was crossing Lindell, a car full of high-school-age boys pulled up to the intersection and I heard them yell “Hey, whore! How much?” Since I’m unfortunately used to being holla’d at, I flipped them the bird and kept walking, but they just shouted “Yeah, whore! Stick that finger up my butt!”

I was too shocked to look back at them, so I never got their license plate number, but next time something like that happens, I’ll be sure to report them.

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demonstration, Verbal

Sarah’s story from the bike trails: A bathing suit, a towel, and some harassment

I was nine or ten. It was summer and a friend who lived behind my house had called to invite me to go to the pool with her family. I changed into my bathing suit (a one piece), put a towel and a few things in a backpack, and set off for their house. In order to get their I had to run down one hill, across a creek and some bike trails, and up another. There was a group of men on a bridge, luckily I didn’t have to go on it, but they saw me. They began yelling things like “Come on over here girl” among others. I ran to my friends house. I’d never run up that hill so hard. My friend’s mom (who saw it and made sure I was safe) reminded me that I needed to be careful, that because I looked older people didn’t realize how young I was. She called my mom that night and told her. When my asked me about it I cried half in anger, half in shame. I told my mom I wanted two really big dogs that would go with me everywhere, one on either side, so no one would ever mess with me again. I didn’t know I could HOLLABACK.

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homophobic, Verbal

Lia’s story from South Dakota: Small town harassment

I was about 11 years old and I was walking with my mother to a store called Prarie Market in Rapid City SD to get some groceries. It was a winter, so we were bulked up in puffy winter jackets. We lived about 4 blocks away, and this was a typical thing to do. Anyway, about a block from the store a speeding truck with about 4-5 men started screaming obscenities at us. They were initially screaming “faggots” but once they got closer, and realized we were women, they began screaming “maggots” and other worse words. We ignored them and fortunately it lasted about 20 seconds at best. It happened so quickly and out of nowhere; we were too shocked to say anything.

Although on other occasions, while using a phone near to this same store I had rocks thrown at me by a group of drunken men. Again, walking home from school past this same area some men shouted racist insults at me.

Yeah, it’s a small town, but haven’t they got something better to do than frighten women and children?

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demonstration, Verbal

Andrea’s story from Dallas: Facebook post deleted & she reposted it

I live in one of Dallas few truly walkable neighborhoods, which I love. Near my house is a pizza parlor, Zini’s Pizza, where the delivery guys hang out in the side alley between drop-offs. I walked by midday to head over to the convenience store, and the guys (two of them) whistled at me, thrust their pelvises in my direction, and made sexually suggestive remarks. I complained to management on their Facebook page wall (after all, if my body is up for public discussion, surely I’m within my rights to post on their wall rather than telephone a manager) and they deleted it almost immediately. So I reposted it. I intend to keep doing so until I get a response.

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