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I wanted to red flag Townsville, Australia as a big city for street harassment. It’s a city with a country vibe, a large local army base full of irritating alpha male types and very little to do…so this kind of behaviour is often seen as a right of passage for the males of the town.
The worst experience was when I and a friend were going home from the river after a day swimming and were walking on the pavement parallel to the highway. Some car full of guys actually slowed down, climbed half way out of the window and smacked my friend’s ass as he drove by in his truck. She was teeny at the time so the smack toppled her over onto her knees (grazing them quite badly) and to which they reacted to by hooting and saying “nice ass” before driving off. We didn’t get the licence plate in time to do anything about it and I’ve always been a bit bitter about the situation because we just had to deal with it in the only way we could – we just stopped walking that route home completely.
Seeing us as walking boobs and legs is just a way to pretend we’re not people, we’re not deserving of respect and we don’t have rights to our own bodies. It’s utter bullshit.
I was sitting with my boyfriend outside of the movie theater, I leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek when a group full of teenage boys drove by in a truck and yelled at me “Suck his dick!” I glared at them and told them to fuck off. I’m sickened that I was degraded so quickly.
I walked through a group of 30 year old men, and when they said hello, i returned the greeting, and immediately after i did a different man began shouting “you got some nice titties” over and over until his friend chimed in “and a real nice ass”
Walking around through town, some guy looks me up and down. I looked at the ground and he walks off shouting “cheer up”. I was cheerful before he turned up!
Three times now, when I’ve dropped my little sister at Elementary School, I have been “hit on” by students there. All were boys under ten. One boy stared at my chest and tried to touch me. It made me feel filthy inside.
I know this is very minor compared to what other women have gone through, but these were children! They are getting it from somewhere. It has to stop!
Guy walking by me on Fort Totten Metro platform: You are so pretty. You sexy too.
(I give him the stink-eye. He keeps walking.)
Harasser: I was just giving you a compliment.
Me: That’s not a compliment.
Harasser: I just said you’re pretty.
Me: That’s not a compliment.
Harasser (walks back over to me): I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.
Me: When you comment on a woman’s looks without her asking you, it’s disrespectful.
Harasser: It was a compliment. You’re supposed to say, “thank you”.
Me: That’s not a compliment. When you comment on a woman’s looks without her asking, it’s disrespectful, it’s not a compliment.
Harasser: Where you from?
Me: I don’t have to talk to you.
Harasser: When someone gives you a compliment, you’re supposed to say “thank you”.
Me: That’s not a compliment when you comment on a woman’s body without her asking you.
Harasser: How many women you think ask “How do I look today?” Next time say thank you.
Me: No. It’s not a compliment.
(Harasser starts to walk away)
Harasser: Just because you pretty don’t mean you smart. Think before you speak next time. Dumb bitch.
I’ve been harassed on the street many, many times, and it felt good to respond in that moment. But he got the last word. Until now.
In August of 2011, my city held a “clean commuting challenge” to encourage people to walk, bike, carpool, etc. to work. Having recently moved from a city where walking was very much a part of my lifestyle, I was excited for the opportunity to get into the habit again — exercise, fresh air, saving my gas money. So all week long, I walked the one mile each way to and from work. And I felt great.
But on Friday, everything changed.
I was about a third of the way home when I crossed the railroad tracks, and a young man came out of the barbershop nearby. He watched me pass, whistled, and said something derogatory. I ignored him and kept walking, as I always did in such instances. But this time was different. This time, he followed me, and continued to “talk” to me, with increasingly angry comments. “Too good for me huh,” “White girl with her nose in the air,” and some other, more personal things too profane to repeat here.
I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I had no mace, no self-defense training. Didn’t know anybody in the area yet. Cars zoomed by on Grand River Avenue, but nobody was paying any attention. I felt completely powerless.
Finally, he stopped talking. But he kept following me. I tried walking faster. He sped up, too. I tried slowing down to let him pass me. He slowed down, too. Finally I turned down my street, thinking he wouldn’t dare turn and follow me, not with an elementary school right there on the corner. But the schoolyard was empty, and no one was around on my street. And he kept following me.
A few doors down from my house, I walked up the driveway of a neighbor’s house and hid behind it, imagining that he would think this was my house and his little game would end there. I waited, watching the time. Five minutes passed. I peeked out from the side of the house — and there he was, standing on the sidewalk, arms folded. Watching me. Waiting.
I finally called 911 and when the police came, he tried to run away. They caught him and took him in, but had to let him go the next day. I was told I couldn’t press charges because he hadn’t actually done anything to me.
But he did do something to me.
I never walked to work again. I never felt safe in my neighborhood again, or even in my own house — as close as I was to the street, I kept imagining he, or someone like him, might be waiting outside for me.
Eventually, I moved to a different neighborhood. But I still don’t walk anywhere by myself. And I feel angry about it. A man can walk around practically anywhere he wants and have no fear. But a woman has to be told, has to feel, it’s not safe.
It’s not fair.
Since I was 12 and first started jogging on city streets, I’ve always encountered leers and comments. I’ve jogged in suburban neighborhoods of Silicon Valley, the capital of Costa Rica, Paris, San Diego CA, etc. As your research bears out, I perceive it to be a simple fact of life and my only response has either been retreat or anger. As a 12-16 year old, I would often yell back my age, hoping to expose to the adult male that he was my father’s age. My older brother believed I was exaggerating the extent of the staring and sexual comments, that perhaps I was flattering myself. Until, one day he ran with me. He was utterly shocked at how watched and violated he felt after experiencing the level of attention I received. He had an entirely new perspective on how poorly women and girls are treated in public, even with a chaperone. To this day, (25 years later), I will still reflexively flip off anyone who whistles or slows down to stare, etc. It sometimes makes me so angry I will chase after them and hit their car with my fists if they are forced to stop at an upcoming stoplight. I fully understand that some are raised to think that calling out sexual comments is a compliment, but I don’t think they’ve thought it through – to have every single moment on a public street be an invitation for being sexualized is simply not fun.
I was in a taxi going back to my boyfriend’s house from a night out at about 4 in the morning, and I was drunk. The taxi driver told me it would be 20$ and being drunk I handed him the money in order to not have to deal with it later.
He stopped the cab 3 blocks from my boyfriend’s house in a really quiet, dark neighborhood, and got out. I got out of the taxi and asked him why he wasn’t driving the next three blocks. He told me that if I didn’t suck his dick, he would leave me there and drive off.
I walked back to the house in the dark, hiding in the shadows because I was afraid. I’m furious that I didn’t take down his license number and report him.
When I was 16, I was walking to the bus stop in my nice, relatively safe neighborhood. As I passed an elementary school on a busy street, an adult businessman in a red sports car slowed down and offered me sex, a ride, and told me how hot I looked today. The most shocking thing was that he looked like he could be someones father, so normal and almost safe looking. I was horrified, and loudly told him I was 16, and why the hell did he think it was acceptable as a grown man to hit on a child? I told him his words were disgusting and inappropriate and walked away. Plenty of other people on the street heard and stared at the man with disgust. His shame and embarrassment at being called out was empowering.
Unfortunately, I don’t currently hollaback at street harassers. This event happened in Seattle, and I now live alone in Fresno and rarely leave my apartment as I don’t feel safe.