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I was walking home today and an unpleasant thing happened. It made me kinda angry and I felt like doing something about it. So here is my short story, fueled by my desire to end street harassment:
I live in Queensland, Australia in a respectful, middle-class, and reasonably safe suburb of Brisbane. It is currently 1.26pm on a Tuesday afternoon. I’d say the temperature was a warm 25 degrees Celsius. For this reason, I chose to wear a singlet, shorts, and runners to my morning at university. When I was walking home, an unpleasant thing happened. A car full of young men drove past and yelled out to me. This has happened many times before, which is a sad fact in itself. I’d been previously been yelled to “show us ya tits”, “gimme a piece of that”, or just simply “nice ass”. Each time this has happened it leaves me feeling insecure, unhappy, and a little bit guilty for something. I’ve wondered whether I should dress the way I do, if maybe a longer skirt would have prevented it, or if I’d walked down a side-street instead of the highway things might have been better. But now I’ve realised I shouldn’t have to think these things. I shouldn’t have to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate for sexual harassment.
The big thing is, I’ve never known what to do in these situations. I’m not good at thinking up witty retorts and even if I was, maybe something worse would happen if I yelled back. Its incredibly frustrating to feel so powerless against something you detest. However, I’ve discovered the Hollaback! campaign after being particularly enraged this afternoon.
When a car full of young men drove past me this afternoon, they yelled at me to “get in the car” and drove away laughing. As usual, I didn’t understand the point of this (what did they hope to achieve? Did they think it was funny? Did they actually want me to get in the car and do… what exactly?). But this remark was more offensive than any I had experienced before. This is because abduction, particularly towards young women, is a serious problem and cracking jokes about it is something I just can’t understand or appreciate. I’m sick and tired of being on the receiving end of these comments. If these actions are becoming normalised and accepted as part of everyday life, I won’t be able to feel safe, secure, or happy whenever I leave the house.
The Hollaback! campaign has my full support to end street harassment.
Hopefully one day I can wear a pair of shorts, a singlet, a skirt, or whatever I want without the fear of being harassed. Maybe one day someone will yell to me “I love your dress!”. I’d be ok with that.
These guys on the bus are threatening a young woman on the bus for seemingly no reason.
I studied abroad in Spain last summer (I am originally from the U.S.). While in Segovia, a relatively safe and suburban city, my roommate and I experienced daily street harassment, in the form of a greeting typical to Spain: “Hola, guapa” or “Hello, beautiful”. At the beginning, we found it charming; it was always in the middle of the day, they kept their distance, it was very non-threatening behavior, and it is just a custom of that region. Towards the end of the trip, however, our impressions began to change. We were there during festival seasons, and everyone seemed to be much rowdier. We are both very chesty girls, so that was the focus of all the harassment – once a man came up to us and just said “pechos” (“breasts” – oh, how well spotted). One evening, around 8pm, we were walking down the streets and talking about how we were growing tired of the male behavior (this was just after a man older than our grandfathers passed us on the street and gave us the lingering “up-down” glance while licking his lips). We saw a young man walking towards us with a shit-eating grin on his face, we knew he was going to be inappropriate, so we just ignored him and continued talking to one another. As he got closer, he continued to smile and began gesturing to his chest. In my head I thought “ha-ha yes, we have breasts, thanks for pointing out the obvious”. We were both very pointedly ignoring him, but right as he passed us he said, in English “really big tits” and kept walking. My friend and I both stopped immediately in our tracks and our jaws dropped. We were both so mad we actually could not move for a few moments, by which time he had already moved on. I loved Spain and would go back in a second, but it kills me that this experience, as well as the other street harassment moments are the ones that I remember most vividly.
Was walking to a tram stop at night when someone yelled across the street: “lesbian, I’ll fucking kill you!” I looked back and there was a group of four people, continuing to yell “freak” etc. I felt pretty intimidated and anxious and not in the mood for confrontation so I just walked faster.
When the tram arrived they also got on. I sat a good distance away from them but not far enough to escape hearing their calls to “sit on [their] face” and loud discussion of how they were going to “rape” me. I’d like to say I had a witty comeback but in reality I just felt shite and tried to ignore them til I could get off.
Luckily I have not had to deal with street harassment like I did in my 20’s, but to this day (and I am 50 now) I remember the unreal awful terrifying and constant harassment I faced daily just trying to get to my job. I had just moved to Los Angeles and had to take a bus to downtown and then walk four blocks to my job. Daily I was yelled at followed, called mamma cita, watch men touch themselves….I felt vulnerable and terrified. It never stopped and it was horrific. Back then there were no “purple shirts” which are prevalent now in downtown which are bike security guards, but I really was on my own. I think that harassers need to be arrested because more than likely they have raped someone in their past or present. I think harassment is a sign of potential violence towards women and needs to be considered at least a misdemeanor.
I was walking home from work. It was not even dark outside. A man walking towards me had a shifty look in his eyes. I immediately got a bad feeling but kept walking which was a huge mistake. Right before he got to me he said “nice boobs” and grabbed my chest and ran off like the coward that he is. This was years ago but I never forgot it. Now I am paranoid when I walk down the street even though I don’t live in the same city. I did report it to the police and they accepted the report without fail but they never “caught” the guy. After it happened I ran home and I had this overwhelming feeling of disgust. I wanted to vomit, it made me feel so violated.
I walk the same few blocks in my city almost daily, and had never felt unsafe until a few weeks ago. I was on my normal route, with my music playing in my ears. I keep it low just to be aware of noises around me, which allowed me to hear vague yelling. I pulled one earbud out and looked around. There was a silver sports car with two guys in it right behind me, and the driver was yelling something out of his window. I didn’t hear much except “… fine ass, baby!!” Not knowing what else to do, I put the earbud back in and kept walking. The car then pulled into a driveway a few metres ahead of me. I did not know what to do. I stopped in my tracks, took my earbuds out, and waited for their next move. This was in broad daylight on a fairly busy street! The passenger door opened, and I glanced at the houses around me trying to assess where I could potentially go for safety. Thankfully, a door opened in a house across the street and a man stood on his porch pointedly staring at the car. The driver must have seen the man, as he yelled to the passenger to “get in the car!” The passenger got back in the car and the car sped away. I waved at the man on the porch and continued on my way, albeit with my heart pounding a little harder and a much more wary eye on the street.
I was delighted to hear of your website – what a wonderful idea.
I also thought it would be so freeing to share my stories. Don’t know if they will be very relevant, because it is a collection, but I decided to share anyhow. Keep in mind that I am an ordinary looking girl, quiet and modest in dress and demeanor. I am only reporting incidents that took place in the street or on public transport.
As a child of age 7-8:
• Two boys of about 10-11 followed me home along the road and tried to pull down my pants (I was wearing a dress). My parents later tracked them down and spanked them!!
As a teenager aged 13-16:
• while buying something at a roadside kiosk, a young man behind me reached between my legs;
• when at farmers markets I had men try to put hand on my backside (more than once);
• when walking down the street on my way home after school, a young man blocked my way, and asked where I was going. I said, “home”. He said, “where is home?” I randomly pointed to a stranger’s house across the street and said, “there!” I proceeded to march across the street while the man grabbed and slightly tore a frill on my blouse, and also tried to grab my hair. I opened the garden gate (fortunately unlocked), and walked right into the backyard of the unknown house. The young man finally let go when I pushed inside the gate. A surprised child was playing in the yard, and his kind mother let me call my mom to come get me and drive me home. After hearing the story my mom was very angry and wanted to track down the man who had harassed me, but I was terrified and begged her not to.
As a young adult (‘20s):
• Was flashed when walking the gardens of a public park.
• When riding in crowded tram, standing and holding onto an overhead grip, felt man press his body against mine from behind – uggggghhh! But unable to move because it was so crowded, and I couldn’t clearly see who was doing this. Felt helpless and so angry at that disgusting man.
• When walking through the edge of a public park, a man walking towards me suddenly reached up and put his hands on my breasts as he passed me.
• (This next story has a satisfying ending): I had recently attended a 1 hour self-defense presentation at my workplace, and was reading a book as I rode the subway home (BART). I noticed out of the corner of my eye, that the man seated next to me had put his hand on the seat, and was gradually inching it closer and closer to my leg as I read. I realized he was planning to touch my leg. My first instinct would have been to move, but because of that self-defense presentation, I decided to stay put because to move would be to just give in. I watched the hand s-l-o-w-l-y move closer until finally it brushed against my leg – and at the moment I instantly slapped his hand hard, and loudly said, “Get your hands off me, you creep!!!!!” Then I went back to reading my book (of course, not seeing a word on the page! ) The man pulled his hand back and cowered into the corner of the seat, and said, “Sorry!” I hoped that my response might cause that man to think twice before doing that to another woman.
These incidents seem very minor, but the fact that they stand out so much in my memory shows that sexual harrasment is no joke and truly causes harm.
I was walking down the street on Friday night by myself. I was on my way to a bar to meet my boyfriend and some of his friends. I was dressed like any other college girl would be dressed on a Friday night. I had on a relatively short dress and high heels. Now I’m a strong believer in the idea that what a person is wearing shouldn’t matter and doesn’t mean a woman or a man is asking to be violated. But in this case what I was wearing does have something to do with the verbal assault I endured. The dress I was wearing was black and white with horizontal stripes. As I was walking a man probably in his 50’s made a comment to the group of men he was with about the girl dressed like a referee. I ignored it and started walking faster. The man ran up to me and asked if I was a replacement referee for the football game tomorrow. I politely said no and started walking again. He proceeded to tell me he was joking, probably because he thought I was too dumb to figure it out on my own, and said “You look very pretty, good for you.” As I walked down the street I counted all of the men that said something or looked at my body as I walked past them. I counted at least 10. The street harassment that takes place at Penn State is outrageous and it happens to more women than anyone thinks. Men think its ok to comment on what a woman is wearing or how she looks, and its not. I was disgusted with the men that were commenting on my outfit and my looks, they invaded my personal space and made me feel unsafe. No woman should ever feel like this when walking down the street. The streets should be safe for everyone.
Whenever I go somewhere alone, someone verbally harasses me. They say disgusting things, they honk, they try to start conversation, ask for my number. I am always afraid when I am alone, and I can even tell when someone is contemplating approaching me. I glare or pretend I’m on my phone.