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I recently moved to San Francisco for a summer internship. In the 10 days that I’ve been here, I’ve experienced catcalling and other forms of verbal street harassment (from strangers intentionally blocking my way as I’m walking and creepily saying “hello” to making ominously threatening comments about me) on 5 different occasions. That’s every other day. Each time, it triggers memories of my prior experiences with sexual violence and reminds me that I am constantly at risk of experiencing such violence again.
Just today, I began to notice all of the subconscious ways I’ve been responding to this harassment. I look down to avoid all eye contact with passersby (hoping to go unnoticed), remind myself to walk and stand in aggressive ways (in attempts to appear strong), stand near the exit on public transportation (so I can easily escape if I need to) – and that’s just during the day. If the sun has set and I’m alone, I stay in my apartment. Period.
The way that street harassment polices the bodies, actions, and lives of women and many other marginalized populations is unacceptable. I shouldn’t have to feel scared, tense, or anxious about walking out my front door. These are my streets too.
I was walking down St. George’s Rd to ASDA near the train line. A maroon car drove past and the driver pressed his horn, leaned out of the window, and yelled, “Get your tits out sexy.” I was disgusted. I know it’s no excuse but if the guy had been young I’d have brushed it off as someone trying to show off. This guy was middle aged he should have known better than to victimize a teenage girl walking down the street alone.
I was recently sitting and waiting for the bus with no one else near me at midday, although the street was very busy. What appeared to be four young men, maybe late teens early twenties, sporting baseball caps, pulled up by the bus stop in their car and began yelling and laughing at me. I had my headphones in and did not remove them. I gave them a stern look, to show I acknowledged and was rejecting their harassment, then turned to look at my phone again. They continued yelling things at me (and I mean yelling) for a few minutes before finally driving off. I was spared from hearing what they were saying because I turned my music up so that I couldn’t hear it. I’m harassed too often and will avoid hearing the vulgar comments if I can. I wish I’d caught the plate numbers. I had no idea a resource like this for harassment existed, and my city should certainly get involved.
Since January, these two boys from my grade (6th!), who walk home the same route I do, have been making comments about my “fat, juicy ass.” And in April it got even worse. They started having loud conversations about how they were going to rape me or how they were gonna put there “spout up my c**t” I’m no longer the cheerful girl I once was. Thanks to two 12 year old douchebags who love to street harass.
Last night, while I was going back home with my best friend (who’s also a woman), some guy asked us if we’d like to come party with them. My best friend said no, yet they kept on insisting, so I told them simply “no thank you.” Right after I said the guy told me to shut the fuck up, that I was probably some fucking racist, and that I looked ugly. When I asked him what was the point of disrespecting me this way while I did nothing but remain polite he started calling me a slut, a bitch, a whore, a loser etc. And then he started threatening to beat me and spill his glass of beer on me, saying that I deserved to have his glass of beer thrown at my face and that he wanted to spit on me. Luckily my best friend didn’t get scared and managed to calm him down. Now I’m scared to walk out at night alone and get attacked, beaten for no reason.
I was walking at Northgate Mall to meet a friend for lunch. A guy stepped close to me and said, “Hey, be easy!” I stopped him and asked him to repeat himself. He did. I said, “Don’t approach women like that, you don’t know what’s going on in my life, don’t do that”. He apologized and I thanked him.
So I am a 13 year old girl and have had to walk 1.6 miles to my middle school all year. I had people honking at me and shouting out of their cars every day, and it made me feel absolutely disgusting. A little while ago a man on the sidewalk asked me where I lived, and when I ignored him, he tried to grab me. I ran to my house and called the police who, after picking him up, dropped him back off saying he was just drunk and “didn’t cause any actual harm.” However, I am now extremely paranoid and petrified that he knows which house I ran in to.
I was biking to yoga at 5:30 am and was closely trailed for a long block by a male cyclist who was verbally harassing me.
I was 7 months pregnant and jogging to the corner store to get a snack. A man on the street said: “Damn girl, you in shape.”
I ignored him and kept jogging.
“You pregnant?” he asked.
I responded, “Yup!” mainly because I thought that once he realized I was pregnant, he might leave me alone.
“Is this your first baby?” he asked.
I said, “Yup!”
“Want to have another one later?”
I was standing on the corner waiting for a cab with my boyfriend and 5 of our friends. It was near several bars, and the streets were crowded. A woman was on the same corner saying goodnight to the man she was out with. He hopped in a cab and kept leaning out the window trying to persuade her to get in the cab, but she said no many times. As the cab sat at the stop sign, another man stopped in the middle of the street and started whistling and hollering at the woman. He made it clear that he was trying to provoke the man in the cab, who wasn’t paying attention. I watched and even said to my friends, “Hey look, that guy is so gross, I hate when that happens,” but I never said anything to her and the man.
After a few seconds the whistler got bored and walked on. She waved at the man in the cab and said never mind I’ll go with you. It took me a few minutes to get it, and then I felt terrible. I know what it is like to leave with someone you are uncomfortable with because it seems like the safer option. I backed away from my friends and sat down on a bench a few feet away. Immediately a large, intoxicated man sat down next to me.
I scooted to the edge of the bench. He scooted close enough that our legs and thighs were touching and began asking me all the usual questions. The only response I gave was “I’m waiting for a cab with my friends, my friends are right there.” He did the usual “That’s not your name, you’re pretty, smoke this cigarette, why are you being a bitch?” I didn’t get up, I didn’t call over my friend or boyfriend who had their backs turned. I think part of me didn’t want them to make a scene and embarrass me or make it worse. I just looked at my phone and at his friends staring at us. Finally I stood up. I hate that I didn’t think fast enough to stick up for that girl. I hate that I was too shy to stick up for myself. I hate that this happens every freaking day and it has taken me so many years to want to work on it. I’m working on it. Let’s all work on it for each other.