Verbal

Sometimes, no where is safe: One man’s story of street harasssment

Although our site focuses on women and LGBTQ folks experiences of street harassment, the reverberations of street harassment impact us all. Hollaback! was co-founded by three men (and four women) and over the years we have seen some tremendous contributions to the movement on behalf of men. This is one of them.

My name is Tom; I am 30 and a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. I grew up in Phoenix and have been stationed in Texas, Utah, and New Mexico. I have had a few uncomfortable confirmations with strangers over the years, but nothing like what you see on this site, until…

My boss and I went to a conference in Reston VA, a small suburb of Washington D.C. The conference lasted only two days, so we had one night to see the town and enjoy ourselves. The only thing to see in Reston is the Town Center; a nice, but small, outdoor shopping/commercial district.

After dinner and a little shopping, I recommended that we find a grocery store so we could buy a few snacks and some bottled water. We walked about 1 mile north of the Town Center to the nearest Harris Teeter’s. On the way we took some shortcuts through bushes and side streets. My boss said that she was worried because there was no one around and it was late at night in strange city.

I told her that of all the places I had been, sober or drunk, I had never felt safer. We did our shopping at the grocery store. It was one of the nicest grocery stores I have been to, by south Texas standards, and I felt completely safe waiting out front for the hotel shuttle.

Everyone we had seen up until this point had been well dressed and friendly. While we were waiting in front of the grocery store, a man between 25 and 35, wearing dirty clothes and a two day old bread walked by us and said “hey beautiful!” to my boss.

While she is one of the nicest and open people I have ever met, she is very uncomfortable around strangers. I could feel her awkwardness. We said nothing. As he continued to walk towards the store entrance he said “What, too good to talk to me?”

At this point I was a little shaken, but the incident seemed to be over, so we continued to wait for the hotel shuttle. About 15 minutes later he came back out of the grocery store with a 12 pack of beer in a bag.

I am 6’ 3” and 260 lbs, people rarely mess with me; but I hate confrontation, and I am terrified of strangers. When I saw him coming towards us I was afraid he would say something else. As he started walking by us he turned towards my boss and said “Hi, I’m Bill” and held out his hand towards my boss. She looked away and I said “We don’t want any trouble, please keep walking”. He said “I just want to say hi, who are you, her boyfriend?” He was not being friendly. I did not know what to do.

I felt that, as the man, I had to defend my boss. I know that sounds sexist, and until that moment I had never thought that way. I knew she was as scared as I was and I felt a sudden need to protect her.

Directly to our right was a large pet shop. I said: “look we’ll just go in here and wait until our bus comes” pointing towards the pet shop. As we started to get our bags together to walk inside, he backed off and just walked away.

I have told this story many times, and it always gets a lot of laughs because just minutes after I say “this is the safest place I have been, nothing will happen to us” we have a confrontation.

This was 2 years ago, and I have always felt ashamed that I did not stand up enough for myself and my boss. I feel that I backed down when I should have been in his face, and threatened to kick his ass. I am much bigger than he was and could have easily taken him, but that is just not who I am. In the end, nothing happened and I should be proud, but still I am ashamed because I let him make me feel fear.

Submitted by Tom

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Verbal

"Ignore it:" The world’s worst street harassment advice

I live in Richmond,Indiana. My name is Shannon Harding and people in cars love to shout,honk and even pretend to try to hit me with cars a couple of times.

I already have an anxiety disorder and this treatment is just causing me to feel lots of anxiety and anger.

Just yesterday, I was walking to the corner convenience store. A guy leans out a white truck and yells “I want to kiss you on your ****”(I didn’t hear the last word)

I flipped him off.

The vehicles mostly drive so fast I can’t get license numbers or anything else. I do not dress in a way that could be rationalized as ‘the reason to yell’ I often wear glasses and no make-up. I don’t know what to do- I keep being told to ‘Ignore it’

Yet the whole situation is just causing me so much stress and anger.

Submitted by Shannon

one comment 
Verbal

Stop Street Harassment. Starting now.

I was actually harassed moments after leaving tonight’s book release on “Stop Street Harassment”. It was the strangest thing it was almost as if the whole thing was planned as an ironic joke or something. But I guess I was so angry after the talk that before this guy even finished his sentence I flipped out on him! I saw him leering a me as he was walking towards me and he started to say “Damn baby, you look….” I just lost it. The thing is that I have always had a mixed bag of reactions when dealing with this sort of thing, some of the time I would say something but most of the time I would say nothing and just let it happen to me. It was invigorating to put that guy in his place, especially since I could see that he honestly didn’t expect it! He was with two other guys who said nothing during the whole exchange which may have proven to have humiliated him in front of his friends. I hope this story inspires all women or rather all victims of street harassment to stand up for themselves whenever it is safe for them to do so and to never miss that opportunity. Tonight I was glad that I didn’t.

Submitted by Esmeralda

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Esmeralda and everyone else who came to the “Stop Street Harassment” book launch last night! It was great to see so many people there, and a big congratulations to Holly on this important contribution to the movement!

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Nonverbal Harassment, Verbal

ON-THE-JOB: How to tackle drive-by harassment

I have a trick for you. Get a camcorder (I got a handheld mino camcorder) and when someone who is ON THE JOB, especially if it’s “drive by harassment” and they’re driving a company vehicle, take down the name (if possible) and license plate (definitely a must!) and report them! I have done it so many times (Well, not that many, lol) that I’ve gotten rid of some bad apples. Hell, the threat alone will scare them. AlSO, ALWAYS have a recording device. I do, and it scares them faster than a gun (especially if they’re job is on the line or they’re driving) I don’t know if it will work in NY, but I know it works in Cali like a charm and better than any gun or pepper spray! Below is my street harassment report by an employee and how I’m handling it.

Dear Sir or Madam:

I want to report sexual harassment and outrageous behavior by your employee, G***, while on the job. On September 1, 2010, between the hours of 6:48 pm and 7pm, I was driving down Whilshire, away from Santa Monica and headed towards Beverly Hills when I noticed that your employee, took my picture, while he was driving. I inquired G*** as to whether he did it or not. He proudly said, “Yes, I did take your picture,” with glee. When I started recording him, that is when he took off. I was able to get a pic of him and of his license plate, a Virginia license plate. I feel strongly that what he did was not only morally and ethically wrong and reflects badly of your company, but reflects an absolute disrespect for women and a perverted, predatory attitude towards us. Who knows how many women he has done this to as well as what he is doing with those pictures. Based on how G*** proudly proclaimed that he did it, it’s obvious that he has done this predatory behavior in the past and has gotten away with it, which is why he felt so comfortable admitting to this. Women are not objects and I want to see Gene strongly reprimanded so that he won’t do this behavior again or else the next time he does this, instead of the next victim reporting it, they’ll decide to sue. In attachments are two stills from the video I took. My name is Raven Williams and my phone number is (witheld). Thank you for taking the time out to read my complaint and please take this matter fastidiously.

Submitted by Raven Williams

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Verbal

Street harassment teaches us to be silent. I refuse to listen.

I thought I’d submit this because it happened a few days ago and I’m still pissed off about it. I wish I knew what I could have done to make it better. I don’t know if you’ll be able to use this or not, but here goes.

My three roommates and I are coming back from a wonderful late dinner. We’re all girls in our early twenties. I keep writing defensive sentences about our appearance (“we weren’t dressed as clubgoers, we’re all pretty average schlumpy nerds actually”) and I really hate that I feel the need to do that, but anyway. As one of us is getting out her keys to get into the building, some scrawny young dude in a white t-shirt walks up to us, alone. “Hey. Hey. Hi. Hi. Hello, girls. Hi.”

There goes the residual happiness from our awesome dinner out! We all do the classic ‘oh fuck’ maneuver of putting our heads down, turning away, ignoring every word and hoping the unwanted stranger goes away. A sick feeling of tension spreads through the group because we are awkward and afraid. I get so ANGRY, though. I am FURIOUS. If we’d had even one guy with us, I bet this scrawny fuck wouldn’t be talking shit because he’d be scared, but a group of four girls is nothing, right? (Even though we could so take him. I bet we could so take him.) But to him we’re nothing, and the fact that there is zero conceivable reason that four young women would want to communicate with some random strange guy at midnight on the Upper East Side just hasn’t penetrated this fellow’s thick cranium. What the hell doesn’t he get? Why does he think this is okay? Does he get off on knowing he frightens and alarms us? (Yeah, probably.)

And this always happens. You always shut up because you don’t want to say anything just in case you’re talking to some crazy dangerous guy who’ll flip out. You don’t want to cause a scene, you don’t want to embarrass anybody, you don’t want your attempt at defending yourself to backfire. You want to close your eyes and for the issue to go away and then later you think, “I wish I would have said something. I could have said something.”

Well FUCK THAT. I’m so SICK of shutting up all the time, and I want him to know that his actions are bloody unwelcome, so I DO say something. “It is midnight, and we are trying to get into our apartment. Nobody wants to talk to you. Go away,” I snap at him furiously. My friends are all still quiet as the one roommate fumbles her keys in her nervousness. No one backs me up.

“Aw, now how you gonna talk to me like that? What if I was crazy and had a gun or a knife? What if I was one of them crazy guys that would just go all crazy on you?”

So many responses spring to mind (“Yeah, you wanna be crazy around the corner from a packed bar? You wanna act crazy in the middle of the street? You wanna watch me dial three crazy numbers on my crazy cell phone, idiot? Yeah, if you had that shit, wouldn’t you have used it by now?”), but the tension is so thick and sour in my throat. I don’t want to give credence to this fool’s statement by engaging him in conversation. He isn’t worth any of my time. He’s obviously not there for any reasonable reason. No debate will register with this one, no argument will work. I don’t want to act sweet or nice. I want to be that one mean-faced Bronx bitch you don’t fuck with ’cause she’s obviously crazy (read: can and will defend herself). But the roommate finally gets the keys to work, and we pile inside, shutting the door behind his insipid questions and implicit threats.

None of us bring this up ever again. It was our last night at the apartment, by the way, and our last dinner as a group, because the lease expired and we were going our separate ways. And it was one of the girl’s birthdays, to boot. She turned 20. I still wish I could have said or done something that shut his cravenly, smug face up and make him rethink EVER harassing ANY female EVER again. FUCK him.

Submitted by Nathalie

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Verbal

Minding my own business

I was walking to the office, minding my own business, and two guys from the other side of the street look at me. One of them yells, “Hey there lady!”

They were out of sight by the time I pulled out my camera.

Submitted by K.
Atlanta, GA

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Verbal

Have some respect!

This happened to me when I went high school on the lower east side. I must have been about 13 or 14 and had a habit of wearing very short skirts to school with some striped or sparkly stockings and a t-shirt. At school, it didn’t seem like a big deal because many students wore crazy outfits and I always felt confident and happy in my ensembles. One day after school I was walking along 14th street around 6th avenue in an extremely short denim skirt. It’s not a skirt I would ever wear now, but at the time my pre-pubescent stick like body made the skirt more fashionable than sexy. Or so I thought. This tall man came right up to me as I walked past him and whispered very softly in my ear, “I like your skirt.” It was so quiet and abrupt and awful. It made me feel disgusting and sad. How had he gotten close enough to whisper in my ear? I hadn’t given the skirt a second thought and all of a sudden it felt dirty. That experience scarred me for a long time. I don’t remember exactly, but I doubt I wore that skirt again. Whispering dirty comments to a 13 year old on the street, good job street harasser!

Another point I wanted to mention is that although I only get harassed occasionally, seeing the women around get harassed perpetually makes me so angry. I often can’t contain myself and end up flipping them the bird or saying something like, “Have some respect!”. I always feel bad about flipping the bird, but the, “Have some respect!” line seems to make me feel better.

Submitted by Eve

one comment 
Verbal

"Want some dick?"

I was walking to my office when I passed a man sitting on the side of a pedestrian bridge. He seemed to be talking to himself. Then as soon as I passed, he said, “Want some dick?” I ignored him and kept walking, then he got louder: “Come on!” The further I walked, the less I heard, but he didn’t stop.

I filed a police report.

Submitted by K.
Atlanta, GA

no comments 
Verbal

3 beeps, you’re a turd.

The other night I was walking into town and got beeped at 3 times within the space of a few seconds, one of them shouting out ‘YOU’RE GETTING FUCKED UP THE ASS TONIGHT!’

I actually burst into tears of anger.

Submitted by Nicky

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flashing, Verbal

From "looking good" to "ugly bitch" to "I’m going to fuck that bitch in the face": Street Harassment Escalates

I’ve been reading Hollaback and I’ve been holla-ing back daily at harassers for over a year now, but this is the first time I’ve written to tell my own experience.

Every morning on my way to work, I cut through the J. Hood Wright park on 173rd and Haven Ave to walk up to the GW Bridge to catch the bus. This morning, I was walking to work minding my own business through a mostly empty park, when two jerks sitting on a bench started yelling at me, “Hey baby, lookin good this morning” (or something to that effect). Without stopping, I shouted, “Don’t call me baby, asshole,” and continued walking through the park. The guys then started screaming things back at me such as, “You ugly bitch, fuck you! You need to go get fucked you stupid fucking bitch!” I never turned around, but gave it right back to them as I kept walking, telling them to F off.

I was coming home from work at 5PM, and I saw a large group of guys sitting on the same bench. Since I had never turned around this morning to look at the jerks, I couldn’t tell if they were the same guys. I was really, really hoping that they hadn’t actually sat on the bench all day, waiting for me to come back. But when I walked by, I heard one say, “I’m gonna fuck that bitch in the face,” but again I was just hoping they weren’t referring to me. Then after I left the park and was walking down 173rd street, I hear, “Hey bitch!” behind me. I turned around and this guy had followed me out of the park and was yelling, “Fuck you, bitch! If you ever disrespect me and my friend again, I’m gonna fuck you up!” I walked right up to him and took the photo below with my camera (sorry such bad quality – I have a really old phone so I had to take a picture of my phone with my boyfriend’s iPhone to get it on my computer). He then proceeded to say “Oh yeah? Why don’t you take a picture of this, bitch?” at which point he pulled his pants down, bent over, and mooned me.

At this point, I was beyond furious. I was so disgusted, I actually thought I might vomit. I had luckily seen a police van across the street, so I walked as fast as I could to get them. There were 3 cops (2 women and 1 man), who told me to get in the van, and drove me back to the park. We walked past the bench and around the area a little, but of course, the asshole was nowhere to be found. The cops were so amazingly understanding – they even drove me around the neighborhood for about 15 minutes looking for him. They told me if I saw him again, I could call 911 and he would be arrested. They drove me back to my apartment a few blocks away, and even walked me inside my building. I’m so thankful that they took me seriously and made sure I got home safely.

This experience today has left me very shaken up. Even though I know I can get him arrested if I see him, what if I don’t have that chance? What if he attacks me first? Street harassment is absolutely about exerting power over people. When I denied his advances this morning, this guy felt the need to wait for me all day long so that he could make sure I knew that he still had control over me. I can only hope that if his friends tell him that I came back to the park with the police, he will be scared enough not to mess with me again, instead of pissed off enough to mess with me even more.

Thank you so much, Hollaback, for providing this forum for us to tell our stories.

Submitted by Marianne

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