Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
I was fifteen or so when my grandfather died, though I looked more like thirteen. At his wake, which my sister and I attended all that evening, we took a break and walked to the local Dunkin’ Donuts to get a bite to eat with a girlfriend. On the way back, a group of guys (whose faces I couldn’t see in the dark) in huge SUVs honked their horns and wolf-whistled at us. I was absolutely terrified, as this was the first instance of sexual harassment I’d ever experienced. They made comments about our bodies and how “hot” we were, dressed in funeral clothes. I hung my head down and moved faster, trying to avoid causing any “trouble.” I was well-read enough to understand what groups of men + darkness + young girls equaled, even if I hadn’t experienced before or really been talked t about it, and I didn’t want anything like that to happen to me, my sister or my friend. I wish I’d been brave enough at the time to have said something, but I didn’t. We managed to get out of there unmolested, though a few of the guys seemed to have been following us right up to the funeral home. When I told my mother about it, my sister said she was happy that they’d found us attractive, while I just felt ashamed. We’ve both learned our lessons about verbal harassment now and don’t stand for things like this anymore, but sometimes I wish I had a time machine and could go back and tell my younger self to yell at them to back off. Long after that incident, I noticed how many of my male “friends” said similar things under the guise of “compliments.” Now I say what I wished I’d said back then, “Stop commenting about my body and get lost.”
Submitted by Rachel
This was a few years ago when I first moved to NYC. I lived in the East Village was walking to Union Square like I did every morning. A guy walking towards me sidled up beside me as I was walking by and said “I can see your pussy” under his breath and really close to my ear…I was horrified. This never happened to me when I was living in Boston. I was actually shaking after it happened, but I continued on my way. BTW – I was wearing capri pants, a large tank top and sneakers – hardly a revealing outfit. Strangely, the guys that do this to me in Union Square were always sidling up to me and saying “tsst” “tsst” “tsst” – it is so gross. They get so close to you that you FEEL like you’re being assaulted.
Submitted by Alie
It’s 5:15pm on New Year’s Eve. I just get off the subway from work, and I’m walking home. An older man, in his mid 50’s, looks at me and as he passes says: “Oh, she’s got hips on her — don’t let the little (something) fool you.” The man behind him, not sure if they were together, also in his mid 50’s, passes me with his elbow out to the side and says “Hey!” as he jabs me in the shoulder. I turn around, dumbfounded and unable to find words, and give him a dirty look. He says “this is New York!” as I turn the corner.
This encounter was enough to get me looking on Craigslist for a new apartment. I know that street harassment will follow me wherever I go, unfortunately, but it has never been as bad for me as it is where I live now.
Submitted by Diane
A few weeks ago I was sexually assaulted at a company holiday party by someone I regarded as a friend. I was verbally harassed, pinned against a wall and touched inappropriately. When it happened I couldn’t move, I felt so helpless, but whether by my instincts or him releasing me, I got away. I was lucky that it wasn’t worse and have reported the incident to my superior. The issue is now being dealt with by corporate and this guy is suspended and most likely going to be terminated. I’ve also since learned that before me that night, he sexually/verbally harassed at least two other women. This guy is a pig and doesn’t even remember his attack on me, so while he gets to imagine what happened, I have to deal with this bullshit and re-build my confidence.
The day after this happened, I left my apartment once during the day to get soup and bread. I was wearing work out pants and a hoodie; as I was walking down the street, this guy walks by me tells me ‘nice body’. I wanted to scream and scream at him. I have never felt so vulnerable in my life and then I have this guy ‘compliment’ me like I am some piece of meat? It was like adding salt to the wound.
Actions and comments like this need need to be recognized as socially unacceptable and it’s important for women (or anyone!) to speak out against this behavior. No one deserves to be objectified and harassed.
Submitted by Natalie.
It was rather late, I’d say around 1 AM, and I decided to run to the 24 hour bodega around the corner. As I turned the corner I walked by two men, who I noticed were watching me walk by, nothing harmful in that. On my way back from the bodega I noticed that they were still there. As I approached their standing point, I heard one of them say “How about taking some dark chocolate home tonight, baby?” as I walked by them. Well, they were not selling any sort of food items so I realized that this was his pathetic attempt to pick me up. I simply replied “That’s okay, my saltines and orange juice will do” and kept walking.
Do guys really think saying these things to complete strangers will make a woman fall madly in love with them and accept their vulgar invitation? I really don’t understand their thinking.
Submitted by Beth
This happened during my first fall semester at Florida State. My friend and I had gone to Pizza Hut for lunch, right down the street from our apartment. Keep in mind, my friend is Muslim and was dressed in a hijab and in very conservative clothes. I was wearing baggy shorts and an even baggier T-shirt, and I looked like somebody’s baby mama. This older man was just leaving, and he looked at me and my friend like we were two pieces of steak and he hadn’t eaten in days. He offered to pay for our lunch (whoa, big spender). We turned him down and my friend rightfully called him a creep to his face.
Some time later, me and my same friend were going to Taco Bell. There was this big gray van parked out front, and two men old enough to be my father were sitting in it. We passed the car, and the man in the passenger’s seat started yelling, “Ma’am! Ma’am! Excuse me! Come here, ma’am!” I ignored him and went inside, and did not leave until that car was gone. Looking back, I wish I had flicked him off or something, just to let him know that I did not appreciate being treated like a walking vagina.
I have a number of smaller stories, such as a friend of my roommate’s who called me ‘sweet thang,’ and a group of men at my apartment complex who made sure that I heard them compliment my ass. It’s truly disgusting behavior, and I wish that I did not have these stories to tell.
Submitted by Cheri
As a bartender, I am verbally harassed all night every night by men of the lowest common denominator who assume that, because I am standing behind a bar, I am available, interested, easy, slutty, a drunk, would like nothing more than to go home with them at the end of my shift, am interested in hearing their comments about my body, enjoy being called sweetheart, muffin, baby, honey, and other fun names, and really get off on being blatantly mentally undressed by strangers for hours at a time.
When they are inevitably rebuffed, I am called no fun, uptight, stuck up, a bitch, or, if the person is of color, I may even be called a racist. Sometimes people get violent, throw things, make threats at this point, and the police have to be called–and of course, by the time they get there, my assailant is long gone. Many people have told me that I should expect to be the recipient of harassment because of my profession, the clothes I wear, the shape of my body, or for not being “tough enough.”
In actuality I am just a regular woman doing her job who considers verbal harassment a form of violence and intimidation. Lately it’s gotten really bad, not just at work, but at home in my neighborhood, on the train, on the street, wherever. If I am not with my husband–and sometimes even if I am!–it feels like I get harassed non-stop. It’s enough to make me want to leave New York sometimes, which I love.
It’s really hard for me not to internalize. It just bothers me so much. On those days when I’m really upset about it, I come to this site and it makes me feel a hundred times better. Thanks for giving us an outlet for our stories to be heard.
Submitted by Jackie
I was on the LIRR train on my way home from school when a man sat down next to me and began trying to strike up a conversation. I was cordial, but then began ignoring him as he clearly started trying to hit on me. After about 15 minutes, he took his phone out, tried to casually hold it with his right arm (the side next to me), and slanted it up so that it was angled between my legs and up my dress. This all happened in seconds. Then, I heard the distinctive click of a camera sound.
I was stunned, but after a second or two I stood up and immediately started screaming at the man in front of the other passengers. In my shock that something like this had actually happened to me, it was cathartic to stand in front of him and all the other passengers and recount what he had done. I called him a “disgusting pig” and said “how dare you take an upskirt picture of me.” I wanted all the other passengers to know what he did, in hopes that if nothing else, he would be embarrassed by his perverted act.
Being a law student, I knew that immediately I wanted to create a record of what had happened. After I told the person who had taken tickets for my car, and he alerted the conductor (who, in turn, alerted the police), I turned around and walked back towards the man. He had plugged in his phone to charge it and while he was talking on it I held up my phone and took two pictures of him, while saying “how do you like having your picture taken.”
Although he got off the train at the next stop, I gave the police his pictures and all the information the man had volunteered when he was trying to hit on me on the train. He gave me his nickname (Alejandro) and his Myspace name. I also had gotten contact information from a man sitting in front of me who had witnessed the incident.
Two days later, I took the morning train out of Jamaica on the Ronkonkoma line. A few stops before I got off, Alejandro, the SAME man who had taken a picture up my dress, came up to me and sat down right across from me. Instantly, I was fearful and started looking around to see my options if I had to get away from him or if I needed to alert someone. Remarkably, he didn’t seem to recognize me at all.
I took advantage of this, and when he hit on me, using all the same lines as he had before, I played into it. I kept my head to the side so he could only see my profile and kept my sunglasses on, in case he suddenly had a flash of recognition. I found out his full name, his job, where he lived, and his phone number. I told him fake details about my life when he asked and stared at his phone every time he took it out so that I could give the police its exact details.
When I got off the train, I immediately contacted the detective the police department had put me in touch with and gave him all the information.
I ended up setting up a fake “date” with the man and the detectives I worked with were able to catch him. He had 17 prior convictions on his record, ranging from more benign crimes to violent ones. He also had a warrant out because he had skipped out on his probation meeting. I cooperated with the Assistant District Attorney and told my story to aid in his conviction of “Unlawful Surveillance.”
Women should feel that they have the right and ability to embarrass their harassers; but, it’s also important to follow through and report the incident with the police. Use your words, use your cameras, and use your ability to share your stories.
Submitted by Emily
I had finished work early and was heading to the public library to return a book. I was walking along Cambridge Street, listening to my iPod quite loudly to drown out the sound of the cars. A man (probably late teens/early 20s) walked by me. Because my music was so loud, it was like a whisper, but I could hear him say something along the lines of “You’re beautiful.” It took a few seconds for me to process what happened, and normally in this kind of situation I would just tell him to “fuck off.”
But I decide to try something different. I stopped and turn around. He must have realized that I’d stopped, as he also turned around, and I said, “Does that ever work for you?”
He’s asking how what he said was so wrong, that it was a compliment. I told him that I’m a complete stranger walking along the street, listening to my iPod. He said, “Yeah, I saw you with your music. I can’t believe you even heard me,” and I said, “Well, I did, and I don’t need you to compliment me. That’s not why I exist.”
He said that he didn’t mean to offend me, and that he’s sorry if he did. I told him that I appreciate that he’s sorry, but I’m trying to let him know that, even though he didn’t mean to be offensive, many women (including me) do take it that way, so he should watch what he says from now on. He slinks away and says again that he’s sorry that I was offended (which is still missing the point, but it’s a start).
I then walked away feeling like maybe I had overreacted. Even writing this now, I still kind of feel that way. But at the same time I’m thinking, if you know I couldn’t hear you, why were you saying it out loud? To prove something to yourself? Hopefully next time he’s tempted to say something similar to a stranger, he’ll think about it more.
Submitted by G.