Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Denver, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Lubbock TX, Manhattan KS, Muncie IN, New Orleans, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Fernando Valley, San Francisco, SUNY Oneonta, Tucson, Twin Cities
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.
The first time I remember being harassed was when I was about 12 years old. I was walking along 7th avenue in Brooklyn, NY and a man yelled at me that he would love to pop my cherry. I was with my mother at the time and she reassured me that the harassment was not personal, elaborating that even my grandmother gets yelled at. Though she did not encourage me to confront the man or speak up for myself it was immensely helpful that she told me not to internalize it. I continue to wear whatever I want even though I now live in an area of the city where I regularly get commented on 2 to 6 times during my five block walk to the subway each day.
I feel very privileged to live in a city that holla’s back. The October hearings against street harassment were inspirational regardless of the public backlash. Especially in my neighborhood I regularly see sassy badassy women delivering loud retorts to men who comment on their bodies. Seeing other women speak up gives me the courage to do it too. What really gives me hope is the idea that very young girls will follow our example and no young girl will ever have to bear street harassment is silence if she does not want to.
This idea that women of all ages can start a movement and impress upon very young girls just what it can mean to be a woman has started to guide me more and more in my actions. Recently a group of five female public health students at Hunter College (including myself) made a short film following young women activists who are leading actions to combat the sexualization of women in media and on the streets. These young women work with organizations such as The Line, Hollaback, Hardy Girls Healthy Women, About-Face, and SPARK and are doing great work; I recommend that anyone interested in issues of objectification, sexualization, and harassment check them out!
Submitted by Rebecca Pisciotta
On the way home from a camping trip last summer my boyfriend and I stopped at his work so he could pick up his pay check. We parked way in the back of the parking lot, and I got out of the car to stretch my legs. This guy ran up to me and asked me for my number, and of course I said no. He motioned to a group of guys standing around a car a distance away and said his friends didn’t think he was “fresh enough” to get my number and he wanted to prove them wrong. I said, “You’re NOT fresh enough, and my boyfriend is coming back any minute so just leave me alone.” But he kept hounding me. He even said I could write a fake number to show his friends, so in order to get rid of him, I did. I regret not making more of a scene- yelling really loud to embarrass him in front of his friends, or writing 1-800-fuck-you as my “phone number.” This encounter didn’t make me feel threatened, just annoyed that I was forced into being a pawn in their little dick-measuring contest. Submitted by Brittany
We got on the N Judah MUNI line at around 7:00PM. The woman sat in front of me. The harasser sat across from the woman. He started to verbally harass her immediately and another woman beside him. The second women got off the train immediately.
The woman ignored him at first then made a comment in hopes of him stopping. I did not hear her exactly but she politely said no to his request. He called her a racist and other words when she did not respond favorably. He continued, NON-STOP telling her how pretty she is, then giving her the finger, and saying rude comments. Sticking his hand in her face and against her wishes taking her picture with his cell phone. Much of this happened very quickly.
Mind you this train is packed full of mostly people in business attire going home from work. Most were men. Several much bigger than the harasser and in a perfect position to assist the woman.
The woman beside me spoke up first. She asked him to leave her alone. The guy turned on her and said a few rude things then returned his attention to the first girl. A minute or two went by and the guy gets more agitated and verbal. Several times I though he was going to actually physically assault her. Then I spoke out to the entire group of men around us. That there must not be any men with any balls on this train to say anything. Not a SINGLE one of them even tried to help that woman. they simply watched the guy verbally harass and stick his hands and camera phone in her face.
“I said there must not be a single man on this train” rather loudly to the woman that had confronted the guy. The guys in the seat right beside the woman and her “attacker” turned and gave ME the dirty look and then continued to ignore the situation.
While the guy was still for a few seconds I took his picture. The girl very quickly exited the train I made sure he was not going to follower before exiting myself. As the train sat there I went up to him and took a picture as he looked right at me. Just as he had done that girl. I should have done more.
NOT a SINGLE man on that train lifted so much as a finger.
I discussed reporting it to another passenger. They said the MUNI security would do nothing and likely would not even care. I have only been in this city 9 months. I have been verbally harassed before and did stand up for myself. It is freaking scary since you do not know if the people around you will even bother to help. Likely they wont from my experience.
The picture is of the guy, in a red jacket, who was harassing the other woman. I have a second picture but not as clear of him looking directly into my camera. I got home still shaking and disgusted.
Submitted by Nichole
I went to Walmart to get pajamas for my daughter. This guy came up to me and said “Can I holla at you?”. I thought he wanted to know the time or some money. I couldn’t understand him cuz he looked high. I turned around to walk away. Then he ran up behind me and started grinding into my butt. I turned around to punch him and he disappeared. I told an employee. He said “Oh. He’s been doing that here for awhile”. He told me he would look for him and tell security. He came back and said “We can’t find him”. I ran around the store and found him. They didn’t do anything about it.
Submitted by Lisa
This was about 7 years ago when I was working at a small gas station. I worked 2nd shift, so I was all by myself and would have to close the store at midnight. I had plenty of winners show up, like the old man who snuck up behind me as I was refilling the sodas one night, ran his hands up my thighs and told me I had sexy legs, and the hundreds of men asking rude questions about my “big tits,” but the worst was this guy who kept coming into the store every night for hours on end to bother me. He hit on me constantly and demanded to know if I had a boyfriend or any tattoos (he didn’t want me getting any tattoos because it would mess up my “beautiful body”). If another male customer came into the store he would glare at them in a hostile manner, to the point where some of them would ask me if I wanted them to call the cops, who never did anything. Every time I tried to kick him out of the store he wouldn’t leave. One night he hung around past closing time and when I told him to leave he became angry and told me “I know where all the cameras in this store are and I could take you in the back room and do whatever I wanted with you.” This scared the crap out of me. Just then a car pulled up to the door and before I could react the guy was screaming, “We’re closed!” and waving his hands around, so the car drove off. I called the cops and as usual they laughed off my story about his threats, acted all buddy-buddy with him, and offered to give him a ride home. I put in my notice after that. Thankfully this loser lived in town and only rode a bicycle, so he was never able to follow me home to the boondocks in my car.
Submitted by Brittany
I was a crew-member on a cargo aircraft. We had just arrived at our Honolulu hotel at 3am, and I was hot, tired, dirty, and pissed off because I had just started my period. I didn’t have any tampons or pads, so at 3 am, I had to walk 3 blocks down the street to a 7-11. Rather than take a shower and dress nicely, I just pulled on a pair of jeans, sandals and the dirty, smelly t-shirt I had been wearing under my uniform. As I passed the first cross street, I saw police tape blocking off the street, and a body, covered with yellow plastic, lying in the middle of the street. I have no idea what happened, but the cops were all over that block. I continued toward the second cross street when I saw several people waiting at a bus stop. One guy, sitting on a wall, made the “Hey Baby!” attempt on me, but I was on a mission to get tampons. The 7-11 was in the middle of the third block. I got my tampons and some chocolate, and headed back. As I passed the bus stop, Romeo hopped down from the wall he was sitting on and fell into step beside me. “Hey baby….how ya d…..” was as far as he got. He made the mistake, the BIG mistake, of putting his hand on my elbow, as though he were escorting me somewhere. I totally freaked out. I started screaming at him, “Get your Fu**ing hand off of me! Who the Hell do you thing you are!! I’m not your Fu**ing BABY!! Do I look like one of your Fu**ing whores? What the hell is your Fu**ing problem. Get away from me or I’m going to kick your balls so far up your ass, you’ll have to cough to masturbate!!” I swear, those were my exact words! I have a very loud voice which the guys I work with will attest to. No one has any trouble hearing me. As I yelled those words at this cretin, I was advancing on him like I was ready to kill him. I was. He, seeing the danger he was in, held up both hands in front of him, and as he was back-pedaling, said something to the effect of ” I just wanted to know when the bus was leaving!” At full volume, (loud enough to strip paint!), I told him “Look at the Fu**ing schedule, Ass Hole!” I then took my tampons, and resumed my walk to the hotel. As I crossed the last (cordoned off) street, I started to laugh. The look on that idiot’s face was hilarious! And I could only imagine what those cops would have thought if they had had to pull me off this guy. I laughed all the way up to my hotel room. When I saw myself in the mirror, I laughed even harder! I was so dirty and greasy, he must have thought I was a waif. I’ve never forgotten this.
Submitted by Chris