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So me and a friend of mine are walking through downtown Portland Oregon to the mall to get some Christmas shopping done. As we’re crossing the street, a man comes up to me and my friend and starts screaming 6 inches from our faces
“I WANT TO F*CK YOU, F*CK ME RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW MAKE LOVE TO ME”
After being startled half to death I finally worked up the courage to scream right back, “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM US BEFORE I BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU!!” He didn’t back off so we shoved our way through and kept walking.
What bothers me the most was that there were 20 or 30 people around us at the pioneer courthouse square and not ONE person did anything or asked us if we were okay.
This is only one of numerous times ive been harassed on my way to work/class/at work.
I cant shake the feeling these encounters gives me. Something has got to be done.
There have been so many times throughout my life that I’ve experienced street harassment without even realizing what it truly was. Like many women, it began around the time I reached adolescence and has only gotten worse. Unfortunately, I have too many stories to share here at once, but there is one from several years ago that still sticks out in my mind like it was yesterday, and probably always will.
I had just turned 16 and gotten my first job hostessing at a restaurant in the small town I lived in. One spring afternoon, a friend from work and I decided to go shopping at an outdoor plaza and take a walk around the park across from it. We went in and out of a few stores, having a nice time. My friend needed to make a quick stop at a store in the plaza and since I didn’t need to go in that store I told her that I’d walk across the street to the park to get some ice cream and we agreed to meet back up by the ice cream stand in a few minutes.
I did just that, but the line for ice cream was short and my friend was no-where to be seen. I sat on a bench in the park and ate my ice cream out of a little cup, waiting and watching the few people there walking around the track. I pitched my empty cup in the garbage bin beside the bench and that’s when I saw him: an elderly man, perhaps 70 or 75 years old, walking a bicycle, overtly staring at me and making a beeline in my direction. I didn’t pay him much heed until he came to a halt right in front of me. I looked up, confused, and he said, “Sure is a lovely day, isn’t it?” I replied that it was. He then backed up a bit so he and his bike were close beside me and I was beginning to feel that intuitive prickling sensation we all experience as a primitive warning system, but try to ignore. He said, “What’s a pretty girl like you doing alone in the park?” He leaned closer to me. I had been sexually assaulted less than a year before and was still slightly skittish around strange men approaching me. I tensed and began feeling like a cornered animal, prey; his body and bicycle were blocking my most immediate exit. I tried to think of an appropriate response that might discourage him. “I’m waiting for my boyfriend,” I said. “He’s just on the other side of the park.” I thought that may be enough, but it only gave him more to question me with. “Do you like to have fun with him? I don’t think there’s nothin’ wrong with two adults having fun.” I knew what he was implying and I knew there was no way he thought I was older than I was, let alone an adult. With my tiny frame and still slightly child-like face, I was often mistaken as being even younger than I was. ‘Is he a pedophile?’ I thought, and it alarmed me even further. I smiled sheepishly, uncomfortably, hoping he wouldn’t sense my unease and prey on it like a canine when it smells fear.
“So you like to have fun? I live around here, I just got this real nice place. We could walk over there if you wanna. We’ll have fun.” He smiled. Creepy. His words themselves were innocuous but the implied meaning was clear. I looked around as discreetly as I could, hoping to see my friend or another person, anyone, nearby. I didn’t, but I wanted away from him right then. “Oh look, there comes my boyfriend!” I stood up abruptly, causing him to stagger backward a step, and power-walked with no real destination in my mind; just away from him. He got on his bike and rode out of the park.
I crossed the street, heading to the store my friend was in just as she came out of the door. I called her name and she must have seen something in my eyes I was unaware of because she sounded alarmed when she asked, “What’s wrong?!”
I relayed my experience to her and we got in her car. She was determined to find the man and we circled every block in the vicinity, but we never saw him. Although the panic I felt was nearly gone, adrenaline was still pumping through my veins, and I was shaken. I told her I just wanted to go home. As I was getting out at my house, I sincerely thanked her for her concern and efforts in trying to find the man.
Only when I was alone in my bedroom at last did I allow the tears to flow unbidden. I felt ashamed, scared, powerless, sullied, but most of all I felt angry. Angry not only at this one creep, but for all the women who have to live with men like him and their lecherous glances and words that poison innocence. I was angry with myself for not standing up, not reporting him right then because I realized that with the confidence and persuasion he exuded towards me, he must have done this before and will undoubtedly do it again, perhaps to an even younger or more naive girl who will follow him home.
I realized I needed to take a stand, and I have. Not only for myself, but for every person who has ever experienced sexual harassment. I’m so thankful for organizations like Ihollaback for raising awareness for something so vitally important. From me, and I’m sure from women everywhere, thank you for showing us we have the strength to holla back!
Once when I was 16 I walked down the road i live on to do my volunteering at a thrift shop. I approached an intersection when a man in a van began to harass me. He honked repeatedly as I crossed the street. Once I crossed,and the light had gone green he made a turn and began driving and honking alongside where i was walking. I just walked to the shop and did my work. Hours later, i had completely forgotten about the incident and went on break. I sat outside and watched cars go by while i ate some crackers. Suddenly the same man in the van from hours before came “casually” walking past and approached me. He started asking me why i was sitting there and if i was hungry and wanted to get in his car to get something to eat with him. I told him no and he eventually went away. It made me feel so uncomfortable.
Every time I’ve been severely harassed from 2011 to 2012. I get the occasional “nice tits” and rudeness but this is by far the worst. I know the exact dates because of OCD journal entries.
– On July 11th 2011, I was walking to my father’s house. I was not provocatively dressed at all: Rob Zombie t-shirt and jeans. My father lives in an alright area, but you have to walk under two highway overpasses and past a bar to get there. A lot of men hang out under the overpasses, but since it was broad daylight I didn’t see a reason to be anxious. This older man rode up behind me on his bicycle and started asking me questions. “Where are you going?” “What are you doing?” A lot of it was really condescending and he referred to me as “baby”. Then when I ignored him he proceeded to physically block my way (with his bicycle) right by the highway overpass. Naturally I was uncomfortable and refused to answer his questions. He finally rode away but not before yelling “YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SCARED OF ME BECAUSE OF MY COLOR!!!” My father lives in a neighborhood predominantly made up of African Americans. I was afraid that they would assume that I had yelled some racial slur at the man or had done some great injustice by refusing to talk to him. There were people sitting at the bar who saw what he was doing but made no attempt to help me. I got to my dad’s, closed the curtains, cried and ordered pepperspray.
– On September 20th 2012, I turned 19 and wore a low cut shirt. I am pretty busty (wearing a 34 I–but actually more of a 34 K) so I am somewhat used to being looked at. I don’t mind being looked at, but I don’t like it when my body is commented on, because it is something I cannot control. I was going to class and a teacher looked me up and down and said “Looking good.” I turned red and said “thanks.” I really did not know how to respond to that situation because even though this person isn’t a professor of mine, they still had some authority over me. I really did not know how to respond or what to do. I told a friend of mine who is an RA and they encouraged me to report it, I didn’t want to stir up trouble so I didn’t report it, but I spent part of my birthday feeling dirty and cheap because of a lousy professor. The worst part, I almost stupidly registered for a class of his. Thank God I dodged that bullet. If I see him I make sure I glare at him in the halls. I stand by my decision not to report because I would of been slut shamed to hell and back for my low cut shirt.
–On September 29th 2012, I had to go to a Pagan Pride festival for my internship. Since I didn’t know where I needed to be I decided to call a cab. When I got in the cab, the driver had his young son in a carseat next to me. Then asked me where I was going. When I told him I was going to Pagan Pride for my internship, he got into the whole religion talk and how apparently pagan people are all very sexually promiscuous and bisexual. I explained that although I am not religious myself I respect everyone’s religion and sexuality, and that I myself am bisexual. He then asked me a lot of inappropriate questions about whether or not I’d been with a woman. The subject got onto how he liked my body, and he circled around the park so I would have to pay extra. He handed me his card and asked me to call him. I tore it up and threw it in the nearest trash can. It was a horrible experience because I was stuck in a vehicle with this person, and if I had jumped out of the car I would be somewhere unfamiliar. If I called the cops I would of been slut shamed because of the low cut top and semi-see through skirt I was wearing. Or in the very worse case scenario arrested for not paying. If this ever happens again, I will definitely call and complain.
–On November 5th 2012, I was walking to the post office to send off my absentee ballot. I was about a block away from my dorm and on the phone with my boyfriend when the incident took place. I stopped to tie my jacket around my waist because it was hot near where I live. A guy wearing a violet-ish jacket and really worn out pants that might of been jeans or might of been khakis crossed the street and deliberately blocked my path. I stepped to the right and he mimicked my movements with his hands up and a wild look in his eyes. I was irritated so I just walked around him, and a couple of steps later I got this bad feeling, so I spun around. He was right behind me. I told him to “Get the fuck away from me!” And he left me alone. At that moment had he come near me again I am one hundred and ten percent certain I would of gone into fight or flight and severely hurt him, I could hear my heart beat in my ears. I was in survival mode on the way to the post office, but after I left I was shakey. I stayed on the phone with my boyfriend until I found a male acquaintance who walked with me to my next errand. After that I had calmed down enough to go to report it to campus security. Then I filed a report, and was interviewed by two officers who said they thought it was aggressive panhandling. I am genuinely sure that person had more sinister intentions by the look in his eyes. Why would you attempt to rob someone so close to their campus when security guards could hear and when they were on the phone with someone who could of presumably called the police? I was really shaken by the incident and really hope that person was caught, but I doubt they were.
This is why street harassment sucks. I don’t feel safe walking around near my father’s house or university. I have other less-severe incidents where people have yelled things out of cars or made kissy faces at me. I shouldn’t have to be nice to these assholes and not make a scene. I hate how people blame it on what I wear or on how I have big boobs, or tell me that I should ignore it and move on. I have a right to be angry with this treatment, and one of my new years resolutions is to not tolerate anymore of this bullshit.
Walking around through town, some guy looks me up and down. I looked at the ground and he walks off shouting “cheer up”. I was cheerful before he turned up!
Three times now, when I’ve dropped my little sister at Elementary School, I have been “hit on” by students there. All were boys under ten. One boy stared at my chest and tried to touch me. It made me feel filthy inside.
I know this is very minor compared to what other women have gone through, but these were children! They are getting it from somewhere. It has to stop!
Guy walking by me on Fort Totten Metro platform: You are so pretty. You sexy too.
(I give him the stink-eye. He keeps walking.)
Harasser: I was just giving you a compliment.
Me: That’s not a compliment.
Harasser: I just said you’re pretty.
Me: That’s not a compliment.
Harasser (walks back over to me): I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.
Me: When you comment on a woman’s looks without her asking you, it’s disrespectful.
Harasser: It was a compliment. You’re supposed to say, “thank you”.
Me: That’s not a compliment. When you comment on a woman’s looks without her asking, it’s disrespectful, it’s not a compliment.
Harasser: Where you from?
Me: I don’t have to talk to you.
Harasser: When someone gives you a compliment, you’re supposed to say “thank you”.
Me: That’s not a compliment when you comment on a woman’s body without her asking you.
Harasser: How many women you think ask “How do I look today?” Next time say thank you.
Me: No. It’s not a compliment.
(Harasser starts to walk away)
Harasser: Just because you pretty don’t mean you smart. Think before you speak next time. Dumb bitch.
I’ve been harassed on the street many, many times, and it felt good to respond in that moment. But he got the last word. Until now.
In August of 2011, my city held a “clean commuting challenge” to encourage people to walk, bike, carpool, etc. to work. Having recently moved from a city where walking was very much a part of my lifestyle, I was excited for the opportunity to get into the habit again — exercise, fresh air, saving my gas money. So all week long, I walked the one mile each way to and from work. And I felt great.
But on Friday, everything changed.
I was about a third of the way home when I crossed the railroad tracks, and a young man came out of the barbershop nearby. He watched me pass, whistled, and said something derogatory. I ignored him and kept walking, as I always did in such instances. But this time was different. This time, he followed me, and continued to “talk” to me, with increasingly angry comments. “Too good for me huh,” “White girl with her nose in the air,” and some other, more personal things too profane to repeat here.
I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I had no mace, no self-defense training. Didn’t know anybody in the area yet. Cars zoomed by on Grand River Avenue, but nobody was paying any attention. I felt completely powerless.
Finally, he stopped talking. But he kept following me. I tried walking faster. He sped up, too. I tried slowing down to let him pass me. He slowed down, too. Finally I turned down my street, thinking he wouldn’t dare turn and follow me, not with an elementary school right there on the corner. But the schoolyard was empty, and no one was around on my street. And he kept following me.
A few doors down from my house, I walked up the driveway of a neighbor’s house and hid behind it, imagining that he would think this was my house and his little game would end there. I waited, watching the time. Five minutes passed. I peeked out from the side of the house — and there he was, standing on the sidewalk, arms folded. Watching me. Waiting.
I finally called 911 and when the police came, he tried to run away. They caught him and took him in, but had to let him go the next day. I was told I couldn’t press charges because he hadn’t actually done anything to me.
But he did do something to me.
I never walked to work again. I never felt safe in my neighborhood again, or even in my own house — as close as I was to the street, I kept imagining he, or someone like him, might be waiting outside for me.
Eventually, I moved to a different neighborhood. But I still don’t walk anywhere by myself. And I feel angry about it. A man can walk around practically anywhere he wants and have no fear. But a woman has to be told, has to feel, it’s not safe.
It’s not fair.
Since I was 12 and first started jogging on city streets, I’ve always encountered leers and comments. I’ve jogged in suburban neighborhoods of Silicon Valley, the capital of Costa Rica, Paris, San Diego CA, etc. As your research bears out, I perceive it to be a simple fact of life and my only response has either been retreat or anger. As a 12-16 year old, I would often yell back my age, hoping to expose to the adult male that he was my father’s age. My older brother believed I was exaggerating the extent of the staring and sexual comments, that perhaps I was flattering myself. Until, one day he ran with me. He was utterly shocked at how watched and violated he felt after experiencing the level of attention I received. He had an entirely new perspective on how poorly women and girls are treated in public, even with a chaperone. To this day, (25 years later), I will still reflexively flip off anyone who whistles or slows down to stare, etc. It sometimes makes me so angry I will chase after them and hit their car with my fists if they are forced to stop at an upcoming stoplight. I fully understand that some are raised to think that calling out sexual comments is a compliment, but I don’t think they’ve thought it through – to have every single moment on a public street be an invitation for being sexualized is simply not fun.
I was in a taxi going back to my boyfriend’s house from a night out at about 4 in the morning, and I was drunk. The taxi driver told me it would be 20$ and being drunk I handed him the money in order to not have to deal with it later.
He stopped the cab 3 blocks from my boyfriend’s house in a really quiet, dark neighborhood, and got out. I got out of the taxi and asked him why he wasn’t driving the next three blocks. He told me that if I didn’t suck his dick, he would leave me there and drive off.
I walked back to the house in the dark, hiding in the shadows because I was afraid. I’m furious that I didn’t take down his license number and report him.