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Living in New York CIty, I’ve dealt with so much street harassment that I’ve come to feel it’s not even worth the effort to say or do anything in response… I just continue walking and hope that a terrible tragedy befalls the catcaller/hisser/groper/leerer/perv as soon as he’s out of my line of vision. Still, I’ve never really felt unsafe because I stick to populous, well-lit areas.
That all changed about a week ago when I was walking near the corner of 34th St. and 2nd Ave. around 2 pm on a Saturday. As I turned the corner from 2nd Ave. onto 34th Street, the creepiest-looking toothless man started yelling and cussing at me as he walked towards me, aggressively calling me a bitch and making a scene. No one who was walking by did a thing or even looked our way. Anyway, I just sneered at him, and then he really got in my face, yelling “BITCH! BITCH! BITCH!” over and over again. I flipped him off and kept walking because this guy seemed pretty unstable and I didn’t want to get into a physical confrontation with him.
As he passed me (he was walking in the opposite direction), I heard him continue to yell increasingly obscene slurs. I turned around and saw him making repulsive gestures with his hands that obviously simulated rape. Then he yelled, “I’M GONNA STICK MY DICK IN YOUR ASS AND PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH,” along with other absolutely repulsive things.
A few seconds later, after he was a bit farther down the block, the shock of this harassment had worn off and I was just plain furious. I backtracked and, because he was walking slowly, turned around to see him him turn the corner onto 2nd Ave (the corner I originally came from). I walked really slowly and kept my eye on him until he took a seat on a planter near the corner. As I walked toward him, I kept my eyes on my cell phone, pretending I was texting. Then I stopped, and when he noticed me there (I was about 30 feet away), he started yelling “BITCH!” over and over again at him.
I glared at him, and the only thing I could think to say to him that wouldn’t gratify him was just to say calmly and very condescendingly, “You are so, so sad.” Then I walked away, hearing him yell maniacally at me as I walked away. It was gratifying to have the last word, and to keep my cool and show him that no matter what he yelled, I would neither stoop to his level nor give him any indication that his behavior was acceptable.
I think the worst part of this incident, however, was that I felt completely humiliated, as if my old gray sweatpants and faded windbreaker had somehow invited this harassment. It was degrading just to repeat to my boyfriend the things this guy had said to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about HollaBack until after the incident (I saw the New York Times article that mentioned it) so I didn’t take a pic… but I wish I had. I would’ve taken an entire photo album (joking… kind of) especially to warn other women in the Murray Hill area who might come across this jerk.
Looking back on it, I’m not sure if I would approach anyone like that again simply because I don’t want to risk putting my life in danger. Even now, as I write about what happened, my pulse is racing, both out of anger and from a feeling of being threatened by this loser.
I also didn’t know until a few days ago that calling 911 to report disorderly conduct could’ve resulted in a ticket for the perv. I’ve resolved to call 911 in the future when I’m harassed, because let’s face it: seeing one of the multitude of pervs in NYC being accosted by the police would be infinitely more rewarding than saying anything to men like the one I faced that Saturday.
Submitted by Allison
Not only does street harassment make you feel degraded. It is embarrassing, particularly when everyone around you is simply ignoring the situation. None of us should be alone in this, let Allison know that you have her back by donating here!
i was parking in the parking structure at work at university of Michigan hospital. as i turned around the corner i saw 3 men walking up the ramp towards the door of the hospital. as i drove by one of them yelled something about showing him my titties. i stopped my car and yelled “are you talking to me?” and he says “show us your titties, cigarette girl.” i told them to go fuck themselves and then i went inside and told security. they sent an officer out to talk to them and also kicked them out as they didn’t have any reason to be there. the officer asked if i wanted to press charges but i said no. i didn’t want to deal with the “justice” system. although after reading this site i wish i would have since so many women don’t really have this opportunity.
Submitted by Chelsea
Submitted by Mary
My boyfriend lives downtown, and to reach him I have to walk two blocks to get to the N, R, or W train at 6th ave. This requires me to walk down west 28th street, and it is a eventful walk every time I do.
Every time I walk down 28th, one or more men feel like they have to say something to me. Its the flower district, and when the venders put all their plants out on the street, I am forced to walk through a jungle and been in close spaces with several men who are always giving me the up-down, I feel them start to enclose on me and get too close for comfort. It seems like every time I make that walk to the subway, someone will tell me I am “beautiful” or that they “want to talk to me”. Recently, I had more than the normal amount of comments..
I was returning from my boyfriend’s place, and as I walked out of the subway stairs, immediately after a man standing right outside the exit said “hey miss I wanna talk to you”, and even followed me for a bit! I held my breath and walked faster, but as I passed a parking garage another man started to comment on my appearance! So I walked faster… and then as I reached 29th street ANOTHER man started to make kissing faces at me! All of this happened within three minutes, and I felt like my security was being stripped away with each harassment.
Now I find myself trying to avoid taking the N R or W even though it is the closest and most convenient subway. Sometimes I’ll make my trip 20 minutes longer if it means I don’t have to walk on 28th. If I am leaving my boyfriend’s place after dark, I’ll shell out the extra money for a taxi, have him escort me, or even call my friends and tell them to meet me on the platform. Literally, every time I am on that street a man has to make some obscene comment to me. The walk from my place to that subway is only 10 minutes, but it is always the longest walk of my life.
Submitted by Susanna
I’ve never felt unsafe before. That may be surprising, as I live in New York City, but I’ve never really feared for my physical safety. I’m a big lady and I’ve always felt comfortable walking or biking or taking the train at any hour of the day or night.
Last night, two men on a dark street stripped me of that sense of security.
I was riding my bike home from my friend’s house around 1:30AM. I had dressed up for Shabbat services in a cute, short dress and was feeling a little chilly. I was riding mechanically slowly, really only looking forward to getting home so I could curl up in my warm bed and watch some dumb recorded tv shows.
I ride through some pretty desolate areas on this route. Keep in mind, I’ve ridden this route several times a week since I started biking. I’ve ridden it at four in the morning before. It is the only way I use to get home when I’ve gone anywhere east of Prospect Park.
I approached the overpass of the D train on 39th street right near my apartment and passed two men. All of the sudden I heard someone running behind me and I turned around to see one of them chasing me on my bike. He was running full out only a few feet behind me. I screamed out “What the fuck are you doing?” and started pedaling as fast as I could. They screamed “bitch” at me and threw a glass bottle which shattered near my tires.
I was three blocks from my home.
I rode at full speed the last three blocks. When I got to my house, my hands were shaking so badly I could hardly lock up my bike. I was terrified that the men would have followed me home. I ran up my stairs and locked the door, finding an empty apartment. I sat on my bed shivering with fear, unable to really process what had just happened.
When I looked back at that man chasing me, I truly thought that he would overtake me and pull me off my bike. There aren’t a lot of street lights in that area and even less people out on the street. If they had wanted to take my bag, they could have. If they had wanted to sexually assault me and slit my throat, they could have. These are the thoughts that kept me awake as I huddled in my bed, to scared even to cry.
I don’t know what they’ve left me. I ride my bike every single day. I ride it to work, to friend’s houses, to the grocery store, to rehearsal, to meetings, to parties, and anywhere I want to go. I haven’t bought a monthly metrocard since June. My bike is an essential part of how I interact with the city. It’s my life. Yet now, when I think about riding in some of the areas where I travel on a regular basis — I am terrified. What if this happens again? What if next time I’m not fast enough? What if they do get me off my bike? I’m so scared, but I’m not allowed to be — I need my bike.
How can I reclaim the sense of physical security that they’ve taken from me?
Submitted by Emma
I live in Philly but since we are almost a New York suburb and we have no Holla Back yet, I’m sending my story to you.
I walk into a bookstore in Old City, it’s one of my favorites because it’s all used books and there are so many books, they pile them up everywhere, it’s like cairns up and down the aisles. It’s always an adventure to go in and generally fun to strike up conversation with fellow book lovers. That evening was hot and humid, I had a sun dress on. I found my favorite section and started scanning for books. I hear someone walking down the aisle and press up against the shelves to make room (there were 5 or 6 towers of books near my feet), I hear the individual say something, Hey, Hi, What’s up sort of greeting, but at the same moment I feel him graze my butt.
In that instant two things cross my mind – it was an accident/he did it on purpose. The blood rushes to my face because I know it was no accident. I lean back from the shelves and dig my nails into the book I’m holding. I look at him, he doesn’t look back. I pay for the book, he quickly leaves the store but turns back to look at me as he passes the window. All manner of gruesome scenarios invade my mind and I count to 20 and leave the store.
Two blocks down the street, I’m still boiling, mostly that I didn’t do anything, and then I hear it. “Hey, hey miss” I turn to find him jogging down the block towards me across the street. I cross the street screaming any and all obscenities at him, and so the people near us get the picture, yell at him for groping me in a bookstore, being a pervert, asshole and the like. He turns, walks away, turns again and then starts running down the street.
I hope I have scared him one tenth of what he scared me.
Submitted by Emily
This lowlife asshole always stands on the Manhattan bound side of DeKalb ave off the L line and tries to swipe people with found metrocatds. He always gets up in girls personal space and harasses them if they say no and use the machine. A week ago, I had firmly said “NO” and he started immitating me so I told the MTA person at the other end. Obviously he had gotten away so after taking his picture today, I hope he gets caught!
Submitted by Danielle
These are two incidences that happened within the same week in July, in downtown Toronto. I’m used to people asking me where I’m from, because they get confused about how someone who looks European has such an “ethnic” name. But in the space of one week, I had two creepy strangers come up to me and use my “exotic” ethnicity as an excuse to hit on me.
Incident one: I was listening to my iPod waiting on the subway platform at Spadina. A guy comes up to me and says something, I take my headphones out, and this is seriously what he says: “Excuse me, are you German? Because you look so good in that dress.”
I was in a really good mood, so I just smiled politely and said no. Then he started asking “Norwegian? Swedish? Swiss?” He went through pretty much all of Western Europe before he started on Eastern Europe. I told him “You’ll never guess, and I’m not going to tell you.”
Then he acted all offended, “You’re not going to tell me? That’s so mean, why are you being mean to me? Can I have your number so I can call you and find out where you’re from?”
Luckily, the subway came then, and I just said “I’m not single, and it’s none of your business anyway.” He looked pissed!
Incident two: This one actually really pissed me off. I went to the store at the ground level of my apartment building to buy cigarettes. I was turning to go back into my building when a skeezy looking middle aged guy stops me.
“Excuse me, where are you from? Are you from Switzerland?”
That day I really wasn’t in the mood for it, and I was pretty cold when I said “No.” and tried to leave. But it was right in front of my building and he was following me. He started going through all of the Western and Eastern European countries, when I noticed his accent and asked where he was from. He said he’s Albanian, and I said, ah, my great-grandfather was Albanian. Then he says, “Okay, so how about a nice Albanian girl like you has a coffee with a nice Albanian guy like me?”
I told him no, I’m married and I don’t have coffees with strange men. He then proceeded to tell me that I couldn’t possibly be married because I look “too fresh and lovely, and married women are all tired and unhappy”, and he asked if my husband was Canadian. I told him “My husband’s ethnicity is none of your business, he’s a Muslim and I’m a Muslim, and neither of us have coffee with people who stop us on the street.”
Then he got REALLY MAD, and told me not to be Muslim because only poor Albanians are Muslim, and I’m too young and beautiful to be married to a Muslim man! I didn’t bother telling him that it’s my Italian husband who’s the convert, I just walked away. A dirty pervert and a bigot!
Submitted by Zeyneb
I was harassed less than 1/2 hour ago.
I went to the supermarket. I got out of my car and walked toward the store. As I was walking, I noticed a man but ignored him because my focus was on walking to the supermarket and getting what I needed. I heard someone call out to me, and the man had a friend with him. I turned around and one of them said that they liked my dreads. I said thank you and continued walking.
One of them then said something about me being “fucking rude with an attitude” and how he liked that, and he said not to do it again because it turned him on. Then one or both of them said something about wanting to fuck me.
It scared the shit out of me. But I walked fast and tried not to look obviously scared.
I got the 2 items that I needed and before leaving the store, I asked the cashier to please call security to walk me to my car. The security guard obliged and said that it’s a damn shame (with other expletives thrown in there) that I have to be afraid of the men in my culture, and that if I ever felt unsafe again to call security and they’ll walk me to my car anytime.
I’m still rattled.
Submitted by P.