Reflecting on the number of people and organizations that worked hard to address and end street harassment is inspiring. This end-of-year list is longer than last year’s list, and that’s a very good thing. Given the length, it’s divided into four posts.
Post 1: Significant successes overall and 8 SSH successes.
Post 2: New anti-street harassment campaigns.
Post 3: New creative anti-street harassment initiatives.
Post 4 (this one): People who stood up to harassers and spoke out about harassment/assault on the streets.
Standing Up, Speaking Out
These are just 20 of the many courageous individuals who did not stay silent in the face of harassment or assault on the streets. They inspire me, as I hope they’ll inspire you.
1. In Egypt, many women at Tahrir Square in Egypt faced sexual harassment and sexual assault, mostly at the hands of the military police. Two high-profile journalists Lara Logan and Mona Eltahawy were among the women sexually assaulted and they both bravely spoke out about their experiences to bring attention to what women face when simply participating in political activism alongside their male peers.
2. Naama Margolese is a second-grader living in Israel who faced sexual harassment from ultra-orthodox Jewish men on her way to school. They called her a “whore” because of the clothes she wore. She’s shared her experience and how it makes her feel on international television, sparking protests and new police attention to the matter of ultra-orthodox Jewish men harassing women.
3. On the ACLU’s blog Robyn Shepherd (USA) recounted how a man whacked her butt when she was walking to work one morning. She ran after him. When she caught up to him she demanded, “You think that shit is funny? You like hitting women, huh? You think that’s the correct way to act? Whatsamatterwithyou?” and he said, “Ma’am I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She retorted with, “”You know goddamn well what I’m talking about. YOU DON’T HIT WOMEN, ASSHOLE.” Robyn ended up calling the police and four officers came to help her though he was gone by the time they arrived. At the end of her story, she notes, “I know what happened to me could have been a lot, lot worse. But someone doesn’t have to be raped to be humiliated, violated and hurt. Sometimes, all it takes is a smack on the ass.”
4. 22-year old college student Shyane DeJesus attacked, berated, and snapped a cell phone picture of a man who groped her on a subway platform in New York City (USA). A few days later she picked him out of a line-up of suspects. She advises women, “Don’t let them scare you. They’re cowards.”
5. “You got great legs baby!” a 43-year-old man told Brittney, a 15-year-old girl, as she waited for the subway on her way to school (USA). In response, she said, “Excuse me, you probably have a daughter older than me.” Unconcerned by that thought he said, “Sorry you just look so sexy in that schoolgirl outfit I couldn’t help it and you do have great legs.” Undeterred, Brittney said, “Sexual harassment is a crime, leave me alone or I will report you,” and the harasser hurried away. At the end of her story she wrote, “I count that as a win for me because I hear things like that all the time and I finally stood up for myself and said something.”
6. In Jakarta, Indonesia, a man was arrested for sexual harassment after a rubbing against another passenger in a sexual way. Another passenger witnessed it and alerted everyone on the bus and the bus driver handed the man over to the police.
7. K. Wilkins in Ontario, Canada, was locking her bike up outside a bank and witnessed three men harass two women walking near them. She said the women looked so uncomfortable and so she took a deep breath and yelled across the street, “You, stop harassing these women.” The harassers booed her, but the young women thanked her. She said, “I witness, hear about, and am subjected to this bullshit daily. I am speaking out!!”
8. Luis Enrique Sossa Maltese, a 39-year-old carpenter, was sentenced to four years and six months in prison for groping a 25-year-old woman near Central Park and the Plaza of Social Guarantees in San Jose, Costa Rica. The survivor of this sexual assault came forward and reported him, she said, to seek justice and the ability to to walk through the streets without fearing he will assault her again.
9. RDH in Tennessee (USA) was walking home after dark and a car started creeping behind her. The driver lowered the car window and asked if he could “hollar” at her. RDH was scared, but she still stood up to him. She asked him how he would like it if his mother or sister was walking and some random stranger came creeping up behind them. She ended up getting an apology.
10. LH in Lyon, France, advised women to give harassers “an angry look, a loud ” no!” or just a hiss; every reaction helps. They will never understand if we don’t express ourselves.”
11. After years of street harassment experiences, when a man groped Kate Spencer on a subway platform in New York City (USA), she wrote, “Without thinking I turned around and hit him as hard as I possibly could. I didn’t even stop walking, nor did I say anything. I did turn around to look at him as I hit him, and his face was one of shock but not of surprise. He knew why I had hit him; he just couldn’t believe he hadn’t gotten away with it.”
12. Noticing a group of construction workers harassing women passing by, a man in Sydney, Australia, took out his cell phone and pretended to film them with it. When the men noticed what he was doing, they scattered and stopped bothering passersby.
13. Two construction workers in the United Kingdom were suspended from work for harassing a woman walking by their work site at Fish Hill Square. After the husband of a harassed woman issued a complaint, the managing director Thomas O’Mahony said, ‘We acted within half-an-hour of being alerted to the complaint. It’s company policy to immediately suspend anyone who is made the subject of a complaint by the public. ‘We don’t tolerate wolf-whistling or any form of sexual harassment. It’s unacceptable – we are in the public eye and our image is important.”
14. Jane was tired of construction workers congregating on her street leering at women walking by. She emailed the construction company and after that the men no longer stood around on the street leering at women.
15. Anonymous in Washington, D.C. (USA), said, “Stop harassing women” to a man who was harassing every woman walking by him as he stood outside Union Station. Her directive silenced him.
16. Two male university students in Delhi, India, stopped a group of street harassers from bothering a female student simply by joining her as she was walking and chatting with her about classes. The harassers quickly left her alone once she was no longer alone and an easy target.
17. After facing lots of harassment from construction workers near her house, a woman in Sydney, Australia, wrote a letter of complaint to the development company. Two days later, when the foreman saw her, he politely let her know that he would speak to the men and that if the harassment happened again to seek him out or contact the company again.
18. Anne was at a McDonald’s in Vermont (USA) with a friend when she noticed a young man two tables over was leering at them. Then she noticed he was masturbating. She said, “Stop that right now! That is not okay!” He denied doing anything so she notified the manager on duty, and called the police.
19. Tired of dealing with street harassers, anonymous in North Carolina (USA) decided to retort back when a man sitting on a bench outside the library told her she was “So Beautiful.” She turned and looked into his eyes and told him, “You’re not.” She wrote, “Commenting on a strange woman’s physical appearance is rude and insensitive – it is ugly. I don’t care if people look at me, but no one has the right to speak to me, touch me or approach me.”
20. Allison in Massachusetts (USA) confronted a street harasser for the first time. A man said, “Smile beautiful,” as she waited for a bus. After freezing initially, she followed him and said, “Just so you know, it doesn’t make women feel good when you tell them to smile. Sometimes people have shitty days and they don’t feel like smiling. It’s offensive to just tell them to smile.” He apologized.
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