It has happened my entire life from the time I was 8 until I was 45 and no longer looked “young” enough to get harassed. Since then it happens a whole lot less, but it can still happen if they see me from behind and think I’m younger. When I turn around the look on their faces is priceless.
The one incident that stands out for me is the time I was getting on a bus and my husband and friends were behind me. Some guy stands up in his seat, grabs me, throws me into the seat beside him and says, “You’re sitting HERE!” I go to get up, he pushes me back and that’s when I lost my temper. I screamed, “You moron, I’m with my husband and friends who right there.” Then when he turned to look behind him, I picked up my feet and shoved him across the aisle into the empty seats.
He sat there frozen then looked at my husband and said, “Are you gonna hurt me?”
My husband just laughed, “No, man. It looks like she already did and my wife is martial arts trained, so good luck with that.”
Everyone on the bus laughed and the guy went to the front of the bus waiting for the next stop, just staring at his feet. When he got off, the bus driver yelled at him, “Don’t ever come back and leave women alone!”
I remember that one, because it was when I finally stood up for myself, plus while I’d had men catcall me or try to chat me up, no one had physically ever tried to grab and restrain me.
I stopped tolerating harassment a lot after that.
Optional: Do you have any suggestions for dealing with harassers and/or ending street harassment in general?
Get really good at trusting your instincts and what type of situation is in front of you. Read Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear because it is hands down the best book I’ve read for learning to trust that little voice inside you. Understand a guy shouting something at you from a car that keeps going on past you is very different than the guy scooting up to you in a deserted subway station or who tries to take advantage of a crowded subway by mashing themselves into you.
Next, if you are not a loud boisterous person or you are shy or just have a go-to setting of, “Be nice to everyone,” take some self-defense classes (ones that teach you what to do in bad situations, not ones showing you how to do impressive roundhouse kicks type stuff) or assertiveness classes or even just yell things like, “NO, STOP IT” and “GET AWAY FROM ME!” in the mirror until you can do that easily with a loud authoritative voice and you don’t feel shy or feel stupid doing it.
Stand up for others when you see it happening to them. Don’t look the other way and silently be glad it’s not you they’re targeting. Our silence and our passiveness to let bad things happen to other people feeds street harassment. Do the same things you would for that person that you would do for you if it were you.
Location: Los Angeles city bus
Need support? Call the toll-free National Street Harassment hotline: 855-897-5910Share on Facebook