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“Why do they think leering at another person is okay?”

Stories, street harassment | on April, 13, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

I have been harassed on the street many times, but this is my most recent story:

Last night, I was waiting outside a pub for some of my friends, and I was harassed twice within ten minutes.

Guy #1 came up to me as I was waiting for my friends, and started commenting on how I looked “gorgeous”. He got right into my personal space, and was easily 50 or older (I’m 23 – not that that matters!) I told him that I was waiting for friends, and wanted to be left alone. He eventually walked away (slowly) but kept turning back, and saying things like “But you look so gorgeous! I know I don’t look as good as you…” I stayed where I was, and made a point of looking straight ahead, and checking my phone to show that I was not going to engage further.

Guy #2 came out of the bar I was waiting outside of with his buddy (both were in their forties). I heard him say “LET’S ASK THIS BEAUTIFUL LADY”, and I braced myself, as I knew what was coming next. He came up and asked if I had a lighter. I told him no, as I don’t smoke. He replied with “I can see that, if you did, you wouldn’t be nearly as hot.” I told him (coldly), “I’ll keep that in mind.” He went back to his friend, and although I couldn’t hear them, it was clear that they were talking about me.

My friends arrived, and we went into the pub. And two tables away from us was Guy #1! For the first five minutes, he just stared at me, smiling. I was with a group of six people, so I felt fairly safe, but still uncomfortable. Why do they think leering at another person is okay?

Neither of these are horrifying situations, but I didn’t want to talk to either of these people, and as a result, came across as rude. I don’t owe them my time or attention, and I know this, but I hate that I have to be this way just to feel safe in my own city!

- Becca

Location: Calgary, Canada

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“I never told my parents out of shame”

Stories, street harassment | on April, 12, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

I’ve been bothered countless times throughout my life, but one incident really sticks out to me at the moment. I was only eleven years old. My cousin lived with us for a while, and I would walk her about a half mile to her school bus stop. Other kids and sometimes parents would wait there for the bus to come.

For a while it was just us kids and one parent. He had a young daughter. I didn’t notice him at first, then I realized he was watching me. He’d stand close to me, talk to me about icky things even when I ignored him, and leer. He was incredibly inappropriate. I never told my parents out of shame and eventually he stopped coming.

- MH

Location: Bus stop

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“The ipod had pornography playing on it”

Stories, street harassment | on April, 11, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

It was Easter Sunday and I was hopping on the metro to go meet my family for church and brunch. Given that it was a Sunday, the platform was pretty empty. I immediately noticed a guy sort of lurking around me and could feel his eyes on me. I was a little bit uncomfortable, but brushed it off. Once the train arrived I got on and he followed. I took a seat and he came and sat directly next to me when there were several open seats. I turned and faced the window and made a call in an attempt to ignore him. A few moments later, I noticed a glare in the window of something he was holding out almost in front of me. When I turned forward to see what it was, I saw he was holding his ipod out to show me. The ipod had pornography playing on it.

I immediately got stood up and yelled at him and told him he was a pig. I got off at the next stop and switched to a different train. It was one of the most disgusting and degrading things I have ever experienced.

- TCA

Location: Washington, DC Metro

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“LEAVE HER ALONE! IT’S HER STREET TOO!”

Stories, street harassment | on April, 10, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

I grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the memory of my teen years is clouded by never ending bullying and street harassment that was very common in the city. Young men’s and boys’ verbal abuse, hurtful insulting words, the vulgar and sexually suggestive remarks I encountered every day in my neighborhood streets is permanently seared in my mind. Teen boys made it their mission to intimidate and terrorize me with verbal assaults. Often I dreaded leaving my house, and when I did I had to change my route to avoided encountering those vicious young men who made my life a living hell.

I felt it was THEIR STREET; I was an intruder, at fault for being born a girl. The street was my torment chamber.

Looking back I still hate those boys and often wonder if they ever realized or felt remorse for the emotional damage they did to me (and many more like me), if ever they realized what they did was plain wrong? I wonder if they continued their behavior as young men and grown ups with chauvinistic entitlement to harass and abuse their own girlfriends and wives.

One thing for sure, fear stopped me from speaking out, I chose to be silent; the community was not there for me and I was all alone and felt unworthy.

Now as an adult I decided to become activist, to be the VOICE that certainly was missing in my teen years, the voice that said “LEAVE HER ALONE! IT’S HER STREET TOO!”

- Anonymous

Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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“Anything to feel justice”

Stories, street harassment | on April, 10, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Hello Princess. I like your skirt. Hello gorgeous. Damn, you fine ass mothaf***a! Hello Beautiful. Damn girl. Sorry, I just got distracted by how beautiful you were so I got in your way. Sexy. I like that hair of yours. My apartments just up this street. Have a beautiful day. You got a body made for a black man…Soft scoops of vanilla…You should let me put some sprinkles on that.

He came across the street. He walked behind me. He watched my every move. They all got quiet and stared. He nodded towards me and they all turned. He watched me go up the stairs. He stared at me as he walked by and made a smooch face and noise. He was on the other side of the sidewalk a second ago, now he’s nearly touching. They all laughed and murmured and stared. I can feel his eyes on me. He ran after me, forced a conversation, told me I was beautiful, he had seen me from inside the store, aggressively insisted on my phone number and details about me, asked where I was going.

This is everyday. Every single day. What I have written here is not every encounter I have had. This is a tiny, tiny portion. I have lost count of the number of times I have received street harassment while walking on the streets of NYC. I have lost count of the number of times I have cringed, bit my lip, wanted to cry, screamed inwardly, called them every name possible in my head, fought the urge to retort or lift up my middle finger, report them.

Anything to feel justice.

But I always ignore them, not giving them a moment of my time. Every time I walk down a street I survey the number of men and brace myself whenever I pass any. I keep my eyes down, haven’t seen the sky in awhile. I have started developing severe anxiety of what I wear and what my body looks like even though I know no matter what they won’t stop. I put myself on diets to lose weight off my lower body to lessen the harassment. I am apprehensive of leaving my apartment. But I shouldn’t have to be.

No woman should.

I will not accept the fact this is just a thing that happens. That we should Expect it, Accept it, Move on. NO. Never. These words are scars. I remember them. I carry them with me forever. The feelings and your voice never fade. I am someone who was sexually molested for 2-3 years of her life as a young girl and you have no idea or don’t care what affect your actions have on someone like me with such a background.

I am just passing entertainment to you. You forget I am a human being. A daughter, sister, best friend, cousin. You have no right to speak to me, look at me or come near me. No right. If men can walk down the streets and not have to worry about whether or not someone is going to say something to them, touch them, stare or follow them neither should women. Little boys need to be taught how to respect women from a young age so they do not repeat this process. Men need to be educated. Street harassers need to be confronted.

I want to feel safe. I want to feel respected. I want to feel peace. I don’t want to leave scared and come home angry anymore.

Do you have any suggestions for dealing with harassers and/or ending street harassment in general?

Educate men. Teach little boys how to respect women. Confront street harassers.

- Anonymous

Location: NYC

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“These sexually aggressive taunts make me fear other possibilities”

Stories, street harassment | on April, 10, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

I am a female Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in Guatemala. I am harassed on a daily basis. Most of it includes kiss-y noises, whistles, cat calls and creepy men trying to initiate conversation. Sometimes it is a man hovering closely over me on a crowded bus and forcing me into a conversation until I can get away to an empty seat. Sometimes it is vulgar sexual phrases (in English or Spanish) being yelled in my direction as I walk past.

Here, I am constantly on high alert. I am very aware of men walking around me, standing outside their stores or their homes so they can scan me up and down. I cross streets abruptly to avoid them, avoid certain streets altogether, actively look for seating or walking space near women and I always, always carry a full, heavy water bottle just in case it comes down to having to smack someone across the face.

For me, these sexually aggressive taunts make me fear other possibilities of risks to my safety. The thought of a street harassment perpetrator in one moment becoming a sexual assailant in the next is never far from my mind. I don’t always feel safe.

My mobility and freedom is definitely restricted. I think about the possibility of being harassed and to what degree everyday as I prepare myself to leave the house. I try my best to ignore it most of the time but there have been moments when I have been too overwhelmed with anger to simply keep walking and that usually results in me yelling out an expletive and giving the finger and then immediately bolting away. That is another downside of fighting for my dignity, the fact that dealing with street harassment, or “piropos”, is just a part of life for women here and challenging it so aggressively puts me at risk since the machista culture breeds men that think they can treat women however they want, whenever they want and without any consequences.

Do you have any suggestions for dealing with harassers and/or ending street harassment in general?

Educate young men and women in your communities about respect, personal space and mobility as a human right. Correct behaviors when you can and when it is safe to do so. Express frustrations and grief with men you can trust and hope that they will as least modify their behaviors to influence others.

- Female PCV

Location: Guatemala

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“Just stop shouting your greetings from cars”

Stories, street harassment | on April, 10, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

My commute to work should be free of harassment, yet it is not. Don’t you know I have to drive to a different park and ride (10 miles away) to catch a bus that lets me off in front of my work place because the park and ride less than 2 miles away from where I live that bus will let me off in a part of downtown LA where street harassers are awake early with their stares and salutations?

I am bringing awareness to this because it is happening to my daughters as well. It’s creepy and scary. A women/child walking down the street is not a free for all. Men need to have respect and mind there own business. Yes don’t even speak because it’s an invitation to something else almost always. If we speak back you will ask for money or God knows what else. If we don’t speak we are labeled as mean or stuck up.

No, we are scared.

Just stop!

Now in a public setting (Starbucks, Target, public building, ect.) it’s okay to say hello, hold a door or elevator. Just stop shouting your greetings from cars or at every woman you see walking. She’s walking. She has a destination and I am sure she and her family want her there safely. I’m getting tired.

- Anonymous

Location: Los Angeles, CA

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SSH will not publish any comment that is offensive or hateful and does not add to a thoughtful discussion of street harassment. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, disabalism, classism, and sexism will not be tolerated. Disclaimer: SSH may use any stories submitted to the blog in future scholarly publications on street harassment.