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My mother noticed before I did that there was a man on the train staring right at us. We both looked down while he sauntered over to our seats and maintained a firm stance, all the while staring at us. Both of us had the same idea in mind – averting our gazes, trying to make the situation less uncomfortable.
I constantly shifted my gaze; for a few seconds I looked over to the child at my left, then over to my mother who sat on my right. I repeated this process, refusing to look in the direction of the man, until something caught my eye. That’s when I noticed something was wrong. The man had his hands stuffed into the pockets of his unzipped hoodie but was clearly hiding something underneath. Curiosity got to me, as I subtly tried to figure out exactly what he was trying to cover up. He must have noticed my not-so-subtle actions, for he exposed what he was hiding, making sure I got a good look at it – his penis. Shock hit me instantly and I looked over to my mother, where she stared in another direction, oblivious. Others held the same expression, not knowing what was happening.
The trauma of the moment hit me hard, preventing me from saying anything to my mother or other onlookers. I was too scared to even look up at the man, so confrontation was certainly not an option. I could tell he was trying not to be obvious, hiding it as soon as other people looked in his direction, then exposing it when he knew I was looking. Then fury hit me. What made it appropriate for a man to do this in a public area? How would this affect younger children if they were to see this situation play out? Yet, what could I do? Yes, I was angry but I was just a scared 17 year old.
After a few stops, he left the train, hands in his pockets covering the exposed area once again. I confronted my mother soon after, asking her if she saw what had happened. She told me she didn’t. She was sitting right next to me, our arms right against each other, and she had not seen this happen.
I started to wonder how often this happened, with other passengers never noticing sexual harassment going on in the same exact subway car they were in. I knew this wasn’t something to keep quiet about – something that other people should be aware of and be wary of. I vowed to never keep quiet after this event happened to me this Sunday. If I ever am in the same unfortunate situation, I now know that I have the ability to speak up and say something, instead of sitting in my seat quietly, shifting awkwardly and not knowing what to do.
I have never been grabbed by a stranger in my life.
I was walking around in the west village after work today; talking with my mom on the phone about visiting Georgia at the end of the month. I had my headphones on, but I always keep one ear off, just to stay alert/aware of my surroundings. Even though the West Village is a family friendly, brownstone neighborhood, you honestly never know. Which brings me to this:
As I was talking with my mom, a man, obviously a bus boy of some kind because of his apron, walking in front of me. Did the usual up-and-down as I walked towards him. I kept my head down and continued walking, as I normally do. Because I was talking to my mom and not listening to music, I heard him call me “Sweet Baby.” Nothing out of the norm, usual annoyance.
Then, he grabbed my arm. He physically put his hand on me, this stranger.
Immediately I figured out in a fight-or-flight situation, I’m fight.
I snapped around, with my headphones still on, practically yelling, pointed my finger in his face and said,
“Don’t you dare ever fucking touch a woman without her permission. Do you understand me?”
He froze. And said sorry with his hands up, and slowly backed away. I continued,
“Take this as a fucking lesson. Do not ever make a woman feel unsafe. Do not ever make anyone feel unsafe. Be fucking ashamed of yourself. Learn from this. Remember this.”
And as I was telling this to my brother, he made a really great point. Thank God I had that reaction. Because you never know what people are capable of, and if he had really intended to harm me, there’s only so far you can run. There’s only so much you can do if you freeze up, which is a lot of women’s natural reaction to a physical threat.
I got mad, I defended myself. And I felt really fucking good about it.
And I never usually call people like that out, ever.
But the minute you put your hands on a stranger, male to female, male to male, female to male, you’ve got to fight. Because you never know what someone’s intentions are the minute they put their hands on you.
I was looking around a little confusedly for the bus stop at the front of the park when I heard a man behind me say, “Hey cutie, would you like some chocolate to go with that shake?”. He obviously thought I would just take that because when I turned around and said, “Excuse me?” he backed up a little and asked me what I was looking for, to which I said, “Not you. Do not objectify a woman.” He apologized as he scurried off in the opposite direction.
I was leaving work and had my headphones on. A man was passing out CDs of his music. He tried to give me one but I said I no thanks. As I passed he said, “don’t be afraid of black men.” I responded, “I’m not. I just don’t like you.” He got angry and yelled that I was a “whore.”
I was utterly humiliated while being harassed this evening on the train.
I was on the subway, completely zoning out like everyone does. I was listening to music. I was not paying attention to anything. In the corner of my eye, this man was looking my way, but I had my headphones in and I thought he was looking at the person next to me.
About ten minutes go by and there are still strange stares from this dude, so I take my headphones out and he is rolling his eyes at me. Then he screams from across the train “STOP SPREADING YOUR LEGS, YOU’RE TEASING EVERYONE OVER HERE.” I was wearing a skirt, and my legs were not crossed, but my legs were by no means spread. They were just, there. I was sitting like a normal person. I don’t know if my underwear was showing, but regardless, I was humiliated.
I kinda ignored him, but he wouldn’t shut up. This is in rush hour, on a busy subway in NYC. He kept going on like, “Man, sit like a lady. Why you over there with your legs spread, close your legs.” I eventually said, “Oh, can you see my underwear? I didn’t realize. Thanks for letting me know.” But he wouldn’t stop making comments. I felt incredibly uncomfortable, and I finally crossed my legs. But as soon as I did that, I said, “You know what? No. I don’t have to cross my legs if I don’t want to.” Then we got into it. It was him and me yelling at each other from across the train and silence from everyone else.
Another woman eventually got up and said to me “don’t listen to him. I’m just going to stand in between the two of you. Don’t worry about him.” Because he kept going on. Then he called her a “dyke.” The whole train was silent. I got up, started yelling at this man that he had no right to tell me to sit a certain way, or say insulting things to the other woman, etc. etc. This other woman was also yelling at him. Then ANOTHER woman came over, and started sticking up for me as well. It was crazy. The train was moving, so I couldn’t switch, but I knew as soon as it stopped I would be changing compartments.
At one point, a guy sitting by this dude said to me “It is your fault that you’re sitting that way. You shouldn’t be sitting with your legs spread. You should be sitting like a lady. You’re just asking for it.” etc. etc. Again, mind you, this is at 5:30pm, during rush hour, on a Thursday. He eventually said, “I bet you think it would be a man’s fault if he assaulted you even though you’re teasing everyone like that.” Can you believe that?
I eventually pressed record on my phone. And when the train stopped, I immediately went into a different compartment and burst into tears. Quite a few people checked in with me to see if I was ok, and told me that man was crazy.
I was literally sitting on a train. JUST SITTING. And I was harassed, called a tease, was told to “close my legs,” and basically called a whore. Can you fucking believe that? For sitting on a train.
I’ve learned through several trial and error experiences that confronting my cat-calling harasser gets more positive results than when I used to flip the finger while internally exploding with anger/frustration. Every time I have confronted a cat-caller with, “Pardon/Excuse me? That makes me really uncomfortable.” I get powerfully constructive results. Unfortunately despite my confidence and new found strength from such instances, I was not prepared to deal with the verbal provocation and harassment I experienced tonight ONE block away from my home.
Tonight I went to pick up ginger beer from a corner store that my partner has happily given business to for over 5 years in our neighborhood. As I was skimming over the drinks in the refrigerated section, a man in his mid forties-fifties startled me by hovering up behind me and reciting his phone number into my ear. I had yet to respond before he went around to my other ear and recited again. Here is the dialogue that ensued:
I turned to him, “Excuse me?”
He recited his number again followed by, “I know you want to call and text me.”
I replied, “That makes me very uncomfortable.”
He walked up inches away from my face with a huge gold toothed grin, and recited the number again slowly, then, “Yeah?” He walked around behind one of my shoulders.
“Yes. I have a partner.”
“Oh well tell your partner to give me a call.” He recited again. And again. And again.
To be entirely honest, I never thought I would be paralyzed and feel what I experienced at this moment in a situation such as this. My entire body began to tremble noticeably, my adrenaline rushed through my entire body like water rapids, and I felt confused because I didn’t know what exactly to do. My safety felt in jeopardy, and he was provoking me. I felt like a fight was on the verge of breaking out.
“Oh, I know you like it.”
If you’ve never been to Brooklyn Sub, let me tell you it’s probably the size of your living room. The owners as well as workers know my partner, they know me, and were all present during this situation. 4 additional men were present. Not a single word was spoken by anyone except me, this harasser, and the harasser’s friend.
I tried to focus and write his number in my phone: (917) 582….
But then I mustered up the courage to take a photo. He turned around,
“OH, you want my picture, huh?”
“Yes, so I can report you.”
He then came over to my face again, even closer this time but his friend held him back by the shoulders trying to convince him to “Get outta there and leave.”
Unfortunately the picture came out blurry, doesn’t show his face and wouldn’t serve any purpose in identification so I cannot report him. The rest of this altercation is truly a blur itself; the harasser yelled at me a variety of insults/profanity as his friend dragged him out of the store and before exiting clarified, “We were just sayin ‘hi’.”
At this point I had clung to my composure for as long as I possibly could, walked up to the counter, offered up the beverages, and burst into tears. You know what angers me the most? I’m not sure why, but I was compelled to apologize. I told him, “I’m sorry.” And the owner, who KNOWS me and my partner, merely replied, “It’s okay.”
WRONG-harassment is NOT OKAY my old friend (we will no longer do business there again). I was afraid to walk home, for fear that they may have been waiting for me down the block-who knows! My partner was on the other side of Brooklyn commuting home from work. I tried calling him, my family members, and finally someone picked up. My partner told me to wait in the store but I just wanted to be in the safety of our home, so he talked to me until I safely returned.
I’m now looking for self defense courses. I want to familiarize myself with these types of confrontations and situations where violence or sexual assault are possible too so I don’t feel like I’m backed into a corner with no voice and no power. No human should have to experience any assault. I am beyond grateful for Hollaback! as a resource for education, inspiration, and creating a community where we can dialogue about our personal experiences with assault/harassment and support each other.
Last night a drunk man followed my boyfriend and I for several blocks. At first he came off harmless, asking about cross streets. He said he liked the way we walked, that we didn’t look like we were from around here. He switched from walking next to my boyfriend to walking next to me. He brushed against me. I told him to back off and to leave me alone. He told me it was fine, “He liked the view from behind more.” I told him to cross the street and to leave us alone. My boyfriend tugged me away.
After a nice evening at the ballet, I got off the Montrose L and purchased an umbrella for the walk home. Once on Graham, an SUV driving parallel to me was stopped for a red light. “Hey baby. You want a ride home? Come on… come over here.” (And then some indiscernible kissing/disgusting noises). I kept walking, and the umbrella was shielding them from even seeing my upper body. Once the light turned, I figured they drove on and that was the end of it. But no. The SUV was driving slowly and again, a man yelling things like “Come here baby, I’ll give you a ride home.”
I ducked into a restaurant, and they were SUPER nice and comforting, said I could stay as long as I needed to, and offered me anything I wanted. They commiserated about street harassment and sent the bartender’s friend to walk me the last two blocks home. Grateful for good people at Eastwick but also really fucking sick of enduring terrifying harassment on a regular basis.