On the F train, which was almost empty, I was reading a book in one hand and holding onto the bar with another. Suddenly my purse swung up and hit me in the face. I turned around and asked the guy behind me why he punched my purse. He said I was touching his butt. Untrue. I said, excuse me sir. If you are being disrupted by my purse, you can use your words and ask me nicely to move it. You may not hit me or my belongings. Do you understand me? Eventually he conceded.
It gets worse — this was not an isolated instance, but a part of a disturbing pattern of sexual misconduct. This past summer, an Assembly Ethics Committee report regarding Lopez and two women who had worked in his office stated: “There were multiple incidents of unwelcome physical conduct toward one complainant, wherein you put your hand on her leg, she removed your hand, and you then put your hand between her upper thighs, putting your hand as far up between her legs as you could go.” Soon after, it was discovered that two different former employees had previously notified the Assembly of Lopez’s sexual harassment, resulting not in a referral to the Assembly Ethics Committee, but rather a confidential settlement which required the employee harassment victims to resign from their jobs. Member Lopez, the harasser, was not required to resign, and he remains in office.
As an organization that combats sexual harassment, Hollaback! finds this completely unacceptable, and we have previously called upon Lopez to resign. We reinstate that call and also demand that the Assembly, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the Legislative Ethics Commission, and the public hold Member Lopez accountable for his inexcusable behavior towards his employees. A sexual harasser does not deserve to be in a position of power and public trust. If we tolerate this behavior, it emboldens harassers and silences victims.
We applaud the former employees for their HOLLAs. We’ve got your back.
I was on the M15 bus heading downtown when two loud, rowdy couples got on and sat behind me. One of the women had a cell phone blaring music. I waited a few minutes to see if she was going to turn it off, then turned around and politely asked if she could please turn it down. This was when I noticed that these people were holding actual glasses of what looked like alcohol – yes, on the bus.
The woman sarcastically said, “I’ll try.” I said thank you. The music remained blaring, and I eventually went to the driver and informed him that there were four people drinking alcohol and blaring music in the back of the bus. “I don’t hear any music,” he told me. “I’m telling you that they are,” I replied. “I can’t do anything,” he responded. “So you’re just going to let them scare everyone?” I asked. He shrugged and told me to sit at the front near him if I was afraid. Which I did.
When the group was getting off the bus, they came to the doors closest to me and shouted abuse at me for a solid three minutes. I was called every name in the book. Not one passenger suggested that they leave me alone, or moved to help me in any way. Neither did the driver.
After getting off the bus, the men continued to shout abuse at me. When the bus stopped not far away, at the next red light, they had followed it and began pounding on the windows while screaming at me, threatening me and calling me names.
The entire time, the driver refused to acknowledge that anything was happening. I informed him that I would be reporting the incident to the MTA, though I have no confidence that any action whatsoever will be taken. Meanwhile, these four thugs are emboldened to intimiadate and threaten others, secure in the knowledge that not a thing will be done to stop them.
Lesson learned: I am not safe on MTA buses.
Walked passed a guy masturbating in a phone booth on Broadway near the flatiron plaza on my way home from work.
I was walking up seventh avenue and there was a man walking in the opposite direction a few feet in front of me. He slowed down and got in my way. I tried to walk out of his line but he sidestepped in my direction again. I kept walking but he came up to me. He said “Hey baby” and grabbed my left breast. Then he disappeared into the crowd. I couldn’t do anything. I turned around and said “fuck you” because I was too shocked to think of anything else, and even then, not one person on the street said or did anything to me or him.
NOW-NYC is the founding and largest chapter of NOW in the country. We work to advance the women and girls of New York City through public education, grassroots organizing, lobbying, action, and advocacy. NOW-NYC aims to promote reproductive rights, advance women’s economic empowerment, and end violence and discrimination against women and girls.
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(reprinted from New York City Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio’s website)
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and the advocacy group Hollaback! today called on the State Legislature to pass a new law protecting straphangers from “subway grinders.” In a letter sent to Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos, they criticized a recent court ruling that effectively downgraded the seriousness of sexual assaults perpetrated on crowded subway trains. A judge recently threw out felony charges against a repeat offender because he did not use force against his victims—even though he used the crowded subways to assault his victims. De Blasio and Hollaback Executive Director Emily May called for new legislation that would allow prosecutors to pursue felony charges and jail time for offenders found guilty of persistent sexual abuse.
Read the full letter below:
September 18, 2012
Honorable Sheldon Silver
Speaker of the NYS Assembly
Legislative Office Building, Room 932
Albany, NY 12248
Honorable Dean G. Skelos
Majority Leader of the NYS Senate
Legislative Office Building, Room 909
Albany, NY 12247
Dear Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos:
We write in support of strengthening laws to protect transit riders from sexual assault. A deeply flawed court ruling has effectively downgraded the seriousness of sexual assaults in our transit system, claiming that perpetrators can only be charged with a felony if they utilize force during the assault. This most recent decision severely undercut recent efforts to hold “subway grinders” accountable and protect New York City straphangers—particularly women and children. We urge you to swiftly pass a new law that would enable prosecutors to bring felony charges against sex offenders who assault their victims on crowded trains and buses.
We firmly believe that jail time is a necessary deterrent and response to persistent sexual abuse. The crimes involved in recent court cases posed a serious risk to the health and safety of New Yorkers. In one case, a sex offender with 32 prior arrests was facing charges for rubbing himself to orgasm on three young women aged 24, 22 and 17. Incredibly, the judge in the case threw out felony charges on the grounds that no threat of violence was present during the assaults. The decision is ignorant of the reality facing millions of straphangers. Mass transit can create a highly precarious environment as a crowded, over-capacity train or bus leaves little possibility for escape. This fact is not lost on sex offenders.
We commend our District Attorneys for aggressively pursuing these cases and pressing for jail time for offenders. It has taken far too long to address the issue of sexual harassment and assault in our transit system. Now that this issue is finally receiving the attention it deserves, we cannot see existing laws undercut. We urge you to swiftly pass legislation to empower prosecutors to pursue charges commensurate with these heinous crimes.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York
Executive Director, Hollaback!
Organization Combating Sexual Harassment Calls for JCOPE Investigation and Lopez’ Resignation
BROOKLYN, NY (08/25/2012) (readMedia)– Assembly Member Vito Lopez’ shocking and unacceptable sexual misconduct demands a swift and strong penalty. As an organization dedicated to combating sexual harassment, we call on Assemblymember Lopez to resign from the Assembly and from his chairmanship of the Kings County Democratic Party. We also call on the relevant law enforcement agencies, and the Joint Committee for Public Integrity to conduct the necessary broad investigation to assure New Yorkers, and other employees of the State Legislature that such conduct will not be tolerated.
If we allow Lopez to get away with sexual harassment without consequence, we will inevitably embolden harassers and silence victims.
We applaud the courage of the two unnamed employees of the State Assembly for coming forward with their complaints against a powerful senior member of the Assembly. By sharing their experiences, they have done their part to make the world safer for all of us.
It is often the case that those who feel empowered to sexually harass one or two employees are guilty of a broader pattern of behavior. It may well be that this is only the most recent instance of Assembly Member Lopez’ gross misconduct.
We’ve been working on this for over a year… and now it’s here! Unfortunately, it’s invite-only due to space constraints. If your nonprofit, union, or business would like to attend, please email holla AT ihollaback.org to see if there is space.