These 10 stories provide a snapshot of the types of harassment folks experience across New York City.
I work nights and one night on my way in to my job, I was verbally assaulted by a horrific man on Market St. I heard someone make a noise and looked up, which was probably a mistake. I try to never make eye contact with men who harass and just keep walking. He made racist comments, and then called me an ugly bitch and a c**t. I kept walking. It felt like someone took a knife and stabbed me. He tried to engage me in some kind of argument sparring with this taunting tone of voice, and I just kept on going. I was tired and had a long night ahead of me, and felt like breaking down for real. This was the worst experience of harassment I’ve ever had happen to me. As I walked away, this psycho kept screaming the word c**t over and over, and I thought he was going to chase after me or try to hurt me physically. This may not have happened during the daytime, but my job is at night, and I can’t avoid that. Also, I don’t have a car. This was horribly disturbing. I dont think I’ll ever walk down Market St. at night ever again.
Taking the train home from Manhattan this evening, a pedophile flashed my 12 year old daughter. We were both playing games on our phones to pass the time, but my very astute daughter noticed the man move all the way down to our end of the car and sit diagonally across from us. He stood up and exited, but immediately turned around to face my daughter and lifted up his sweatshirt to reveal his penis hanging out of his boxers… TO A 12 YEAR OLD CHILD! My daughter grabbed my hand and said “Mommy that man showed me his penis”, and as the door closed, he rubbed his parts against the window. By this time I was yelling at him while hiding my daughter’s face against my shoulder. We got off at the next stop and ran to the next conductor and he told us to go to the dispatchers office, where they asked if we wanted them to call the police, when we said yes, they promptly called. My daughter was in shock and visibly shaken at this point and when I wanted to go check the incoming train to see if the man was on it, she was terrified. The police arrived in about five minutes and my very brave daughter gave an excellent description. While they were attentive, I had to offer my number for them to contact us if by some slim chance they caught the pedophile. While I know this is a reality, and it has happened to me many, many times in this city, I never expected it to happen to my daughter at such a young age. As she has just recently started taking the subway to school, I have begun to caution her on how to best protect herself when I am not with her. I just never anticipated that some sick man would be so bold as to flash her while she was right next to me.
I was approached by a middle-aged man in a suit last night by Rockefeller Center. He told me after a long meeting it was good to see someone smiling. I politely said thank you and began walking across the street. He continued next to me and put his arm around me and told me that he was just looking to be kept company for one more block. He then groped me in between my legs and said he was just “flirting”. I told him to back off and called my friend I was meeting immediately.
This week was my first real experience with street harassment. As a 14 year old girl, a feminist, a reader of Hollaback and a native New Yorker, I am not unfamiliar with the subject of sexual harassment. I’ve been gearing up for this a while, preparing myself for exactly what to say and do for when I become a victim of street harassment. I’ve been fortunate so far, going a full fourteen years without being harassed on the streets. Until this Tuesday. I’m a member of the cheer leading squad (which is composed of sixth, seventh and eighth graders) and Tuesday was unusually warm and sunny for January. The squad decided to go to Central Park, conveniently located a block away from my school (we’re between Madison and Fifth) to take advantage of the nice weather and practice lifts. We got to a meadow area that we know well and began. Not five-ten minutes later two young men, approximately 16 or 17 years old started walking towards us. They were being very loud so a few of us glanced up at them as they passed. My teacher told us to ignore them as they started yelling at us in a joking way “not to stare.” We went on discussing which cheers to do when the two boys started getting louder. Now, it was clear they were talking to us and their comments became more lewd and disruptive. They started to yell “Hey girls!” then shifted into “Hey sexy!” And “You in the sweats!,” to my friend who was wearing sweatpants. My friends were visibly disturbed. There were a few nervous giggles, some looks of shock and one of my friends whispered, “But we’re twelve and thirteen.” To which my teacher answered “I know, which is why it makes it so gross.” I was unsurprised, just disturbed. Thanks to Hollaback, I knew what would do if I was alone. If I hadn’t been in school, with my teacher, I would have snapped a photo and loudly threatened to call the cops. But I had my friends and teacher with me, so while I was upset, I wasn’t scared. At this point one of the boys started pulling his pants down. I stopped looking, deciding that ignoring them was the only thing I could do under the circumstances. So it wasn’t me, but the rest of the squad that saw him take out his penis and masturbate. They left when we turned away and my teacher promised to call the cops if they came back. She talked us through it, making sure we were okay. I told my parents what happened later. This experience was upsetting and had I been alone, I would have probably been frightened and would have called the police. I was glad to have my teacher there. However, I wasn’t surprised. I knew this would happen someday and that’s pretty sad. Some women say the first time they felt like they were women was the first time they were harassed. When this happened, I didn’t feel and still don’t feel like a woman. If anything, I felt more like a girl than ever. Because I felt small and young and a little defenseless, a little powerless. What I hate most is that the boys who were harassing us got away with it and will continue to get away with it. They’ll keep exposing themselves to other young girls and think it’s funny and a joke. Maybe someday when they aren’t teenagers, they’ll see the stupidity of their ways, perhaps one will have a daughter and feel guilty and angry when something similar happens to her. Maybe they remain creeps forever. All I can say that if they get pleasure from harassing and bothering a bunch of middleschoolers, they are pathetic as well as disgusting. What power can you possibly attain from exposing yourself to kids? I mean, we aren’t even in high school yet. When does childhood end? When did I pass the age when sexual harassment wasn’t something I had to think about, much less be subjected to? I wonder about this.
I always go for a walk in the morning on the weekends in Central Park and I went to walk my mother to work at the Jewish Home hospital. I noticed this young guy in his mid twenties on his cell phone but thought nothing of it. When I kissed my mom goodbye I walked towards Central Park but I could feel someone behind me ( I’m super paranoid and don’t like it when I feel someone is walking too close). I turn around and this guy was right behind me with his penis out. I ran!!! I screamed “what the F%*%!!!”I was going to continue with my walk but I was so shaken and thought, ”Why am I going to let this guy get away with that?” So I went back trying to pinpoint his location and sure enough he crossed the street pretending to be on the phone again. I called the cops gave them a description and location. I could see him across the street looking at me and I looked at him right back with my phone in hand. He apparently got nervous and entered one of the buildings across from the Jewish Home and disappeared. I went to the Jewish home and reported the guy and his description to the hospital. Although I did not get a picture of him because I was so scared and caught off guard but I will make sure to snap a picture next time I spot him and report him to the police again!
I was leaving the subway station, and getting onto the escalator and I heard people shouting things at me like “heyy mami,” “hey sexy,” and I turned around and see about 10 guys. Annoyed, I started walking up the escalator, only to hear cheering. I turned around and saw one of the guys directly behind me. I gave him a dirty look and kept walking. All of a sudden I felt a hand slap my ass. I turned around and yelled in the guy’s face, “are you kidding me?,” and kept walking, trying to get away from them. The guys kept cheering and cat calling all the way to the street exit, at which point they followed me out, saying, “ohh were going the same way.” I began to get nervous and called my boyfriend who was a few blocks away. As the phone was ringing, I felt another hand hitting me on the ass. I wheeled around and the guys all said “heyy heyyy heyy” and kept saying things to me, cat calling. I quickened my pace but a few of them followed me around the corner, and kept asking me where I was going and what my name was, as I yelled at them that I don’t speak english, at which point I thankfully saw my boyfriend who had run outside, and the guys immediately crossed the street and kept walking.
My neighborhood in Astoria is quiet, mostly. It’s safe, mostly. And for the most part its residents have never given me any kind of trouble. One day I was walking home from my friend’s apartment along 31st street. It was summer so I was wearing cut-off jean shorts and a tank. I know that my outfit had nothing to do with it, but for a while I stopped wearing tank tops in public thinking this was the cause. It was the middle of the day so the street was almost empty except for a largish (5+) group of young teens sitting outside an apartment building. Now, I try not to profile, but in my experience groups of teenage boys are trouble, and I am usually right. I put on my sunglasses and walked past them, avoiding eye contact. Well, to my surprise I made it past them without any trouble when I heard that sound that will make the hairs on most women’s arms stand on end. The kissy noise. What happened next you could say was my fault, I should have kept walking, but I had had it. Here was a group of kids almost half my age with the nerve to make that awful sound at me. So I turned around and said, “are you f*cking serious? How old are you?” To which the larger of the group said “Old enough to f*ck you like a grown man”. At this point one of his friends says, “Girl I am gonna f*ck you with some chopsticks”. I’m half-Chinese, and was appalled that this brat had added racism onto the growing pile of sexual harassment. Various other insults followed, “skinny b*tch”, “dumb c*nt”, etc. I always wonder why, if I’m such a dumb etc., etc. why they tried to “holla at” me in the first place. There were over five of them, and just one of me, so I decided to walk away. I called the police and told them a group of young men had verbally assaulted me and threatened me with sexual abuse. The officer offered his condolences but told me that since they had not physically assaulted me there was nothing he could do. While I agree that the police probably do not have the resources to investigate every instance of harassment, it made me feel alone, weak, and even slutty. I felt that because I was wearing a tank top I had somehow brought this onto myself.When did it become okay for young boys to talk to older women this way? To threaten them in their own neighborhoods with this kind of sexualized, and sometimes racialized, violence? I was so disgusted, so horrified. And honestly to this day I have not walked down that street again.
I have been visiting my partner in Kew Gardens every weekend for the last two years, and spent all of last summer here. I moved in with her about a month ago and have since been verbally harassed three times, all within a few blocks of the Lefferts and Metropolitan intersection. It is extremely scary, and unfair that I cannot navigate my own neighborhood without being called names, yelled at, or experiencing other forms of homophobia. Most recently there were a group of about five men outside of a bar who called us lesbians multiple times. I told them to stop and to be polite and they, ever so cleverly responded with “she must be the masculine one”. Please be safe. I genuinely thought Kew Gardens was a safe neighborhood for queer appearing people. I don’t know what’s been going on as of late but it is scary.
I was on the F train going to Brooklyn. This man next to me was staring, like boring holes into the side of my face staring. So I got up and moved to another seat. He got up and moved to sit across the aisle from me, STARING. At this point I’m just ignoring him, not talking, not looking, knowing he was going to follow me. We get to Jay St and I wait to get off the train until right before the doors close, so he wouldn’t follow me. But old dirty man figured it out and just as I was walking out of the train doors, he stands next to me and says so no one else can hear: “I was waiting for you to open your legs.”
A lady friend and I were walking home late at night from the F train. We were along Avenue U which is usually lively in the day but we were walking down a desolate street where a man stood alone in the cold. There was only a 24 hour deli across the big avenue. We started to cross to the other side of the street and I looked back and saw he was still eyeing us. A second later I looked ahead again and my friend shouted “Run run! Run into the deli!”, because she saw him turn and dart toward us like he was GOING to attack us. It was one of the realist moments of my life. Luckily, when we reached the deli the store owner did his best to stall the man as one of his employees walked us a few blocks down, but in the back the man was shouting and walking in our general direction. Once at the corner, we ran to the house safely.