KN’s Story: “I wonder about this”
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.