Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
I was walking back to my car with my best friend (also female) after seeing a concert. It was pretty late and the streets were practically empty, except for one group of four or so guys walking on the opposite side of the road from us. As soon as they spotted us, they began crossing the road to our side. My stomach sank and I hoped what I thought was about to happen wouldn’t. Three of them came around behind us and started following closely, while the fourth one decided to stand extremely close to us, even walking faster with us as we tried to quicken our pace to get out of there.
He started asking questions, what our names were, where we were coming from. I didn’t want my friend to have to deal with him, but I also knew I usually get more trouble from people if I ignore their questions. So I told him my first name, that we were walking to my car from a show, but we were going home now so we had to be going. He glanced over his shoulder and I could hear his buddies laughing behind us, and he began to tell us we should come with them to a party. I said no thank you, and made a move to cross the street to get my friend and I away from this guy. He then decides to step in front of us, walking backwards, and I start to feel panicky. He keeps insisting we come with them, and his buddies on our heels keep laughing and muttering things to one another. I wrap my fingers around the keys in my coat pocket, as I learned to do at an incredibly young age and a habit I’ve carried with me through living alone in the city..until I finally spot my car a half block away. I felt a welcomed relief until I realized I really didn’t want them following us to my car. I tell him once more to get lost, and finally get around this guy and pull my friend with my across the road so we could go round the block and come from another direction. As we’re crossing the street away from them, I hear the creep start yelling obscenities at us, the usual fodder. What a bitch, fuck you, fine then, see you later sweetheart, and other lewd comments that didn’t bother me as much as being followed for nearly two blocks.
As we got to my car, my best friend turns to me and says the same thing that was on my mind “I thought we were going to die!” I didn’t want to be the first to admit I felt scared to her; I felt ashamed for being frightened and assuming the worst, like she would have thought I was overreacting. But how sad that each of our very first reactions upon coming across this group of men was to fear for our safety.
I was having an awesome evening with a few friends, when one friend’s shoe broke. We thought it would be a fun idea to throw them over a pole since they were already broken. We were laughing while we were throwing the shoes up in the air when two men approached us. It was Friday night and the bars were bumping and many people, most likely drunk were crowding in the streets. The two men asked us what we were doing because we probably seemed like we were having a ball. One of the clearly drunk men suddenly grabs the shoes out of my hands and says I shouldn’t be doing that. I am not laughing anymore because he was being extremely forceful and started touching my arm. I was not in a place to call him out because I was taken aback with this behavior after laughing without any cares with my friend.
When I was in my first year at Brock I went to go visit my room mates hockey at the old merritville high school. I was bored so I went for a walk down the street near the tracks. I was walking in front of the bar near there then a older bald man leaving the bar came up to me with his friend and asked for my cell number. I said that I was sorry but I didn’t have a cell phone. He got mad and called me a liar and they walked off. Pretty shocked by this I began to walk back. That is when the two men drove by me and whipped a hard crumpled up fast food bag right at my head. :/
The day I decided to reflect on this issue was the day I experienced my most memorable account of gender-based violence. I was at a gas station in my hometown and spotted an available pump and drove over to it. The gas station is set up so that everyone is organized. Every spot has an arrow indicating that you pull through to the spot; you do not back into the pump. This is to avoid accidents when pulling out of the gas station. It is along the highway; so many times people are in a rush. When people are rushing it causes disorganized turmoil. The arrows indicate that to avoid accidents, that you to have drive through. If there is no pump available for the side that your gas tank is on, you just have to wait. Luckily, I arrived at the station on this beautiful sunny day and saw that a pump was available [highlighted by the majestic sun]. I pulled into the pump. Parked my car, and shut it off.
As I was sitting in my car with it turned off, grabbing my wallet, all of a sudden I heard and felt a thud. I realized someone had backed into my car. Heart fluttering a little bit—I realized this must have been an error on someone’s account, possibly not seeing my slate grey car in the reflection of the sun. I opened the door to get out my car and made eye contact with the man who hit my car. He was looking at me with a stern glare, holding the nozzle to pump his gas in one hand, unscrewing his gas cap with his other hand. The stern glare turn into a smirk once he saw the look on my face.
Me: “You do realize you have backed into my car, and I’m not a diesel vehicle, I am regular gas vehicle and I was intending to use that pump.”
Male: “I know you’re not diesel.”
Me: “Then what are you doing exactly? This is a pull through spot, you do not back into it…”
Male: “Well, you stole my spot, and what are you going to do about me backing into your car? I’ve been in tons of accidents where someone else has driven off, what are you going to do? Take my license plate down?”
Me: “No, because I cannot see your fucking license plate because you have
BACKED INTO my car,…” *covering the license plate*
So I moved my car to the next pump over.
People were already staring at him. I moved my car to pump my gas at another pump to further avoid looking at him, I yelled at him before he was about to get into his car, he was clearly smirking,
Me: “ Y o u A r e A F u c k i n g A s s h o l e . ”
The story gets worse. I captured a glimpse inside his car; his wife had been sitting in the front passenger seat the entire time. She had witnessed his behavior. My heart instantly sank. This man did not act alone. He did this in front of an audience, a support system. Whether his wife was supportive of his behavior or compliant out of fear I will never know. I was sick to my stomach. I could not help but think, if this is how he treats a total stranger on the street, what does he do to his family?
Something bigger than revenge festered inside of me. I wasn’t just angry, but I wanted answers [instead of damaging his vehicle, which I might have had confidence to do if I had the chance to take down his license plate number]. Instead of sinking down to his disrespectful level I decided to use this experience as a jumping off point in my activist work. Rather than committing acts of aggression I wanted knowledge. Which leads me to expand my activist by connecting street harassment with collective story telling as a site of feminist cultural production.
This is my story, this is why iHollaback… because next time this happens I want the confidence to possibly do something, or say something. And if I can’t Hollaback in real life I want to “holla” here. And I want people to know this is a site of resistance and support. I’ve got yo’ back!
Love your Niagara Hollaback Admin,