Girls in Illinois face assault on the streets

September 30, 2009

This breaks my heart.

Many girls in Chicago and Illinois “face serious violence in their lives,” including physical and sexual abuse, threats and injury in school, and assault on the streets, according to a new study called the “Status of Girls in Illinois.”

A Chicago Tribune article about the study included the following story:

“Eighteen-year old Chelsea Whitis tries to forget what happened that night two summers ago. While walking near her family’s home in southwest Evanston, a man grabbed her from behind and dragged her into a nearby alley. He ran off when a car turned into the alley.

Now a senior at Lane Technical High School in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood, Whitis keeps memories of the attack bottled up inside. She hasn’t had any professional assistance to help her cope.

‘I just feel like I’m never going to be safe,’ she said. ‘I’m so close to my house and I get attacked. … I never feel safe.'”

Young Womens Action Team members
Young Women’s Action Team members

Now Whitis  is a member the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team and working to raise awareness about street harassment and domestic violence.

During my book research, I’ve come across too many women who similarly never feel safe. One of my chapters is devoted to women’s fear of attack in public and all of the ways they alter their lives to try to avoid it. It’s really important for people to understand that street harassment isn’t complimentary or harmless. For one thing, it reminds women over and over that they are vulnerable to attack and it seriously impacts their mobility and sense of safety. And for another, the harassment can include or escalate into assault and even murder. So yeah, that’s not harmless at all!

The Illinois study recommends that policymakers pay closer attention to the stories that girls share about their experiences so they know how to better address their needs, their fears. I agree 100%. Street harassment is rarely discussed outside of feminist and womanist circles as being a problem and it must be understood as such on a wider scale before we can really work to end it.

So, do you have any stories you want to share?

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Refused to take ‘no’ for an answer

September 29, 2009

One of many incidents during my daily commute (by bus) involved being followed by a man who refused to take “no” for an answer.

After getting off the bus at a terminal near my office, I walked past this person, a younger guy, probably in his mid-20s. Even though I didn’t make eye contact, he attempted to get my attention. Without looking at him, I said something to the effect of “sorry, I’m not interested” and kept walking to the pick-up spot for my office’s shuttle.

Within minutes he was there and insisting on starting a conversation despite my having told him twice, at this point, that I wasn’t interested. I was forced to just smile and nod and tolerate him until my office shuttle arrived.

Its arrival gave me an easy out of the one-sided conversation, but I was incredibly embarrassed at the prospect of being seen with this guy and having to explain why he was talking to me in the first place. Even though there was no real threat, as we were in a crowded area, my sense of fear and humiliation is as intense now as it was then.

– anonymous

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

I’ve had…

September 28, 2009

I’ve been harassed more times than I can remember, starting when I was fourteen. I’ve been followed for blocks. I’ve had men walk up to me and say “I want to fuck you.”

I’ve had my ass grabbed. I’ve had lewd comments made about my body. I’ve had men ask me to get in their cars. I’ve had men stop their cars and get out to harass me as I walked down a quiet street. I’ve had men take my photograph. I’ve had a taxi driver pull off the street and ask me if I was a virgin. I’ve had men ask me for dates in the grocery store and get angry when I ignored them.

I’ve been grabbed roughly by the arm by several different men on several different occasions because I dared to ignore their greetings. I’ve been called a bitch. I get stared at all the time by men I don’t know. I have men approach me with personal questions. Even while with my husband or my dad, I’ve had men say things or blatantly stare at me. If I’m wearing sunglasses, men start asking what co lor eyes I have. I’ve had men intimidate me into giving them my (made-up) name and (made-up) phone number. I’ve been called a whore. I’ve had men say they’d like to grab my tits. I’ve had taxi drivers shout at me that their taxi is free.

Men stare at my breasts all the time. I’ve been fondled by multiple men while stuck in a crowd. I’ve had a man stick his hand up my skirt. I’ve had another man stick his hand down the front of my dress. I’ve had men persist in trying to get a date with me for near an hour, when I’m merely trying to browse the bookstore. I’ve had men offer unsolicited critiques of my clothing.

I’m in my early thirties now and I avoid going places where I think harassment is likeliest. I avoid eye contact with all unknown men. I frown while out in public. I walk fast. I *never* relax in public and always feel like I am on display. I’m frequently bitchy to men who try to strike up a conversation with me. I’m scared every single time I walk past a man on the street.

– anonymous

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

“Lil Punk”

September 26, 2009

My worst harrasment in the street was when this young guy was trying to talk to me i ignored him and he ran over and touched my ass!!!! omg!! i put down my books! i was gonna kill this kid! his punk ass ran!!! stop street harrasment this is insane!! there isnt one day i can go out without getting any

– JessMarii

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

Winning a Stand Off vs a Harasser

September 25, 2009

Several years ago, I was walking to a meet and friend, and a young man (early to mid 20s) slowed down a made a vulguar remark, circled around the block and parked his car to watch me cross the street of an intersection. Without making eye contact, I crossed the street. Once I made it to the next block, he called out “hey”. I looked backed and said “no”, in a calm voice. This went on twice. After the third time, he proceeded to curse at me and called me a “stupid bitch” several times and threatened to “beat my ass if I ever came around his neighborhood again”.

I stopped right there and turned around and gave him the “OK” sign and told him to come on and do it. So we had a strange quiet stare-off for about 15 seconds, with him looking extremely shocked and confused that I wasn’t rattled by his threats. He finally sped off in a huff.

– anonymous

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

My turn to dish out some harassment

September 24, 2009

Samantha Krotzer wrote a great street harassment opinion piece for The Temple News Online. She discusses how much she dislikes men’s “catcalls.”

“It was at that moment I decided this: I have had it. I am a female, not a feline, and the “catcalls” men make are offensive and a form of sexual harassment.”

She talks about what’s behind their actions.

“What they say is meaningless,” said Laura Levitt, director of the women’s studies program at Temple. “They use the power of the anonymous guy to make comments to you.”

Of course, not all men disrespect women in this manner, but Levitt said some men feel they have a heterosexual masculinity privilege that gives them the right to say offensive things to women.

“It is some sort of entitlement for men,” Levitt said. “It is really not OK.”

Krotzer experiments with catcalling at men to show how stupid it is.

“As men walked by, I held nothing back. I whistled at a middle-aged man, made indecent grunts at teenage boys and even snuck in a “nice butt” to a man in a business suit.

Guess how many positive reactions I received. Zero. Instead, I received looks that screamed, “Are you insane?” And a couple of men even told me I was being rude and immature.”

And she shares some ideas for how women can take back some of the power harassing men try to take from them.

For example, after a man catcalled her, she asked him where he was going to take her for dinner (since he must just be simply enamored with her to harass her on the street). He was surprised, stuttered for a few minutes, then said “Olive Garden.” He clearly wasn’t expecting to take her anywhere.

One of Krotzer’s friends says it’s safer to stand up to harassers by ignoring them. Levitt suggests whistling in the faces of men who harass you. Krotzer closes by saying, “Maybe blowing a whistle in these guys’ faces will help them realize how annoying their comments are.”

Have you tried any unusual tactics to challenge harassing men?

Speed Chase Heroes?

September 23, 2009

A man in Ottawa, Canada, picked up a woman who needed a ride and then demanded sexual favors. She managed to escape and called 911. While she was on the phone, crying, and still escaping, two men in a car narrowly missed hitting her. When they stopped to check on her, they heard her talking to the 911 dispatcher. When they found out that the man in the car nearby had tried to attack her, they told her to get in the car. They began a high speed chase of the attacker, while working with a police dispatcher over the phone. After 20 minutes, they managed to chase him into a police barricade and the police arrested him.

The high speeds they traveled have caused some people to denounce their actions (and question the dispatcher who knew they were driving at an extremely fast speed and did not tell them to stop), but others are hailing them as heroes for providing the woman with a safe place after being attacked and for doing all they could to ensure her attacker would be caught.

With all of the depressing stories on this blog, I think it’s nice to know there are guys out there who not only won’t take advantage of a somewhat vulnerable and unknown woman but also will help bring justice against a would-be assaulter.


(My thanks to daily reader mrh for the story tip)