“He kept following me in his car…trying to get me in his car despite me refusing”

February 15, 2011

I was walking home from the store and I heard car honks. My mind didn’t automatically think the honking was toward me. It blared again and I turned around to see a guy in a car following me.

He yelled out, asking me for my address and if he can take me home. I told him politely I don’t give my address to strangers and I’m not comfortable getting into strangers’ cars.

He then yelled his name at me and said he’s not trying to find out where I live. Um, ok.

I had to go into a store because he kept following me in his car for at least three blocks, trying to get me in his car despite me refusing.

– Anonymous

Location: Chicago, IL

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.

“Avoiding my silent cry for support”

August 2, 2010

While walking to the train the other day, I noticed a group of young men ahead of me who were standing off to one side of the sidewalk. At this point, there was plenty of room for me to walk by, but once they spotted me approaching, they seemed to all exchange a look and moved to spread themselves across the width of the sidewalk, blocking my path. Once I reached them, I had to attempt to weave my way through. While I was doing this, they started at various volumes to say nasty things to me, some leaning close to hiss in my ear, and one grabbed my butt.

I quickly got past them and continued to hurry to my train stop. The whole experience was infuriating on so many levels. I wanted to lash out at them and to defend myself, but being outnumbered, I felt powerless and concerned for my safety not knowing what else they would do seeing as, clearly, they had no respect for me or my body. Even more frustrating, I was on a busy street and there were plenty of people around. NONE of them responded to the situation or tried to help. Some looked in my direction, but when I met their gaze, they quickly averted their eyes, avoiding my silent cry for support.

It’s incidents like this that have infected my daily life. They have become contributing factors when I’m making decisions about what to wear, if I’ll go somewhere, which route I’ll take, what time of day I’ll be out, etc. I feel as though the right to walk freely in public spaces is one I’ve been denied.

– anonymous

Location: Chicago

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.

CTA anti-harassment ads

November 16, 2009

Chicago transit riders may notice something new on their commutes. CTA recently launched print Public Service Announcements that say:

If it’s unwanted, it’s harassment. Touching. Rude comments. Leering. Speak up. If you see something, say something.

At the bottom, the ads list information for who to contact if a rider is the target of sexual harassment.

Both Boston and New York City have anti-sexual harassment subway ad campaigns too.

The Young Women’s Action Team‘s 2009 subway & bus survey results and recommendations led to Chicago’s campaign. They have been doing amazing work since 2003 and hopefully their successes will inspire other people to take action and work to make a difference in their own community too.

Morning drive by

October 7, 2009

Chicago, IL – I was walking from my boyfriend’s northwest side apt one morning (around 6 am), on the way to the bus back to my place. A tan van slowed down and kept pace with me while I walked for about half a block. I gave it an annoyed look; it sped up and drove off.

I’d walked that 1.5 blocks before with no problem but the van just made me realize that the mornings were darker, I was alone and no one would be around if something happened to me.

Nothing was said – but then, nothing needed to be said. A van slowing down to follow a woman alone on a dark street, at sunrise? Not a compliment. Menacing.

– anonymous

Location: Chicago, IL

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.

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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