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I work in a naturopathic store that sells vitamins, organic food and the like. We sell a variety of herbal male enhancement pills including herbal Viagra. The man who owns the barber shop next to us is in his late 50s and always comes over just to talk to me… The other day he asked if a guy has ever tried the pills out on me. I literally wanted to throw up.
Return flight on SW Air with friend from West Palm Beach FL to Baltimore I was sitting at the window & she was in the isle hoping to keep middle empty. A 40 something male came up & simply shifted his thumb up as if to say get up so he could sit. I gave him the window & sat in the middle next to my friend. He pulled his baseball cap down over his eyes & pretended to sleep the entire flight. My friend caught him once try to see down her blouse when she bent down to get something out of her purse by her feet. He never took service with the flight attendant & I knew he was pretending to sleep because it felt like he was pressing his knee against mine & I figured either his leg was heavy or he was trying to take my space so I held my leg firm. We landed in BWI & lights on & announcements & the gate wasn’t available yet so we had to wait, cell phones turned on, etc. Still, he’s asleep. Finally we pulled to gate & people stand & get luggage to get off the plane. My friend stood in the isle & I lifted the center arm rest & turned my back to the man “sleeping” at the window. Chatting with my friend I felt my jacket move slightly & I thought it was him sitting up, moving the arm rest, whatever. The next thing I know his hand is fully in the back of my pants!! I whip my head around because I didn’t know what it was & I see him pulling his hand out of my pants!! I was shocked!! I said, What are you doing?!” & He said, “Sorry, I thought you were my wife”, as he’s rubbing his eyes as if to be just waking up. I didn’t know what to do! I mouthed to my friend, “OMG”! & turned back around & said, “I hope you’re really married”! We got off the plane & I rushed out looking over my shoulder wondering if he was following us. He wasn’t. She went to get her luggage & I only had carry on so I met my attorney husband at the curb & immediately told him what happened. He said, “That’s a sexual assault! Call your friend & see if he’s in baggage”! I did & he was. My husband said, “Wait here”! & went in to confront the man. The man, not knowing who he was, admitted to it so my husband asked him to tell the police in the airport & the guy did, again admitting it. I had to park, go in, & I pressed charges as he was locked in a cell (never seeing him again). The FBI was there too. They wanted to know if the plane door was opened or closed. If it was opened it’s state & if closed Federal. We guessed it was opened because we couldn’t tell. The police strongly believed this wasn’t his first time although he didn’t have a record. He went to court & got community service, had to take a drinking class (he said he’d been drinking & golfing earlier). I then sued him & got about seven thousand dollars! I was so bothered by it & wanted to make him pay! Had I punched him in the face in the moment it happened he probably would have denied it & sued me so in the end I’m glad it worked out the way it did but I wish I had told the airline so they could possibly ban the guy. It’s all public record & happened exactly as described.
The other day I was along around with my friend. We’re both teenage girls and we were mid-conversation in a large space that was crowded but not immediately around us. All of a sudden a guy walks up right next to me from behind, put his arm around my waist, pulled me CLOSER and said “Excuse me” then walked off. It was incredibly horrifying/upsetting for several reasons.
Guest blog post by our volunteer, Corrine:
So I’m hanging out in a bar with some friends. It’s happy hour. People are drinking. We’re talking, we’re laughing, we’re having a good old time. Everything is great. Then out of nowhere this guy comes over to my friends, grabs my crotch, tries to kiss me, and licks my face. Licks…my…face!
Not only was it gross and humiliating, it made me think I did something wrong. Maybe I accidentally made eye contact, maybe I smiled at him (I smile at everyone, I think someone told me once that it was being polite. I don’t smile so much anymore), maybe my pinstriped button down starched collared shirt and jeans and flip flops was too provocative of an outfit. Who knows?
The point is, he felt that something warranted him putting his hands on me. We weren’t in the workplace, I didn’t know him, we weren’t friends. Unfortunately, this was not my first time being harassed on the street by a complete stranger.
What exactly is street harassment?
At Hollaback Baltimore, we define street harassment as a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life.
In a nutshell: it’s when you say or do something to someone that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing and those actions are motivated by a person’s gender.
Get to the point…
The point? Street harassment takes away an individual’s ability to be comfortable in their skin. It says, because you have these physical features and/or because you are of this specific sexual orientation, I can do and say anything I want to you, any time I want to. Street harassment can be sexist, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, sizeist and/or classist. – See more at: http://www.ihollaback.org/about/
It says “Because you’re a woman, because you’re gay, because you’re a transgender person, you can’t just go anywhere and do anything without a consequence. You are not free to come and go as you please. You have to think about the places you go, you have to decide if its worth it. Otherwise, stay your ass at home.”
A step forward…
On Tuesday, May 21st, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law the Fairness for All Marylanders Act (FAMA) of 2014 . Essentially, this law bans discrimination of any person based on sexual orientation and sexual identity. Further, this past week President Obama signed an executive order, also banning discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and the federal government.
The Presidential Executive Order (Cliff Note’s Version)
Pretty cool, right? This legislation is most certainly is a step in the right direction with regards to making the workplace safer for all people. Despite this, the order still makes it perfectly legal for non-government employees and contractors to continue discriminating against a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person in the workplace. And don’t even get me started about what happens outside of the workplace. What about on the street? How can we make public spaces safer? What constitutes safe or unsafe? When does behavior become threatening?
Why can’t you just take it as a compliment?
I guess I could, couldn’t I? But tell me this, is it a compliment when someone follows you off the subway when you’re alone at night? Is it a compliment when someone stalks you? What about when someone decides to beat you bloody and leave you for dead on the street, is that a compliment too? Where do we draw the line between harmless fun vs. criminal act? Its legislation like FAMA and the most recent presidential executive order that are allowing us all to more easily navigate these gray areas. The more that we can advocate to specify the illegality of things like discrimination, harassment, rape, etc., in the workplace or at school, the safer the streets and other public spaces will be.
As we recognize the important acknowledgements being made with the passing of this bill and the signing of this executive order, street harassment is still a huge problem, not just in Maryland but internationally. Get involved and tell your story: If you’re a person who has experienced street harassment, Hollaback! While you’re at it, check out some of the other stories and maybe they will inspire you to take action. If you’re a person who has street harassed (knowingly or unknowingly), stop and check out the stories on our website to get a real picture of the message you send when you say and do those things.
I was walking to the West Baltimore marc train at 7:45 am, when a guy sitting on the curb I was passing leaned back, winked and said “heyyy mammmiii.” I didn’t say anything. I hadn’t even had my coffee yet.
This morning I was walking home by myself when a group of men stopped at a traffic light. As I walked by, they rolled down the window and one of them shouted, “Sup?” When I didn’t respond, he thought an appropriate response was to ask “Dick suck?!” I still didn’t respond and just kept walking. It was a great way to start out my Sunday.
I was standing in line at a convenience store one weekend a few months ago. I had just been harassed by some guy who had shouted “Hey baby!” at me out of his window, so I was already on edge. The guy behind me in line kept telling me “Hey beautiful,” and “Smile beautiful” and all kinds of creepy things that I was in no way inviting or responding to. I ignored him, but he continued. Finally, the man behind him said, “Leave her alone, can’t you see she has a boyfriend?” The creeper muttered, “Sorry…you’re still beautiful though.”
This was upsetting for multiple reasons. Firstly, that he continued his advances regardless of my silence (sometimes I get nervous about responding, as I have friends who have been followed home by guys like these). That would have been enough. But what upset me the most I think was that the man in line defended me not by saying, “Leave her alone. You are not entitled to comment on another person’s body,” but by saying he should leave me alone because another man had claim to me. I’m sure this was not the man’s intent, but the implication is that women are only people that deserve respect when they have a man in their lives. And that was the reason the man stopped harassing me. Not because I was a person, but because my hypothetical boyfriend was a person.
I was getting a carbon monoxide alarm at the department store. A guy turned the corner of the aisle and first asked how I was, so I said, “good, thank you,” and didn’t make eye contact while I continued to examine the box. He then said something about if I was “paying.” I ignored the comment. Then he followed up with, “because you are beautiful enough you could be.” He was soliciting me for sex, treating me like a prostitute. It is sad that he thought that was acceptable.