Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Street Harassment - My Story

  On the 8th of January a hashtag called #ShoutingBack was created.  When I read the tweets I was quite alarmed at the content of them and the high amount of tweets that there was.  These were tales by women of all ages, on street harassment.  Reading them, I became quite enraged at what these women had gone through. 

@VintageRoseJaz walked home when I was 14.Man said “hello pretty lady” ignored him and he replied with “Well fuck you then” #ShoutingBack

@SelinC Being followed by a car of teenage boys who then tried to reverse into me when I wouldn’t talk to them #ShoutingBack

@TheAfricanHippy Walking home in the afternoon. Drunk guy says: If I knew where you lived, I’d follow you home and rape you. #ShoutingBack

  #ShoutingBack was created by The Everyday Sexism Project.

  Tweeted Stories range from women being abused verbally in the street, to disturbing reports of physical assault or grabbing on public transport.  For many women being catcalled, groped and sometimes even assaulted on the street is the norm.  It is what happens almost every day. 

  Hundreds of tweets were posted in just a few hours.  The hashtag has shone a light on the sheer volume of this problem.  It has also given women a platform and a voice where they could speak about their experiences, when many before have felt silenced.  The trended hashtag showed the rest of twitter just how rife the problem is today. 

  Laura Bates from The Everyday Sexism Project told Stylist magazine:

  One of the big problems with street harassment is that if you don't experience it, you rarely see it, so there's a huge lack of awareness about just how serious the issue still is.  We started #ShoutingBack as part of the Everyday Sexism Project’s goal of uncovering ‘invisible’ forms of sexism.  We wanted to open the world’s eyes to the serious harassment women still face on a daily basis.”

  I myself have been subjected to street harassment and it is one of the most terrifying things to go through.  I have been followed and asked for money, but the most frightening occasion was the time I was grabbed in broad daylight.  There were two of them, one guy just stood near me laughing as his friend grabbed me from behind. 

  He pulled at my arm as his other hand was on my waist, trying to drag me down another street.  It was two o’clock on a sunny afternoon and there were many people walking past, but no one bat an eye lid.  Luckily I managed to get away from the two men and ran a mere few metres to my work. 

  I was shaking and only just managed to tell my boss.  I rang the police and made a statement.  They rang me a few days later telling me they had seen the incident taking place on CCTV, but because I wasn’t assaulted or sexually assaulted, they wouldn’t be taking the matter any further. 

  I was angry.  I was angry at the fact these guys did this to me, I was angry because no one who was walking past stopped to help or ask if I was ok, and I was angry because the police did nothing.  What if they strike again, this time with a younger girl? 

  Ever since then I have avoided that street.  Every time I pass a stranger in the street I avoid all eye contact.  If I hear someone walking behind me, I speed up.  That incident has made me paranoid. 

  When I read through the tweets submitted by women to the #ShoutingBack hashtag, it made me angrier.  No one should have to go through anything like that just when walking down the street.  I promised myself then, I would no longer be frightened when walking down the street.  I have a right to be there, just like anyone else. 

  Street harassment is not a compliment and is in actual fact a human rights violation, gender violence and a crime which must end.  All our stories matter greatly, let’s all do some #ShoutingBack at this violating crime, these are also our streets.  The fight back has begun.

If you would like to read other shouting back stories, here is a link to the twitter hashtag.

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