Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Fredericksburgh VA, Jacksonville NC, Los Angeles, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Palo Alto, Portland ME, Richmond VA, Rutgers University, San Francisco
A couple nights ago I was ambushed by a group of teenagers. While it was the most invasive and violent form of harassment I’ve suffered yet, the night ended with me feeling the most empowered I’ve ever felt after being harassed.
I’ve lived in Istanbul – on both the Asian and European sides – for nearly two years. Like many women I know, I am harassed everyday whether it is leering, whistling, hissing, stalking or (my personal favorite) what I like to call casual groping.
Yes, I was harassed Stateside. But the stuff back home typically didn’t escalate past honking and whistling, and usually from speeding pick-up trucks. Not that that’s not bad, of course, but I had never seen, for example, a woman beaten up in the street in broad daylight in front of a bunch of people before I moved here. I had never experienced such blatant leering or butt grabbing. Maybe I just hadn’t noticed in the US because I had become desensitized to it, or maybe it happens more in larger cities like Chicago and New York.
Anyway, I digress…when I first moved here, I admittedly didn’t respond to harassment. It was a combination of shock, fear and humiliation. Like many women I know, I internalized the harassment. It must be something I’m doing, I thought. I changed how I dressed, how I walked, how I behaved. On the streets, I stopped smiling and looked down. The harassment continued, of course.
Meanwhile, I grew tired, angry, stressed out. I felt alone. I wanted desperately to be respectful and culturally sensitive but couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.
But then I talked with other women, and I realized I was not alone. And I became more passionate about and active in the advancement of women’s rights in Turkey, the US and around the world. As a journalist in Istanbul, I made my niche discrimination and violence against women.
As I wrote everyday about cases of harassment and violence, I realized responding in the moment is essential if we want to put a stop to street harassment and the misogynistic mentality behind it.
I remember writing about a Turkish lawyer who was jogging when a guy grabbed her and fled. Refusing to let her harasser escape, she boldly chased her harasser for twenty minutes before police arrived and apprehended him.
Of course saying we must respond and actually doing it are very different. It took me months to be able to work up the courage to finally respond in Turkish to verbal harassment I received every morning on my way to work. The harasser was taken aback, and it felt good.
And then I was attacked a couple nights ago by the group of teenage boys. I didn’t see it coming; I was only a couple seconds away from my apartment. As they violently groped me, all of the frustration, shock and fear I always feel when I’m harassed came flooding back. I broke down into teary, blubbering mess. But then I looked back and saw their faces. They were smirking, laughing, pointing.
Taking a note from the lawyer, I sprinted after them. I screamed and pointed so bystanders would help, and about 30 did show up. One of the kids’ shoe fell of as he scrammed. I hurled it at him.
For the first time ever, I called the police to file a complaint. When that officer wasn’t very helpful, my room mate and I visited the nearest police station. We spent almost an hour explaining how we feel when we are harassed with a couple of plainclothes officers…and we demanded they do something about it. Now there are two more officers stationed where women are harassed on a daily basis.
Since I moved here, the harassment has not changed. But my reaction has. I’ve decided to take control.3 comments
Several blocks away from my house I noted that there was someone who seemed rather sketchy following a small group that included me, my small female housemate, and my very tall male friend. A few minutes later, he ran behind me, pulled my tight dress up to my waist, exposing my underwear. Throwing his hands into a victory motion, he ran.
This was completely unexpected, given that I was not walking alone and was in fact walking with two people, including a man who was about a foot taller than the guy.
My friend began to chase after him, with my housemate and I trailing and yelling. He tackled him to the ground after several blocks. At this point, my housemate and I yelled at him and hit him with our purses. Jerk. People came out of their houses to confirm we were okay. We let him go; he ran quickly away.
It makes me so incredibly angry the amount of abuse and assault that takes place in this country that serves only to humiliate women.
After saying Good-Bye to my friend, I started to walk the 200 meters to my house and was immediately followed by two men on either side of me. They were walking very close to me and shouting things. I ran into the corner shop where I knew the owner and he had his son walk me home.
It was early morning and I was on my way to work. I entered the Taksim metro station and passed the toll gate. I was about to get on an escalator when I noticed a guy was talking on the phone right there. I passed and stopped on the stairs and he followed and grabbed my bottom in passing. I was so shocked and angry. I said ‘hey you just passed and grabbed me’ he didn’t answer and made a face like he didn’t know what happened.
I knew there was nothing I could do but I could give him a good lesson. I noticed the metro guards were standing not very far from me so I shouted and asked them to help me. They ran to me right away and I showed them the guy, who now was walking fast because he noticed I was talking to the guards. They ran after him and took him to the metro office manager. He asked for our IDs and called the police. During this time while the police were coming they were nice and respectful. When the police arrived they talked to me first and then to the guy. They gave me two options. I could go to the police station and file a claim against him, or close the case there. I didn’t have a choice because I had no time — I was on the way to the office. So I skipped claiming and the police took the guy to me to apologise. They asked me to go and they kept the guy to make sure he didn’t follow me and then kicked him out of metro. I think there are a lot of worse stories but in such a cases we might see ourselves as powerless and disappointed. It’s better always to give a lesson rather than fight. I think that guy will never forget the moment he looked into my face and apologised.
While walking with friends towards Istiklal Cd. a man grabbed my friend’s bottom and his friend touched my other friend a moment later. My friend became very upset and angry and followed the guy onto Istiklal, tapped him on the shoulder and slapped him! The two men became aggressive and we quickly walked away after saying “cok ayip” (shameful) to the guys. Not the smartest reaction, but my friend felt much better afterward!
Last week after the Fenerbache vs Galtasaray match I was walking down Istiklal with a friend. The streets were crowded and the people were very wild. As we walked past Galatasaray High School, a man grabbed my left breast. It happened so quickly, it took me a moment to process it. I turned around to ‘Hollaback’ but he was gone. My guy friend was very upset but I was oddly apathetic. I realized that this behavior has occurred so often that my rage and shock has diminished a bit. This really upsets me.
I live in Istanbul and in many ways I really love this place. Two months ago, I was really ashamed of this city and found myself apologizing to others because of how we were treated on the streets. A few American friends were visiting the city and we were able to meet up and have a cup of coffee after I finished work. Walking down Istiklal to one of my trusty cafes I was victim to more harassment that I have ever experienced within a five minute time frame in Istanbul. At 7pm on a Monday night, men were following us, calling out, groups trying to surround us and dominate us. We were four foreign women. Harasser after harasser we were followed and shouted at consistently throughout our entire walk. I was mortified.
I have walked down Istiklal with three other foreign women before and have never received some much negative and aggressive attention. It was because my friends Asian-American, whose parents were from China. It was racist harassment by multiple men, multiple groups, and my friends and I were targets because we were different. Harassment isn’t just sexual. It can be racist and it can be just as hurtful and threatening. We should find ways to open the dialogue about this too.
I’ve always been a feminist and a supporter of Hollaback!, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I really saw firsthand the impact of rape culture and harassment. I’m shaken and horrified, and I urge anyone who has never been a target of harassment to realize that yes, this is all of our problem.
This Saturday, while we were at a party, my girlfriend was speaking with some guy in a different room. Suddenly, she ran up to me and said “we need to go, right now.” I nodded and went to grab our things, while she went outside. When I came outside, she was literally being chased by the man she was speaking to, and was yelling. The I confronted him, and his response was “You don’t know what we were talking about, man.” He literally blamed the victim in the midst of fucking chasing her, as if she had somehow asked to be menaced and pursued screaming in the street.
On the walk home, she couldn’t stop shaking and was literally paralyzed by fear, repeating several times that she was “terrified.” They had been discussing gender and masculinity, which the guy turned into the pick-up line “I want to fuck you in the ass.” My girlfriend told him that she wasn’t interested and he got angry and irrational. He told her that he was “going to fuck her no matter what she wanted” and that he’d “do bad things to her.” His harassment spilled into the street and became physical when she left the room. If it wasn’t for me, I don’t know what would have happened.
I don’t think this story is uncommon. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been harassed; someone you know has been, and we all bear responsibility for ending it.
I have experienced several types of harassment living in Istanbul ranging from staring (sometimes just out of curiosity, sometimes sexually), to groping, to hissing/shouting/mumbling degrading things, to actual assault.
A friend from the U.S. was visiting me and having difficulty ignoring the staring and hissing. After two days of harassment she was really losing her patience, but she wanted to see the nightlife so we went out in Taksim, had a nice time and were on our way home. It was late at night, but we were both sober and trying to quietly walk down Istiklal, which was still really crowded. A man approached us to come to a club, putting his arm around my friend and she lost it and started screaming at him, so I pulled her up a side street and begged her to just ignore it. As we weaved through the streets it got quieter and a young man blocked our way and asked us to go to his club “Yes please! Cheap drinks! Nice music!” My friend and I were very calm and polite and I told him in Turkish we were tired and going home. We finally made our way past him and he started yelling obscenities at us and calling us names. After a year of not talking back to any of these men, I turned, looked him in the eye, and cursed back at him. We then turned on a more crowded street and walked away. Moments later my friend saw him running up and he suddenly pulled my hair. Something clicked in my (tiny) friend and she pushed me out of the way and was screaming at him and punched him. He soon slapped her, back-handing her to the ground and my instinct was to grab her (still screaming) and get out of there. This happened right in front of a bunch of restaurants with several people sitting at them and milling about. No one did anything, no one asked if we were okay, no one said anything to the guy, nothing.
I’ve been grabbed, goosed and pressed up against in crowded trams
countless times and have learned how to stomp feet and elbow backwards
pretty well, but last November I was flat-out assaulted. My girlfriend
and I were walking on Istiklal, which was jammed, at 8:00 on a
Friday night. A short thickset man walked right up to me and punched
me so hard in my right breast that I almost passed out. Gasping, I
staggered to a table outside a cafe and put my head down. Two waiters
rushed over with water while my girlfriend expostulated in Turkish.
“Get him! Get him!” I said to the two guys running the cafe. They said
nothing could be done, he was crazy. I described him: short, thickset,
hairy, wearing dark khaki or brown clothes. At last one guy ran off to
see if he could talk to him, according to my girlfriend. Then she and
the other waiter explained to me that here in modern, progressive
Istanbul there is nothing done about such people, and that if we went
to the police, I’d get a lecture about the way I was dressed. I was
wearing a loose white T-shirt and jeans. I was sixty at the time. What really burns me is today I was shopping, and I couldn’t make myself buy a white T-shirt.
Today I was walking home from work, as I do 5 days a week, the same busy route. Nearing my street, there is always a line of taxis (right by Taksim Square), and while passing by, the parked taxi right next to me honked its horn. Startled I turned to see the man in the front seat pawing at the window, hanging out his tongue and his passengers laughing and calling out. It were as if he were an animal in a cage trying to get out because he saw something he liked. Seriously guy, you are an animal. Great job.