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I stood on a packed evening bus, crammed between the driver and the money takers. Suddenly an uninvited hand was on my butt. Struggling unsuccessfully to get away, I passed a looked of panic to the money taker while eying the groper. He noticed my struggle and told the driver to open the door. With that, I elbowed him off, and he was pushed off the bus. With a smile I thanked the money taker. He nodded and turned his eyes back out the window.
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!
A friend and I were walking to catch a dolmus this past Thursday night after meeting for dinner and drinks. We were in a cheerful mood, but weren’t being loud or attracting much attention. I noticed a man walking rather aggressively right behind us. Although he gave me a funny feeling, I hoped he was just trying to get around us so I moved into the street to make space for him. My friend hadn’t noticed the man and laughed at me for walking into the street at which pointed he groped her, then quickly walked ahead and disappeared into the crowd. It all happened so quickly my friend was still giggling as she registered it, at which point her face changed to one of shock and annoyance. We didn’t let it spoil the night, but it’s troubling how a small act like that can change the entire environment and mood. As we kept walking, the groping made the men calling/mumbling things at us (a normal occurrence) much more noticeable and menacing.
It was 1am Friday night on Istiklal. There was the standard weekend night crowd: a mix of drunk people stumbling to their next destinations and others racing to get home safely. My boyfriend and I were holding hands walking down the middle of the street where it was clearest, on our way home from a night out. There was nothing different, and nothing that felt threatening, so naturally, I couldn’t immediately register what had happened when a group of three guys passed us and one grabbed my ass. In that moment I was laughing about something with my boyfriend, and then it happened. I was still laughing when it registered with me and said, “That guy just grabbed me!” It started to sink in how uncomfortable I felt–even though the perpetrator was at least 50 feet away from us, it felt like his hand was still pressed onto my backside.
It was a fraction of a second between the moment I was laughing and the moment I was pulling my boyfriend to stop from going after the three guys. Yes, I wanted my groper to get punched but it’s not like that would have reversed what just happened. It would not have made me feel any less violated. I just wanted to get home and I didn’t want my boyfriend getting hurt. Besides, I didn’t know which of the three guys it was–I didn’t pay them any attention when they passed us, why should I have? I didn’t want the wrong guy to get blamed.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been harassed, certainly not in Istanbul, but it was by far the most shocking. I have never felt so helpless.
Unfortunately, street harassment is all too common, and most of us have developed strategies to avoid it when we know it’s more likely to happen: walking quickly, avoiding eye contact, using a different route to get home. But it shouldn’t be that way–it shouldn’t be a norm to AVOID, it should be a norm that does not EXIST.
I keep thinking about what I would and should do next time. Sadly, I do believe there will be a next time. Hopefully, though, the “next times” will become fewer over time as we empower more people to speak out against street harassment. Soon, we will no longer have to find ways to AVOID it because it will not be the norm.
A few years ago I was travelling on a fairly busy bus. It was a very wet day in winter and I was wearing thick winter trousers and a short black waterproof that covered down to my thighs. My hair was in a pony tail and I wasn’t looking glamorous in any way.
Because it was crowded I was standing near the middle doors. I suddenly realized that something was rubbing between my legs. I couldn’t believe it at first and didn’t want to say anything in case I was mistaken. But I finally realized that somebody was touching me with their hands. I tried to move away as the bus came to a stop and turned around to look at the man behind me. He just looked me straight in the eye. As he moved to get off the bus I leaned towards him and quietly said – you are disgusting. Like everybody says, I wish I could have shouted at him.
Unfortunately I had seen a young woman on the same bus a few months earlier shouting at a man for what I assume was similar harassment. A few other women helped her move away from the offender and I wish I could have done more to help but my poor Turkish leaves me feeling helpless. What was worse for me in that situation was I looked at the other people on the bus who didn’t do anything to help, and I was horrified to see a man in his 50s or 60s who actually chuckled to himself. His reaction seemed almost worse than the physical abuse. I would love to ask someone like that how they would feel if they realized it was their daughter being touched on a bus and other people laughed at her.
When I finally got off the bus after I was harassed I felt dirty. I remember running home and just crying my eyes out. I didn’t feel I was responsible in any way, but I felt so angry at the injustice of it, and that really there seems there’s nobody you can go to for help or who will support you.
Thank you for starting this website – maybe together we can change this situation.
A friend from Mexico was visiting and couldn’t believe the harassment. We were on a crowded bus in Besiktas in the back row (with four seats, occupying the middle two, the window and aisle seat were empty). A man sat down in the aisle seat, then randomly moved passed us to the window seat, next to my friend. I suddenly realized the man had an erection and was touching himself and looking at my friend and I. We quickly got up and moved to the middle of the bus, but were disgusted and upset.
Unfortunately, because of the constant harassment and these incidents especially, my friend left with very negative impressions of Turks and Turkey in general.
I was coming back on the Tramvay from the post office to my house. For
those of us receiving foreign packages, they make you go across town
to this one special post office where you pick up your mail and it was
on my way back on a seemingly normal day, that this jerk invaded my
space. I was on the Tramvay with my boyfriend, and we were conversing
with each other in our native tongue English, him carrying my package
from home. Both standing, it was extremely crowded as usual, and I
suddenly felt weird, as if there were too much pressure on me that was
purposefully trying to stay on me. This man, Turkish, salt and pepper
hair, tan skin, about 5’8, had his hand on my ass and followed me with
every sway and lean I made. I froze. What do I do? It’s so
unbelievably crowded, and I could be mistaken, but how do I give the
signal to my boyfriend—really I felt a little petrified and completely
shocked because I was with a man, and never in Istanbul has this
happened while accompanied by a man whom I was obviously with. Shallow
and stressed breaths, I worked up the courage to whisper to my
boyfriend, ‘He’s touching my butt’, in which case my boyfriend and I
switched places and the guy edged his way through the crowd
immediately. A 10 second joy for him just ruined the next few hours
with my boyfriend. I just feel so vulnerable when that happens, and it
takes a while to become human again.