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Sexual harassments, death threats, and being spit on—on the Damen CTA Blue Line

A man followed me onto Damen Blue Line platform on September 11, 2014. He approached me and asked what my name was, to which I responded “Go away.” He then continued to comment on how “beautiful [my] eyes are” and how he “wishes [I] wasn’t so mean.” After telling him my father is a police officer (he is not) and to “get the fuck out of my face”, this man told me he would “shoot [me] and [my] fucking father if [I] ever spoke to [him] that way again.”

Approximately five seconds after, standing there speechless, another man approached and told him to leave me alone. The Blue Line arrived, I boarded and instantly felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I was shaking and terrified. To make matters worse, approximately three stops later this man crossed into my train car, stared at me, then spit at my feet and walked away.

As soon as I got to my stop, I flagged a cab and took it the short three block trip home. I did not want to risk him following me.

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Once again…

One October 22, 2014 at precisely 3:07pm I was, once again, the victim of street harassment. While walking from the Metra to my apartment, I was approached by a man. This man yelled: “Damn you look like a nasty little bitch. I’m fucking impressed girl. You look amazing!” I could hear this statement OVER the music blaring in my ear buds. He proceeded to follow me to the next street light, lick his lips, and wink before trudging off.

Very sadly, this is not the worst experience I’ve had with street harassment. In fact, one of the most terrifying moments of my life occurred approximately four weeks ago when I was followed home by a man who “wanted me bad” and didn’t know “why I wasn’t smiling.” That experienced ended with a breathless, sobbing phone call to my sister after I was able to run away from this man and make it safely into my apartment.

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I know. I know. I shouldn’t expect to be able to stand outside…

Ya’ know, I would have thought that, at this point, street harassment wouldn’t bother me quite as much as it did when I first moved to the city. I’ve lived in a major metropolitan city for most of my formative adult years. Chicago is 234 sq. miles and boasts a population of 2.7 million people. People with whom you eventually grow used to living side by side.

Now, I can’t give you a scientific statistic, but I would have to say that, as a female and minority, I experience some sort of harassment on a nearly daily basis. This harassment can fall anywhere in the range between small comments all the way to moments when I am afraid for my safety. It is harassment nonetheless, and I would even say that it bothers me more now, than ever. My dealings with the issue can also vary from instance to instance.

Tonight, though, tonight had to have broken a record.

Tonight I didn’t even have to leave my front steps.

Wait, can that even be called street harassment? Isn’t that porch harassment? Lawn harassment? Oh man, none of those have a good ring to them at all.

Anyway, I digress.

Tonight, in my usual late rush to make a friend’s show (which was magnificent, by the way), I decided to let my portly little French Bulldog Dottie out for a quick wiz in the front lawn before leaving her to snooze in valiantly guard the homestead for a few hours on her own.

As I waited for her initial and incorrect excitement at the possibility of a car ride to subside, I thought I heard a person from across the street speaking Vietnamese. I live in a neighborhood where a cross section of quite a few cultures live, predominantly Asian, and hearing many languages spoken on the street is not rare. A feature of my city that I quite enjoy. Tonight, however, I realized that it wasn’t a language someone was speaking, so much as it was noises he was making. Noises that were getting louder, and that were being directed toward me. Noises that a relatively young white male was yelling at me from across the street as he and his friends waited for a car. Noises that can only be described as the stereotype of “chink,” interrupted only by the interjections of his own hysterical and self-congratulatory laughter as he stared at me and waited for a reaction.

Being that I am not the most quick-witted person of all time, the only comment I could muster was a befuddled, “Oh….yeah, your ignorance is soooo f-f-fucking funny,” at which point one of the waifish girls at his side sighed and let out an exasperated and sarcastic “sorrrrryyyy,” coupled with a casual eye-roll.

The harassment, to my surprise, continued. Amid despondent taps at their phones and one member of the group repeatedly yelling the address where they were apparently waiting to be picked up, our hero had become loud enough that more of his friends began to take note of the event. I might’ve thought they’d be embarrassed or ashamed, but instead I merely began to hear churlish giggling and amused whipers of, “Oh mai gawd, she’s, like, looking right at yooooou.”

As I was short on time, I scooped up the pup, let her back inside, and grabbed my belongings. At that point, I wasn’t entirely sure I would be safe leaving my house again, so I grabbed the only means of self defense I have readily laying around my house, my u-lock.

By the time I’d reemerged, they’d departed, and I was catching a cab to my own destination.

And the thing I wish I were writing about now is the magnificence of an independent theatre doing work in a still-growing part of the city. Work that is brave and really beautiful. But instead, I couldn’t really get my mind off of the experience that preceded.

And while I may not always have the presence of mind to say the right thing when the time is upon me, I was blessed with what was a second chance that rarely ever presents itself. But as fortune would have it, the repeated yelling of the same address in a relatively large courtyard building helped me identify the correct door on which to tape the following message:

“Hi There,

I’m the lady who lives across the street. Sorry, that’s probably too vague. I’m the Asian lady at whom you, or someone who was with you, just couldn’t resist yelling out some really stereotypical chinky accents from across the street. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think you may have even thrown in a few slurs? Bravo.

I know. I know. I shouldn’t expect to be able to stand outside, in clear view of other people coming out of their apartment and expect not to experience some kind of harassment based solely on my ethnicity and appearance, right? I mean, who do I think I am?

I realize that you thought you were being terrifically funny. You were clearly making yourselves laugh. But here’s the deal, that stuff is tried and true. It’s boring. Do you honestly think I don’t hear that accent on at least a weekly basis?

It’s just, if I can’t expect to be able to stand outside of my own home in peace and quiet, without the fear of harassment from utter strangers, then at least make ‘em original.

I can make you a list of the things I hear on the regular, if you’d like. That way, you can make your own list. An arsenal, if you will, of your own creative and, I’m sure, original, irreverent, hysterically funny material that you can then incorrectly label “satirical.”

That way, if you find yourselves out on that lonely street again, just hoping to ruin, or at least let your friends ruin another human being’s night, you can at least say you gave it a real shot, instead of using the same ole schtick. What comedian wants to get caught using another comedian’s material? It’s embarrassing. And let’s be honest, we don’t need another Louis C.K / Dane Cook controversy when there’s enough racist material to go around.

I just thought I’d give you a few friendly notes for next time, since you’re clearly in the early stages of developing your set. It’s for the good of us all, really. Because when you let your light shine brightly, you give everyone else the permission to do it, too.

I hope you all had a really great night.

Oh! And thanks for making such an effort to make such positive contributions to the community.

Keep fightin’ that good fight, guys.”

This story can also be found on the submitter’s blog.

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Your Stories

Nope. Not okay.

I just had a man whistle at me as I was walking past him. I stopped right in front of him, looked him in the eye and said very firmly, “That is not okay. Would you want someone to do that to your mother or your sister? That is not okay.” He was stunned for a minute, then murmured, “No, sorry. No, so sorry, sorry…”. I think he may have shrunk a bit..or maybe I just grew a little taller.

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Harassed 3x in 5 minutes on the bus.

In under five minutes boarding the bus three different men made comments about my looks and hair. It was nighttime on a crowded bus, and it shook me out of my day. First I wanted to cry, then I got so mad I wanted to hit them if they hadn’t already left the bus. Yes, I realize that I have red hair. No, that doesn’t mean I want to talk to you about it, or that you get to talk to me about it, assholes.

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International Street Harassment Survey

Hollaback is a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world. Hollaback has teamed up with Cornell University’s ILR School professor Beth Livingston to study the experiences and impacts of street harassment internationally, through cooperation with Hollaback’s many local activism sites.

What are we doing? In October, we are launching online surveys in countries on six continents, translated into multiple languages. Links to these surveys will be tweeted, blogged, facebooked and emailed worldwide with the hope of gathering data on street harassment that can be used to better understand its impacts in an international context. Links specific to your location are provided below.

What can you do to help? Complete a survey! When your site leader sends it out—complete it and send the link on to others who may or may not be familiar with the movement. The more respondents—men and women—the better. Adults only, please.

What can you expect? The survey asks about demographics, experiences with harassment, reactions to it, and other questions. It is completely anonymous. Summary reports and press releases can be expected early in 2015.

What if I have questions? You can ask your site leader, Katie Davis ( If you want more info on the survey itself, contact Prof. Beth Livingston (

SURVEY LINK (Chicago, English):

THANKS—and don’t forget to PASS IT ON and HOLLABACK!

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Get out of my space. CTA Red Line harassment.

I was riding the red line home from the Cermak stop at about midnight last week. The car I was in was empty except for me, an older man, and a young man. I always read my book and keep my head down to avoid unwanted attention. Three men got on the train at the Roosevelt stop. Despite the nearly empty car, two of them sat down on either side of me and one of them directly across from me. They all stared at me speaking in a language that I am not familiar with. When I stood up to move to a different seat, they started yelling and laughing in their language. At the next stop I quickly ran up to the next car while they yelled things behind me.

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Being stalked and harassed while leaving Blue Line

It’s a winter evening, so though it is not very late, it is very dark. I exit the Avondale Blue Line and start to walk home, trying to quickly pass an area under construction, the nearby busy street blocked by a large dumpster.

I hear someone shouting and the sound of feet rapidly approaching. I turn around immediately, hands clenched, not knowing what to expect. Some guy I’ve never seen before approaches me, out of breath. “I was watching you on the train and I followed you because I think you’re really attractive.”

“Thanks. Good night.” I reply shortly and turn to walk away, hoping to get to the well-lit area of the street.

“Wait, wait, you’re not going to tell me your name? I ran all the way off the train and up the stairs to talk to you!” He sounds upset, not believing that I couldn’t appreciate this gesture. He moves closer to me.

His sense of entitlement– his idea that I was obligated to be flattered by some random guy following me home in the dark– infuriated me. I wish had I yelled I DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING. But instead I say firmly “I need to go.” and move further away from him.

He asks questions that I don’t answer, about where I’m from (“I bet you are from Europe, you have that kind of face.” No- I’m not.) and I keep repeating in a robot-flat voice that I need to go, not offering much other conversation, too scared to turn my back to him to walk away, until he finally turns to leave, seemingly reluctantly. I am so afraid that he will follow me home that I keep turning around every few blocks to look over my shoulder and I stay for over an hour at a nearby restaurant, keeping watch at the window while a sympathetic waitress listens to my story and the cook says he will call the cops if he comes by.

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