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I was sitting in the parking lot right outside the Volunteer Fire Department in Rutland after dark when a teenage boy walked up to the car and tapped on the window. I was startled at first, because I wasn’t sure if this could be someone coming to tell me I didn’t have permission to be there. But he just said, “Are you okay? Do you need anything?” I said no but thank you and that I was just using the internet here to send a quick message. I went back to my messaging. The boy walked back down the alley. A few minutes later, a group of three more teenage boys started walking from the opposite end of the alley toward where the boy had gone. I saw the first boy walking toward them, and heard them say to him, “Who’s that?” pointing at my car. The boy I had spoken to said, “Just some girl. I asked if she needed anything. She’s fine.” One of the boys in the group said to him loudly as he walked close by my car, “Oh, you should ask her to give me a blow job.” Luckily, the first boy said, “No, don’t ask her that. She’s fine.” I locked my car, waited for them to walk a little farther down the alley, and drove off. I wished I had rolled the window down and yelled something to them.
Each year, April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and each year, the first week of April is designated as both Take Back the Night Week and International Anti-Street Harassment Week. This crazy scheduling puts those who care deeply about such issues into a tailspin of running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to show support to all the groups hosting events. Last year, Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! was a newly formed group. We didn’t officially launch our blog until April 15th, but during the first week of April, we painted the graffiti wall, attended every Take Back the Night Event, chalked the streets with anti-street harassment messages, and hosted a screening of the film “War Zone.” This year, we’d like to let you know what we’re up to now so you can better plan to attend/participate. We will be sure to attend the Take Back the Night March and Rally on Thursday April 3rd. Also keep your eyes on the graffiti wall and sidewalks again this year as our handiwork is likely to reappear. We encourage anyone who wants to join in the chalking to do so. You can take photos of your work and post them on the International wechalkwalk Tumblr. This Tumblr is administrated by Hollaback Brussels! but is intended to serve the whole world! If you choose to chalk, keep in mind that there are fines associated with chalking any brick sidewalks owned by Ohio University. Also, keep your radio tuned to WOUB for our extended episode on Conversations with Studio B. Our episode will air in multiple segments over the course of International Anti-Street Harassment Week and will also be available via pod-cast. If you “like” us on Facebook, we will be sure to let you know when the pod-cast is up.
Our main event this year will be the opening reception for our Anti-Street Harassment Art Show at Casa Nueva on Thursday April 3rd at 9pm. In January, we put out a call for submissions to this show asking for art about personal experiences of street harassment, visions of safer streets, and cats. Cat art will be hung beneath a banner that reads, “Cats Against Cat-Calls.” Light refreshments will be served around 10pm. Performances will also begin at 10pm. We will be showing our short documentary about street harassment in Athens, titled “On the Catwalk.” There will be poetry performances by members of the F-Word Performers. Raggamuffin, featuring graduates from Athens Rock Camp for Girls, will perform, as well as, the Fury, a new all girl punk band featuring former members of Snarlas. This event is intended to be an after party for the Take Back the Night March as well as a birthday celebration for Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! We will celebrate our accomplishments over the last year, which include having some of our art go viral on the wechalkwalk Tumblr, designing and piloting our Safer Spaces training as well as our 5 lesson curriculum for High School Health Classrooms, and getting that curriculum into Trimble High School. It’s not too late to submit visual art to the show. And it’s not too late to add your name to the list of performers. Just email me to let me know.
And as always, share your stories of street harassment and bystander intervention with us at appalachianohio.ihollaback.org, patronize our designated safer spaces, and let us know if you have a classroom or community group for whom you would like us to present a workshop. For more information check out the Safer Spaces and Workshops tabs on our blog site. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at the show!
One night I was out at the bar having a few drinks with a friend of mine. We decided to go outside and have a smoke. My friend had to use the restroom so I told her I would meet her out front. Once I got outside I noticed a group of obviously drunk guys standing in front of the bar, also smoking. I lit my cigarette and paid no notice to them, which is a tactic I apply readily in a town full of drunks: ignore them and go about your business. But the behavior of these guys was anything but ignorable. Not only were they yelling and carrying on amongst each other, but they were yelling at every girl that walked by in the most obscene way. Their yelling was not just limited to the girls walking directly in front of them either, they were also yelling across the street to every girl they saw passing by. When they received no response from the girls, they proceeded to shout really mean things about how the girls weren’t good enough for them anyway. I was completely appalled, not only by the things they were yelling, but at their behavior in general… thinking that anyone would be attracted to or flattered by a drunk person yelling really vulgar comments at them. I’m a fairly quiet person and typically keep to myself, but I really wanted to ask these guys what they expected to achieve. Well, just as I was thinking about approaching them, my friend comes outside to meet me and share a cigarette. Well, as soon as she walks out, one of the guys, the ‘ring-leader’ if-you-will, walks right up to her and gets right in her face and proceeds to hit on her like he can’t be denied. Surprisingly, she deals with their ignorance very well, so well in fact, I didn’t have to intervene at all. She firmly stood her ground and met everything he had to say with a firm response that let him know she was not interested. I think once they realized she was my friend and with me, it helped to cause them to lay off, which is sad because it was like the fact I was a male was the only thing that deterred them. To imagine this same situation with two girls really saddens me. It saddens me because the drunken idiots probably would not have relented at all on hitting on my friend or me (if I had also been a girl). Fortunately, the drunk guys did leave shortly thereafter, sparing everyone of anymore of their disgusting display. I was really amazed at my friend and her reaction to those guys’ behavior, in fact, it left a lasting impression on me. It left a lasting impression of her strength and her ability to handle the situation assertively and with dignity.
Years ago, when I was an undergrad at Ohio University, I was raped by someone I had been dating for a couple of months. He had been pissed that I was trying to break up with him. I am very tempted to post his photo here, because I know he has gone on to do this to more women, and I think we should be able to warn each other in this way, but there are some things I’m still scared of. The months after the assault were intensely difficult. He would routinely show up at places where he knew he could find me, with the sole purpose of intimidating me through words or sometimes just body language. It seemed like no matter what I did, no matter how well I tried to hide from him, I would always run into him sooner or later. I wanted to skip town, to run far far away, somewhere where he would never find me. But I was still in school, and I had a scholarship. I had to finish. A year or two later, I did finish, and I did run away. I moved out of state for over a year, but I was homesick the whole time and eventually moved back, crossing my fingers that maybe he didn’t live in Athens anymore, or maybe he had forgotten about me. The first few months of being home were great. I got reconnected with friends and family and felt like I was where I was supposed to be again. I didn’t run into him for almost a year, then suddenly he was everywhere all the time again. Over a decade later, we still live in the same town, and running into him seems to happen in waves. I won’t see him at all for months, and then all of the sudden, it seems like he’s lurking around every corner. When I’m out alone, he still makes intimidating body language toward me or says things like, “What?! It’s a free country.” Sometimes I’ll be walking just a couple of blocks to grab lunch, and I’ll suddenly find myself ducking into the nearest alley in order to avoid feeling the anger that wants to exit my body as gratuitous violence. At least now a lot of my friends know the situation and can help mediate the times when we’re out and about together and he pops up. About a week or two ago, I was having dinner at Kisers on East State Street with a male friend of mine. My back was to the entrance, and my friend was facing me. He saw him walk in and notice me. My friend said to me, “Hey, don’t turn around, but that guy you hate just walked in.” I asked him what he was doing, if it looked like he was going to get near us. He told me that he had just ordered and was sitting at the counter waiting for his order. My friend asked me what I wanted to do and said if I wanted to leave, he would leave with me. I said that I was hungry and I wanted to finish my sandwitch, but if he got near me, I might change my mind. My friend made eye contact with him with a warning in his eyes from across the room, and he didn’t come near. We finished our dinner and left through the back door. My friend walked beside me, blocking all possibility of eye contact between me and that asshole. When we got outside, my friend reached out for a hug and asked if I was okay. I said yes and thanked him for making it so I didn’t have to look at the guy. This was the best experience I have had so far with running into him in public. My friend didn’t put his own emotions or desires ahead of mine. He didn’t threaten to beat him up or cause a scene. He asked me what I wanted to do and did it.
The following is an essay regarding the incident and its affect on me in the aftermath.
I Don’t Like Soda
I don’t like soda (r pop as we called it in my childhood hometown). Especially the dark colored sodas like Coke or Pepsi. Don’t know why. I just never have. That is what I have always told people and that is what I have believed. That is until yesterday. I am just a couple of months shy of my 49th birthday and new memories came floating in yesterday that reminded me that I did like soda. I liked it a whole bunch until I was thirteen. I will get back to this but for now, what is important is that I am a survivor. A survivor of many things. But, for this moment, and for the purposes of this essay, I am a rape survivor.
It is Sunday morning, February 2, 2014. I live in a small college town in Southern Ohio. On Friday night I had friends over for dinner and then we went uptown to a local bar to support our friend’s new band. The crowd was a mix of students and Professors, young and not so young. The band was fantastic and my friend, the lead singer, never misses a note. It was uptempo and fun and the music covered a broad range of mostly pop music through many decades. We gathered, we laughed, we talked, but mostly, we danced.
As the night went on the dance floor became more crowded as did the bar. I am in my own little world, groovin’ to the music, right up front when it happens. It happens so fast I am stunned into submission. I feel someone pushing me from behind with their groin. Aggressively. He pushes until I am up against the stage. I can hear him laughing but don’t catch a glimpse of him until he pulls back and I am able to step free. I move to the side of the dance floor using my friends as a barrier and get a better look. He makes eye contact with me and laughs. I decide to shake it off and get back to enjoying the music and dancing in the safety net of my friends. This doesn’t last long. All of a sudden. One bump. Two bumps. I turn around. Again, this same guy, thrusting his unwelcome pelvis into my backside. This same, short, young twenty-something jerk. I leave the dance floor.
My husband, who danced his few dances earlier in the evening is at our table engrossed in a conversation. When I approach he can see I am upset and asks what is wrong. “Did you see that?” He did not. So, I relay the unpleasant story to him and his eyes start scanning the dance floor. “Which one is he?” I point him out. “The little one in the striped shirt?” my husband asks? “Do you want me to say something to him?” I tell him no, not wanting to make a scene at my friend’s debut event. The set is almost over. It is getting late and close to time for us to go anyway. I suggest we just leave. I tell him I will get my coat and purse and say some goodbyes and I will be right back.
I take four or five steps. And, then, it happens. I feel an open hand grab and squeeze my butt. I turn my head and there he is again. He just keeps walking. I am blown away. I haven’t had to deal with anything like this in years. I turn back to my husband and tell him what just happened. He begins to get up. I place my hand on his chest and tell him, “No. I’ve got this.” I walk over to the table where this little pervert is standing and I confront him. “What is wrong with you? You cannot just molest women on the dance floor and put your hands and body parts on them at will.” He looks me dead in the eye and says, “like I would touch you.” I shouted back, “fifteen people on the dance floor saw you!” At this point his friend steps between us and starts to plead with me to let him handle his friend. “I’m a student here. He isn’t. I am sorry for his behavior. Please don’t get us kicked out.” It was too late. My husband and a close personal (and somewhat imposing) friend of ours were looking down on the little pervert explaining that it was time for him to go. He was protesting and claiming innocence, of course.
In comes the bouncer. He comes up to me and asks what has happened. I tell him. He cuts his eyes at the table of young men and mentions he has been keeping an eye on them all night. He turns to my assaulter and informs him that it is time for him to leave. He then turns to the whole table of young men and informs him that the entire group needs to leave displaying zero tolerance. Kudos to this new local establishment! I catch my breath, let my adrenalin regulate and begin to say my thank you’s, my apologies (yep, I actually apologized to people), and my goodbyes. My husband and two of our friends walk out the door. And their he is, being pushed back from the door by two guys. He looks up at me and glares. I no longer have time for this attacker of women, this little boy who does not know his place, this person who walks through life leading with his penis.
Saturday morning comes early. I wake from a dream-like fog. They are back. The flashbacks. Triggered by last nights events like clockwork. I am in a PTSD episode. And it is 4:13 am. I can hear my husband snoring to the right and my big male mutt snoring on the left. I am safe and warm in my own bed but I feel anything but safe and warm. It is going to be a long day full of memory games that come in strange and unexpected waves. Some familiar. Others will turn out to be revealing, exposing new pieces to the nearly thirty-six year old puzzle.
It was 1976. I was eleven years old, I began taking martial arts classes. Kong Soo Do, a Korean martial art similar to Karate, to be specific. The owner of the gym (“dojo”) and my instructor (my “Kwan”) was a tall, charasmatic man with blond hair and a soft manner. He was kind and genuinely interested in his students. He was a patient teacher who was very devoted to our mastery of not just the physical skills but the spiritual disciplines of martial arts. I took lessons two nights a week and loved every moment. I had found my sport. I was tiny but I was pretty good at this thing. I progressed quickly through the promotions and did well at competitions. When I was thirteen I had achieved the rank of purple belt with one stripe. I had a few stripes to go for the brown belt level, then came black. These two goals were a long way off, however, because they were extremely difficult to achieve and took mastery. I would never achieve them.
One evening my teacher approached me about doing some self defense exhibitions. I was flattered but surprised he picked me. I was the smallest person in the gym. I wasn’t the youngest but I was certainly the tiniest. I was thirteen, 4 feet 9 inches tall and I weighed in at 56 pounds. He explained that I was the perfect candidate for the job because of my size. If someone like me could take down a 6 foot plus man like himself then that would really empower girls of all sizes. I’m in! I was honored. With my parents permission, I was going to my first demonstration at a local high school clear across town just a few weekends later. My instructor was going to pick me up and we would be gone most of the day. This was not unusual as he often gave many of us kids rides to the various competitions all over the tri-state area. The only difference this time? I was the only kid going. But I trusted him. My parents trusted him. He had been my instructor for over two years, I babysat for he and his wife, and I even worked summers for his father. No one gave it a second thought.
The demonstration at the high school took only 30 minutes. The drive to the school took longer than the demonstration. I remember being surprised it was so short and being a little disappointed that it was over already. We packed up, climbed in the car and started down the road. He suggested lunch at Wendy’s. I was hungry. “Sure, why not.”
In 1992, I began counseling when my brother died. Initially, I was going for grief counseling, but in rather quick time, it was clear that I was in for something much more intensive and scary. Within 3 months, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Dissociative tendencies. The trauma of my brother’s death had acted as a trigger and the flashbacks came in trickles at first and over the years they have come more like waves. It is like a puzzle where you are only given a few pieces at a time and you wait, sometimes for decades, for new pieces to reveal themselves. I was thirteen years old, 4 feet 9 inches tall, 56 pounds and I was raped by a towering 6 foot plus thirty-six year old predator with a black belt in martial arts who had trained me in self defense. Only he did not train me in how to defend myself against his attack.
1979. Self defense demonstration behind us. A thirteen year old girl sitting at a table in a Wendy’s in Northern Ohio eating lunch with a thirty-six year old man she trusts. 2014. A forty-eight year old woman waking up after being accosted by a young man in a local establishment the night before. The memory floods this time. I am thirteen sitting in Wendy’s across from my martial arts teacher. I have ordered a chili, a salad, and a pepsi. He asks me if I found anything on my porch the week before. I think back. Valentine’s Day. The necklace. A small heart pendant with a little diamond in the middle. A valentine card attached, signed by my secret admirer. How could he know about that?. The necklace was sitting in my mom’s jewelry box. I had refused to wear it not knowing who it had come from. I spent a week looking around my class room. Which boy could it have been? Mike lives just behind me. No, we have been friends since we were toddlers. Not Mike. Roger? No, not Roger. He has a crush on my friend Anita and has been using me as the go between. Joe? My paperboy? He would have had no problem slipping it on to my porch. Could be Joe. But, who knows? And, who cares? I am not interested in any of these boys. I have known most of them since first grade or longer. Nope. No way I am ever wearing that necklace.
I snap out of it when I hear my own voice saying “How do you know about the necklace?” I sip my pepsi. I move salad around the plate with my fork, scared of the answer. “I left it for you. I am in love with you.” These words come out of his mouth in slow motion. The room is spinning. I can feel my heart racing. I am confused. I excuse myself to the bathroom. I compose myself. I am scared. These are pre-cell phone days. I have no money for the pay phone. I am not equipped to deal with this adult situation. I have to get through lunch and safely home. I can do this. I return to the table. I tell him the necklace was pretty but my mom won’t let me wear it because we don’t know who it came from. I tell him she has it in her jewelry box and is determined to find out who left it for me on our porch. I sip my pepsi. I move more salad around. I black out. The rest of that day is mostly lost in my mind. It comes back to me in pieces. In drips, in drops, in waves, and, sometimes, but rarely, in a flood. I made it home alive. No outward signs of attack. I keep it to myself. I lock it away. I never go back to the gym. I quit martial arts forever. My parents are baffled and eventually quit asking why.
It is 1992. I am sitting in my therapist’s office and the first memory comes. It comes in smells, and snippets of phrases, and heavy breathing and I freak out and have to be medicated. It smells like cleaning supplies. He is breathy, excited. I am breathing heavy, fear. I can hear him saying, as he pushes me down, “you have to stay on your stomach, only my wife gets to look into my face.” I can hear him saying, “it has to be this way, only my wife gets it the other way.” I am sodomized. Thus, begins my journey with the diagnosis of PTSD. I am 27 years old. I have lived with PTSD most of my life and now I finally have a diagnosis. I have learned to live with and manage PTSD quite well with years of intensive therapy. But I am not cured. There is no cure. And I am reminded of this from time to time. I was reminded of this on Friday night, when a drunk and stupid young twenty-something assaulted me on a dance floor and triggered the memory gates.
I don’t like Soda. I never have. Especially the dark colored ones. That is what I have told people for years. And until yesterday I believed that to be true. But it is not true. Until I was thirteen years old I loved Pepsi. Until one day, at a Wendy’s, a thirty-six year old man, a man that I trusted, a man who taught me self defense, slipped something into my Pepsi and raped me.
Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! is seeking submissions for an April Art Exhibition at Casa Nueva. The show will include any medium that can hang on a wall depicting experiences of street harassment and/or our visions of safer streets. This can include messages about consent and bystander intervention. We will also create a small banner bearing the words Cats Against Cat Calls under which any works containing cats may be hung!!! You may have your piece for sale or not with the proceeds going either to the artist or to Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! so that we may continue our Safer Spaces Campaign and other programming. There will also be an Art Party at Donkey Coffee on Saturday March 15th from 7-9pm where we can get together and collaborate on works. The opening reception will be held at Casa Nueva during the first week of April and will include opportunities for video screenings and performance art. More details coming soon. For additional information, you may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. See also, the Facebook Event Page.
Better yet, the top parallel parking mistake was made today by this guy standing on a porch. I was parallel parking outside of my friend’s house on a narrow and less traveled side street. One of the houses across the street had a handful of people hanging out. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a party, but there was music playing loudly. As I was parking, a guy came out on the porch and crossed his arms and just stood there, staring at me while I parked. I heard someone holler to him from inside. She must have said something like come back in or what are you doing out there or something. He said, loud enough for me to clearly hear, “Hold on. I’m watching this bitch park next to my car. She better not bump it!” I finished parking, and as I was getting my things out of the car, my friend, who happens to be a guy, got out and returned the gesture. He stood there with his arms crossed, mean mugging the guy. I got my things and said, “Come on, let’s go.” My friend asked if I had heard the guy, and I just said loudly, “Yes I heard the guy. He’s an asshole. Don’t give him the time of day.” My friend said it wasn’t cool and that he had thought he might come off the porch at us. I told him the last thing I needed was for him to act like he needed to defend my parallel parking honor. We went inside and tried to forget about it. I hope the guy doesn’t live over there, cuz if he does, we’ll probably be seeing him again. It’s not like his car was even that nice, and I still parked flawlessly, despite or in spite of, his intimidation tactics.
I was walking back home around 8PM at night and talking over phone. Generally, I like to talk over phone during my walks to not feel bored! Suddenly, I felt the presence of somebody at my back very close to me. I turned back and saw man with blonde hair at a hand’s distance. I didn’t think of him as a stalker; and just made way for him to pass me. He passed me very slowly, staring at me. I still wasn’t thinking it as abnormal (now that I think of it, I feel I should have) and gave the casual smile. When he was around 15 feet away, he suddenly turned back; looked at me and gestured his hands in a way that he’s cupping his breasts. I was shocked, but didn’t say anything since I was still talking over the phone. I started walking slowly, hoping he’d just go away; only to realize that he was walking slowly too. I crossed the road remembering all those strategies I have been told/read for instances I might get followed. The man kept following me from the other side of the road for around 5 minutes. When, I came near KFC, I started to get into KFC to be at a crowded place. When he saw I was getting into KFC, he suddenly turned and entered an intersection. Seeing that he was gone, I decided not to go in and started walking again. Suddenly, I saw him ahead of me- he must have taken the parallel route and come from the front! I shouted and said, “What do you want?”. He stopped approaching me and went away. I stood their still for 5 minutes; because I didn’t want him know my home, which was close by. Later, even after I was home, I felt shaken. I wondered, what did he want actually? Stimson Avenue is a busy road, he surely didn’t plan to rape me! Was his target to rob me or something? Or was he just stalking a girl for fun?
After this incident, I surely would not be talking over phone on my long walks back home! I have been told by well-wisher friends not to walk home alone at night! It’s me who has to change my behavior; not the stalker! That’s frustrating!