Hollaback!

One of my favorite organizations is at a pivotal moment in its growth today and I wanted to share something about them here. The group is called Hollaback and it has chapters all over the country.

I first became a fan at the age of 19 when on my first ever trip to NYC I was verbally harassed on the street outside Grand Central Station by a couple of guys. They whistled at me to get my attention and then one of them told me that he would “sure like to tap that.” As they started walking towards me, I froze. Being young and out of my element, I had no idea what to do. A woman in her late twenties walked up beside me and snapped a picture of the two men with her camera before telling them to back off in a loud clear voice. They called her a bitch and walked away.

I turned to thank her. She handed me a piece of paper with a web address on it and said, “no problem, check out the site.” What I found was an online community where women posted photos of street harassers and spoke out about their feelings after being catcalled. I checked the site a week later and sure enough, there was the photo of the two men who had harrassed me. The site has since grown into a nationwide movement.

Today, Hollaback is on the verge of getting an iPhone app, but they need money to get it. They have 1 day and about $1700 left to raise. If you are able, consider donating to them here: www.ihollaback.org

And if you want to learn more, check out this link for an interview with the amazing Miss DC, Jen Corey. You can watch a video of her on NBC discussing her experiences with street harassment.

Portland Actress Shares Success Story

Alana and GFB Speaker Jaime Out On The TownThe best fight is the fight never fought. If you have ever been to a Girls Fight Back seminar, you have undoubtedly heard one of our speakers tell you this. You have also heard that setting boundaries with both your words your body are truly fantastic tools that we can all use to avoid violence in our lives. A good friend of mine and wonderful actress, Alana, told me a story this week that makes me believe in boundaries and preparation with even more conviction.  This is Alana’s story.

Alana went to France over Thanksgiving. First, I think we should all take a moment to be jealous of Alana’s holiday plans that were probably much cooler than our own. OK, now that is out of the way and I will continue with her story. When Alana was in France, she was sight-seeing and doing other cool things and came upon a marketplace of sorts and various people were trying to sell all sorts of things. One person stuck out for all the wrong reasons. Alana had a weird feeling about him because he was trying to get people to come over to him but did not appear to be selling anything. The man addressed Alana, she told him she wasn’t interested, and turned to walk away. He grabbed her arm. Let’s all take a moment and realize how inappropriate it was to grab her.  Alana whirled around and said, “Don’t touch me.” Oh, by the way, she said it in French! How cool is that?!?  The man did not let go and Alana prepped for a knee drive, which made him think twice and release her arm.  

 Alana went to one of the GFB seminars I put on in Portland last summer and said the seminar helped her know how to handle the situation, so this story made me incredibly happy. Let’s break Alana’s story down a little bit. First, Alana had a weird feeling about someone but, at first, was not sure why. This was her intuition. To directly rip off the words of Gavin DeBecker, your intuition is knowing something without knowing why. Later, Alana realized this man felt out of place because he was calling attention to himself in a marketplace but was not actually selling anything. That is also a great example of being aware of your surroundings. Second, Alana set a very clear verbal boundary when she told him she wasn’t interested in talking to him. Third, Alana set a very firm, final, unmistakably clear physical and verbal boundary by turning to the man and saying “Don’t touch me!” When that did not work, Alana was prepared to defend herself and fight back if necessary.

 This is a total success story that should be celebrated.  Alana fought the best fight ever . . . The one that is never fought! Alana trusted her intuition,  being a bad victim, and was completely prepared to defend herself. While, I am so thankful she didn’t actually have to fight, I am equally thankful that my friend Alana knows that she is worth fighting for and had confidence and presence of mind in a scary situation. Success stories like this are more common than some might think.  They just are not talked about enough. Be on the lookout for the success stories in your own lives and remember to celebrate them.

Not just another day on the bus…

We hear about situations all the time, where disturbed people get on to buses and passengers must decide what actions to take to remedy dangerous or uncomfortable situations. Yesterday was one such day.

After a long day of work, I got on my bus to head home. As I stepped off the first bus to transfer to another, a young man in his twenties followed close behind me, lighting a cigarette. As I waited for the light to change to green, I looked over to see him staring at me. He was taller than I, wearing a dress suit and black dress shoes. He held his black jacket in his left hand, loosely away from his body. His white with red pinstripe shirt, hanging out of his pants. He looked like a normal guy coming home from work.  However, there was something not quite right about him, though I couldn’t say exactly what it was.

As we crossed the street he followed close beside me. As he continued to smoke his cigarette, he proceeded to pull a faceless balaclava over his neck as he sat next to me on the bus bench. It was then that I knew for certain that something was off. There were several other people at the bus stop and my false sense of security convinced me to stay seated beside him. I was tired and I resented having to move from the only available space at the stop, in an effort to avoid this guy.

A minute later, my bus pulled up and I got on. As usual, there was only a few seats available so I took the first available seat before others got on. As I sat down, creepy guy sat down beside me. I opened my book in an effort to avoid any communication from him. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his hand fall to the side of the seat that was shared between us. He slowly inched his way towards my thigh. He then took his other hand and went to pull something our of his pocket. I swiftly moved my hand to a ready position in anticipation of having to fight. When nothing happened, I left doubt to convince me that “I” may just be exaggerating the situation, I walked to the front of the bus to ask the bus driver which direction this bus took. This being my bus, I knew the answer but wanted a polite excuse to leave my seat. As I walked back to another seat directly across from this man, I noticed his hand was not in his pocket as I had first thought. He not pulling out a weapon, but he did indeed pull out something, covering himself with his jacket. I couldn’t believe what was happening on the bus, right in front of me, in front of everyone in broad daylight. I became enraged.

A man who was sitting beside this guy saw what was happening, became embarrassed and walked to the back of the bus. I looked over to a woman across from him and made eye contact with her. It was like I was looking for confirmation of what was happening. She looked back at me and we both knew what the other was thinking. Silence.

Something inside of me snapped and looked over at this man and said “Seriously! Are you kidding me with this?” No response. No one else said a word. I realized in a moment, from the way that he looked at me that he was psychotic. His direct stare and smirk sent a chill up my spine. My instinct told me that no verbal boundary setting would make a difference and that it was best to avoid him completely. As we came to the next stop, a little girl got on the bus with her mother busily attending the another child. As the little girl went to sit beside him, I heard the words come out of my mouth “No!” her mother looking at me, I repeated , “No. Not this bus.” Without question, she and her little girl got off. I walked to the front of the bus, told the bus driver what was happening and got off.

I pulled out my phone, dialed 911 and called the police. I gave them a complete description of this guy, including the bus number on the back of the bus. What happened next, I can’t know for sure.

Some people may experience a situation like this and shake it off as a creepy one. I however, chose to look back at the events and see what I could have done differently, what I did and what I won’t do again.

As people, as women, we tend to make excuses for our first reactions. We need to let our instincts guide us and not allow logic to blind us from potential danger. When I got off my first bus, I saw someone and instinctively knew something was wrong. I was uncomfortable that he sat beside me, but instead of moving I stayed seated. I allowed this man to sit beside me on the bus. I didn’t want to create a scene. Instead of telling him to move his hand, letting him know that he was in my space, I ignored my discomfort and made excuses to move. I looked to others for acknowledgment of something I knew myself.

All of the training in the world is not useful unless it’s practiced, acted upon in the real world. We have to be comfortable using our voices, trusting our instincts and putting them into action. One could argue that I made the right choices, as I really didn’t know this man’s full intent. He could have indeed become physically dangerous. Personally, as  a self-defense instructor, the physical defense aspect is less scary to me than the verbal boundary setting. I think that this is common to many women. It was a situation that was in many ways passive aggressive and a grey area of what should have been said or done. At the end of the day, despite questioning my actions, I made choices that kept me safe. I was able to stay calm and act in ways that didn’t escalate the situation. This allowed me to deal with potential danger and notify those around me of a threat.  I got the woman and girl off the bus, I told the bus driver what was happening and I then got myself to safety and called the police. Perhaps, that’s exactly what I was supposed to do; to be here to tell you about it.