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Friday, June 11, 2010

No, really, I woke up this morning hoping I'd be attacked by a mob of genital-grabbing hockey fans.

Well, Hollaback, here is my story.

I was inside my car, so not sure if this qualifies as street harassment, but it was incredibly scary and some of it was sexual, so I thought I would share. I don't have pictures because I was driving and wanted to get where it was safe. At that point I whipped out my phone and called 911. Supposedly they sent someone there to deal with the mob.

I was driving home from a late night roller derby practice and went through a student-heavy area of town to get home. This isn't my normal route, but of course after roller skating for two hours I needed ice cream. So I ended up on Green Street. I forgot about the Stanley Cup since I'm not a hockey fan, but started noticing throngs of people in hockey jerseys and realized what was going on.

Then I got to a mob of at least fifty people, almost entirely men, cheering on one man as he hoisted a young woman over his shoulder and ran her across the street. I couldn't tell if it was consensual and they were joking around; it seemed consensual but I know that women are good at looking like they are going along with something when afraid for their lives as a defense mechanism. A burly man in a Harley was waiting at the stop light ahead of me and we watched the mob.

When the light turned green, the mob rushed out at us. They tried to make a tunnel for the motorcyclist, who just slowly and carefully picked his way past them. They didn't give him a lot of trouble, and he looked like he could have kicked their scrawny college asses. But then my tiny 2001 Honda Civic came along, with a woman driving and a baby seat in the back.

Instead of parting out of the way, the mob swarmed me. At least twenty of them surrounded my car, cheering and screaming at me, putting their faces in the windows, hitting my car, spitting on it and throwing beer at it. One man was videotaping the whole thing from his phone, slowly walking in front of me and leering. Another man jumped in front of my car and kept pretending to be hit by it, and then to additional cheers started fondling his package and dancing in front of my car. I was petrified I was going to accidentally hit one of them and hurt them, even as another part of me was so angry that I wanted to hurt them. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, had one hand partially obscuring my face, and drove very, very slowly looking straight ahead, until I was clear of them.

Once I was a safe distance away, I called the police. Then I drove home, shaking all the way. I have no idea what I could have done differently and suspect any other behavior would have only made them crazier. I am so glad I happened to have all my doors locked and windows up. Who knows what would have happened if one of them had been able to get in my car (I couldn't tell from the thumping whether they were trying the doors or not). Not only was that one of the scariest experiences of my life, I am disgusted that the Champaign Police weren't already dealing with the mob, since by all appearances they had been harassing individuals and drivers for some time. Further, all of the men looked very young and I wouldn't be surprised if a number of them were below drinking age.

Thank you for creating a space to share stories of street harassment. I guess it turns out that even professors can be harassed by their own students.

Submitted by Kathryn