Angela’s Story | January 13, 2019
Gender-based street harassment is an epidemic affecting women, non binary, and trans folks in cities all around the globe. Join Catcalls of NYC writer Jessica Hutt in hearing first-hand accounts from people who are saying “NO!” to catcalling. In this interview, read the story of Angela, a Filipina woman who has encountered sexual harassment and victim-shaming multiple times throughout her life.
Jessica Hutt: Where are you from?
Angela: I'm from Manila, NCR (National Capital Region), Philippines.
Hutt: How old were you when you were first catcalled?
Angela: I was a 15-year-old high school student when I was first catcalled.
Hutt: What happened? Who catcalled you? What did they say/do?
Angela: I don't recall much [from] when I was first catcalled because many years have already passed, so instead, I'm going to share something more recent. This happened more than over a year ago; I was in my last year of college. My classes end late in the afternoon, so by the time I made my commute home the skies were already dark. I was crossing the overpass bridge, not far from our school, when a man said, "Hi miss, ang cute mo". (Translation: hi miss, you look cute.) The stairs of the overpass bridge were narrow, so he was very close to me when he said that. I tried to ignore him but he started following me. He kept harassing me while I kept walking until I reached the jeepney stop.
Hutt: How did the experience make you feel in the moment and after the fact?
Angela: I was really shaken up and scared. I kept going back to that moment and asking myself what I did to invite that kind of attention. I kept asking myself if it was my fault because I kept remembering the other times when guys faulted me for their actions.
Hutt: How did you react outwardly?
Angela: I had my phone on one hand; the flashlight on and a call away from 911 in case something happened, and a pen in the other. I didn't confront him because I was so scared that he might get aggressive and do something to me.
Hutt: Did you tell anyone what happened? If so, how did they respond?
Angela: When I got home, I told my brother. I was relieved that it was just him at home because I was too vulnerable to weather my mother's penchant for victim-shaming. He was very angry on my behalf and comforted me as best as he could.
Hutt: Do you believe that catcalling is a compliment?
Angela: Catcalling has never been nor will it ever be a compliment. It's an unsolicited action from men who feel entitled to take up our time and emotional well-being just to express that they are sexually interested in you.
Hutt: Do you go out of your way to avoid situations in which you could be catcalled?
Angela: I avoid it as much as I can. I always have my commute fare easily accessible. [In this situation] a ballpen was hidden in my pocket and my phone [was] in hand.
Hutt: Did you feel the need to change your behavior after the experience?
Angela: I'm usually in my school uniform so regardless of how I dressed I was catcalled and harassed often. I always carry a retractable baton and a switchblade in my bag and walked close to people in groups.
Hutt: What do you think can be done to end street harassment?
Angela: Pass legislation so that street harassment is not allowed and is a jailable offense with a hefty bail amount so offenders will take it more seriously. Improve security infrastructure like building light posts in dark streets and installing more CCTV cameras. A cohesive education for early, intermediate and tertiary levels that any form of harassment is bad and about the steps they could take to help stop the offender and what legal steps the victim could take after those kinds of situations. And it shouldn't stop there, this kind of education should also be shared by leaders in communities. Every citizen should be educated on this matter and what they can do about it.
Hutt: Why is it important to end street harassment?
Angela: It's important because everybody has the right to feel safe.
Want more stories? Keep checking the Catcalls of NYC blog for new interviews with badass people sharing their personal experiences with street harassment. Special thanks to Ms. Malano for telling her story and speaking out against unsolicited sexual advances!