Hollaback! Story, Verbal

Rebecca’s story: “It’s a good idea to scream a woman walking alone at night?”

I’ve had lots of issues with the purple houses at the corner of Agricola, Cunard and North park. Almost EVERY TIME I walk by, someone says something — and they’re always upset I don’t respond. I usually try to cross the street to avoid them, but that’s my daily commute.

On a Saturday I was walking home from Jazz Fest around 2 a.m. and left my friend at the corner so she could head off her direction.

I made sure to cross the street because a group of the purple house people were sitting outside, drinking and smoking. Most were guys but a few were girls. They had verbally harassed me twice earlier that day so I wasn’t into another interaction.

But they spotted me. Good fun, I guess. I had red on my shoes so they obscenities about how I was a rude bitch and was wearing ‘ruby slippers’ – I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring it, but who the hell thinks it’s a good idea to scream a woman walking alone at night?

In case anyone in that group is reading this, when you do that, I get scared. I feel like you’re going to assault me. And that’s MY neighbourhood — not yours. I know and love many people in that area and it pisses me off that the same drunk assholes can keep ruining my day.

I've got your back!

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You may have noticed that we’re not big fans of woulda-coulda-shoulda in Holla-land. Gender-based denials of people’s agency and right to self-determination are wrong, and have no place here.

Unfortunately, there’s a bus full of protesters in Halifax this week that feel differently.

We disagree with the tone, tactics, and message of the protesters who are lining the streets of Halifax with graphic anti-abortion signs this week. It is wrong to shame and blame people for making the best choices they can about their body and their health. It is very wrong to endorse violence against medical providers and others who have helped people to enact these choices.

If you are disturbed by this campaign, here are some simple actions you can take that can have a big effect:

  • Join the hashtag ‪#‎signsightingHFX‬ on Twitter to report where the signs are, so parents of small children can take alternate routes (parents of older kids and teens may also appreciate having enough notice to prepare to have conversations with their children about the context)
  • Accurate information about abortion access and alternatives can be very hard to find in the maritimes. You can help by sharing the Your Choice Halifax site:
  • Check out the amazing Pro Love counter-action planned for Thursday August 14th:

If someone has ever tried to shame you for your sexual and reproductive health choices, or if someone has tried to take those choices away from you entirely, we are so sorry that they did this to you. They should not have. You deserved better, and you still do. We’ve got your back.


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Hollaback! Story

Shannon’s story: “I know it wasn’t my fault”

Was sitting in rush-hour traffic on Bayers Road today and a man was sitting in a service van in the lane to my right. I glanced over to see if I could make a lane change and caught him staring at me. I pretended to fiddle with the radio and looked over out of the corner of my eye. I had time to do that, glance to the left to see if there was anything over there (there wasn’t) and down at my dress to see if there was anything happening there (there wasn’t) and tweet from my phone that there was a gross creep leering at me before the light changed and he pulled away.

I felt skeezed out even though I know it wasn’t my fault. I shouldn’t care about some pig in traffic. But I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t do something – take his picture, flip him off, roll down the window and scream at him, anything! The dude eye-raped me and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

Still pissed four hours later. Wished my fiancé was in the car, because he’s not afraid to call out @ssholes like I am.

I've got your back!

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Hollaback! Story, Stalking, Verbal

Laurie’s story: “I’m fearing he wants to follow me”

This happened around 8:10 PM on July 3.

- I had just finished picking up some groceries and was heading for my car in the parking lot when I heard someone wolf whistle. I looked over and saw a man standing beside his cab leering at me. I gave him a cold stare back to indicate I wasn’t impressed and also noting his cab number.

- After putting my groceries in my car and getting inside, I looked over and he was STILL leering. He got in his cab and proceeded to sit… leering… still. Getting a little freaked out now, I decided to sit as well and wait for him to leave. After a couple minutes he did. I waited another couple minutes before leaving to give him plenty of time to get lost.

- As I’m driving through the parking lot, I pull up to an intersection in the parking lot and suddenly, there he is again. He waves to me as if to let me go ahead of him. I’m not getting in front of this guy because now I’m fearing he wants to follow me and I’m not letting him know where I live. He finally goes ahead and I follow him to exit the parking lot.

- He turns right. So do I.

- He turns his signal light on to turn right. I turn mine on to turn left. He switches his signal to now turn left. WTF??

- He continues down the street and pulls over… RIGHT IN SIGHT OF MY BUILDING!!

- Obviously, my paranoia is getting the better of me and I’m wondering if he already knew where I lived. Could be a coincidence but either way, I wasn’t going to pull into my parking lot and thus confirm of my actual home address to him.

- I drove by him, flipped the bird and drove away, turned down Oxford and then to a restaurant for supper. He was gone when I got home.

All of this was reported to the cab company who instructed me to report it to the HRM Taxi Commission who then told me to report it to the Halifax Regional Police.

Yes. I’m a little freaked out over this. I may be overreacting but I’m just going to be better safe than sorry.

Taxi Commission Ref #6202671
Halifax Regional Police File #14-93603

Incidentally, no surprise here but the females I spoke to who work for the cab company and the Taxi Commission were sympathetic and concerned with the story while the male police officer sounded quite apathetic and indifferent to the situation.

I've got your back!

Laurie’s story has been slightly edited to remove identifying information (with her consent).

The roof light numbers on HRM cabs are unique identifiers, and are much easier to read and remember than licence plates. If you ever have a problem with a cab, make a note of the cab company and the number on the roof light in case you decide to report it. You can choose to report in several ways:

  • contact the cab company directly
  • call 311 to make a report to the taxi commission
  • or call a non-emergency police number: (902)490-5016

You can also choose to report even if you don’t have this information.

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Assault, Groping, Hollaback! Story, Verbal

Emma’s story: “I tried to push him off me”

I’m still mad at myself for allowing this to go on as long as I did. I’m in high school, and every morning and afternoon I travel on the school bus. We have a very small group of kids on my particular bus, maybe only 10 at the most, so we know everyone that is on our bus. There was one guy though, he was two grades ahead of me, on the football team, and very very big and strong. For months he would do things like grab my boobs and slap my ass, and pore water down my shirt. I would tell him not to do it, but I would always nervously laugh making it seem like I was joking. Why couldn’t I just be serious? I guess one of the other guys on the bus watched this because months later he stuck his hand down my shirt aggressively and grabbed my boobs. I told him to stop and not do that (this time in a serious tone) and he said “no it’s almost my stop let me do it before I leave”. I tried to push him off me but he was very strong. I couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t let me. It was the most scared I have been in my life, and for weeks I felt dirty, unsafe, and violated. I still do. I’m just so mad at myself for not being more serious early on, maybe it would have never happened if I had stopped them from the beginning.

I've got your back!

Emma was very brave to share her story with us.
In Canada, sexual touching without consent is a crime under the category of sexual assault. If something like this happens to you, you have the right to report it to police. If for any reason you feel unable or unready to do so, you have other options. Here are just a few:

  • Avalon Centre in Halifax provides counselling to women and trans individuals 16-years and older who have experienced sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, or sexual harassment.
  • Kid’s Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) provides anonymous, confidential support and counselling for children and teens anywhere in Canada.
  • All schools should have anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies and resources available to student and parents. Universities and colleges also often have counsellors or student-led resources (such as women’s centres) that can offer support.

If you’re not sure how to get the help you need, please get in touch with us. And of course, you always have the right to respond, and to share your story. We’ve got your back. Share it with us, or with someone you know and trust.

Hollaback! Story, Stalking, Verbal

Chelsea’s story: “I began to walk away when he started following me”

I was taking a short-cut through the parking lot of the Forum, on my way to the Superstore complex, when I heard someone come running up behind me, calling after me to wait. I thought I must have dropped something so I stopped and asked the man what he wanted. He said he had seen me up the road, liked my red hair and wanted to tell me in person. I brushed him off with a quick ‘thanks’ and began to walk away when he started following me. He asked what I was ‘up to’ that afternoon and could he come along. At this point I probably should have just turned and kept walking, but I continue to fall into the trap of defaulting to politeness in uncomfortable situations. Up to this point, I didn’t feel threatened, just weirded out by his approach. I tried to extricate myself again by telling him I had to get going because I was meeting my sister but, again, he continued to follow me, asking if he could meet her to get her permission to date me. I very quickly let him know that I was in a long term relationship to which he replied “Well that’s pretty lame”. It took this complete stranger’s insult to my life choices and relationship status to finally give me the excuse I felt I needed to tell him off and walk away.

Nothing about this encounter made me feel like I was in danger, but his presumptuousness and clear disregard for my body language and clear discomfort is still rattling me. He was the epitome of the creep that gets away with sort of thing because ‘they don’t know any better.’

I've got your back!

Sky view near Windsor and Young (Google Maps)

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Hollaback! Story, Stalking

Rachelle’s story: “It still bugs me and makes me feel unsafe”

This is a few years back, but it still bugs me and makes me feel unsafe. There wasn’t a space for me to tell my story then, even to the people I knew. My girlfriend and I were renting a small room on the ground floor near the arm. We were watching tv or something on the couch and she grabbed my shoulder to silently make me look outside. Right outside of our window some dude was masturbating and looking at us. Our reactions still seem strange to me, or kind of sad. We silently both got up and walked into the bathroom, closing and locking the door. Neither one of us said anything for a while, and we debated calling the cops because we felt unsafe. We stayed in the bathroom for about an hour, until we thought he might be gone, and then came out, closed the blinds, and never opened them again for the year we lived there. The next day, our apartment complex was broken into, and there was glass on the floor outside our door for a month – and all I could think was “I’ll never be safe.” I felt angry, that he could do this to me and that if I were to attack him or yell, then somehow I could hurt and I’d “deserve it.” I felt angry at how unsafe and fearful I felt. But I think what upsets me most looking back on it is how ashamed I felt – ashamed because I knew that my girlfriend and I were being sexualized, ashamed because I felt powerless, ashamed because I felt, somehow, that I deserved this – that I should have known better – should have drawn the blinds better, should have been more secretive, should have never thought that this wouldn’t happen to me. And over the next couple of years, when it would happen again, in other spaces with other people, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that this is normal – that feeling like this, so ashamed, is the reality of being a woman, and of being a queer woman, and I shouldn’t expect anything more.

I've got your back!
The Northwest Arm (view from Google Maps)

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Zwarte Piet visits Halifax

Joachim Stroink posing with Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

This image was originally posted by Joachim Stroink, and retweeted by the NS Liberal Party account. The post has since been removed from both Twitter accounts.

On Sunday night, Joachim Stroink, the MLA for Halifax-Chebucto, posted pictures on Twitter of himself at a Christmas party with Nova Scotia’s Dutch community. Unfortunately, the celebrations included Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) a character played by a white man in blackface makeup. There has been immediate backlash, and a lot of confusion about the links between modern practices and the tradition’s troubling history.

We recognize that there have been some efforts to reform the character of Zwarte Piet. Piet is no longer described as a slave. He is no longer exclusively male. Official representations of him no longer speak with “broken” Dutch grammar and an affected Surinamese or Antillean accent.

HOWEVER. The blackface makeup has stubbornly remained. Blackface is not unique to the Americas, and is part of long-standing “traditions” that caricature and oppress people with dark skin. And there has been severe racist harassment of people in the Netherlands who dare to speak publicly about how Zwarte Piet is a symptom of endemic racism that affects them daily.

Stroink believes that growing up with the character of Zwarte Piet did not make him think less of his African Nova Scotian neighbours and friends. But he has failed to recognize the reality that racism affects the daily life of African Nova Scotians and other people of colour in the Maritimes. Racism is an unerasable part of our history, and it is not over. It lives and breathes here, in our schools and on our streets. Black people in Halifax are discriminated against by employers, by institutions, and by strangers in public space. These stories cannot be ignored. And we are troubled indeed to see such a lack of awareness and critical thinking from a recently elected MLA in our city.

Telling children that “racism is wrong” does us little good if we also teach them to ignore, accept, and even celebrate racist behaviour. When entire groups of people are objectified and stereotyped, they aren’t being treated as equals, and to dismiss their experience is a disservice to our entire community. African Nova Scotian people, Black people, people of colour — all of us are equally deserving of respect.

It seems unlikely that Zwarte Piet can truly be reformed. As long as he is celebrated, his figure will continue to invoke a violent and racist history, and will perpetuate the racism in our present culture. If Sinterklaas wishes to try to find a peaceful home in Nova Scotia, he must leave blackface behind.

Please join us in challenging Joachim Stroink to educate himself about racism and history in both Halifax and the Netherlands. He needs to learn more about Africville, blackface performance, forced relocation, the Dutch role in the slave trade, and current racial tensions in HRM.  Here’s his contact information:

Facebook: JoachimStroink

Twitter: @JoachimStroink

Email: joachim@joachimstroink.ca

Let’s get him pointed in the right direction.

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