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This Powerful Photo Series Captures The Horror Of Sexual Harassment

"No matter how 'mild' the experience, each instance is a brush stroke in the bigger picture of a woman's life."

Posted on November 15, 2017, at 5:13 p.m. ET

"I was walking down a street in Manhattan when I saw a man walking toward me. His daughter was holding his hand and his young son was behind him on a scooter. As the distance between us got shorter I could tell that he was intensely staring at me, studying my legs, my sundress, my cleavage. Just as our paths crossed he lunged toward me and whispered, “Mmmm, I’d like to taste your chocolate.” I was most horrified that his daughter was right there, watching her father verbally assault me, while his son was behind learning from his actions." —Dorina
Eliza Hatch

"I was walking down a street in Manhattan when I saw a man walking toward me. His daughter was holding his hand and his young son was behind him on a scooter. As the distance between us got shorter I could tell that he was intensely staring at me, studying my legs, my sundress, my cleavage. Just as our paths crossed he lunged toward me and whispered, “Mmmm, I’d like to taste your chocolate.” I was most horrified that his daughter was right there, watching her father verbally assault me, while his son was behind learning from his actions." —Dorina

Photographer Eliza Hatch's ongoing project Cheer Up Luv asks women to revisit the site at which they experienced sexual harassment in a public setting, allowing an opportunity for each woman to reclaim that space as place of empowerment. Each picture is a unique and important story, but together these photos reveal a horrendous epidemic of sexual harassment.

Eliza Hatch spoke with BuzzFeed News about how this project began and what it's grown into in light of recent accusations of sexual assault in the media:

Cheer Up Luv is an ongoing project documenting women's accounts of sexual harassment. It's a platform for women’s voices to be heard and for women to take ownership of experiences that were once out of their control. These experiences range from being flashed to being verbally assaulted and even physically abused, all taking place in a public setting. By photographing these women and publishing their stories, my aims have been to help women reclaim that space for themselves and to shed some light on an issue that is rarely spoken about.

"Two summers ago I was walking to a supermarket in Marseille. A guy was getting out of his car and said to me, 'La pute c'est magnifique,' as I walked past." —Florence
Eliza Hatch

"Two summers ago I was walking to a supermarket in Marseille. A guy was getting out of his car and said to me, 'La pute c'est magnifique,' as I walked past." —Florence

The vast majority of the women I have photographed were complete strangers to me before I met them and all came forward with stories that they wanted to share with the public. Every women is completely different, some are terrified of being photographed, and others are models who are extremely comfortable. It's always a learning curve and something which I hold with the highest importance: making the woman feel comfortable when she is telling her story. On a side note, on almost EVERY shoot, the woman and I get sexually harassed by a passing man or two.

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"I was sitting on a coach traveling through Croatia and four guys sat in the row of seats in front of me. One of them sat next to me uninvited and started making conversation. Over the next two hours he kept moving closer and closer to me, even trying to touch and stroke me. He tried to put his hand under my romper and each time I would tell him to leave me alone. There was a couple who was sitting across from us, but they did nothing the whole time. When the coach stopped, I tried to move past him and he touched my bum." —Danielle
Eliza Hatch

"I was sitting on a coach traveling through Croatia and four guys sat in the row of seats in front of me. One of them sat next to me uninvited and started making conversation. Over the next two hours he kept moving closer and closer to me, even trying to touch and stroke me. He tried to put his hand under my romper and each time I would tell him to leave me alone. There was a couple who was sitting across from us, but they did nothing the whole time. When the coach stopped, I tried to move past him and he touched my bum." —Danielle

The themes behind Cheer Up Luv have been a constant factor in my life, but it was only when a strange man on the street walked past me earlier this year and told me to "cheer up," that it really bothered me. That single phrase, which I am used to hearing, finally irritated me so much to the point where I needed to do something about it. It prompted me to have a conversation with my girlfriends about harassment and we ended up story-swapping for over an hour, talking about sexual harassment like it was the most normal thing in the world.

This really shocked me, that we were speaking about this topic in such a brazen way. But it was only when my male friends interjected their disbelief and horror that I was prompted to start the project. I realized that it wasn't just the harassment itself that was the problem, it was the awareness surrounding it.

"One morning I was running in the park and noticed two men watching me. I immediately felt uncomfortable and tried to ignore their stares. I then took a break to stretch. The men approached me and one said, 'Can I ask you something?' To which I responded, 'Depends what it is.' His response was, 'Do you want to have a threesome right now?' I told them to walk away and I continued to stretch. They didn't walk away. Instead they thought they would ask another question, 'Can you stop bending down like that? It's getting me really hard.'" —Elaine
Eliza Hatch

"One morning I was running in the park and noticed two men watching me. I immediately felt uncomfortable and tried to ignore their stares. I then took a break to stretch. The men approached me and one said, 'Can I ask you something?' To which I responded, 'Depends what it is.' His response was, 'Do you want to have a threesome right now?' I told them to walk away and I continued to stretch. They didn't walk away. Instead they thought they would ask another question, 'Can you stop bending down like that? It's getting me really hard.'" —Elaine

I believe that this project is extremely important for its time, because historically, women have never had the platform or audience to speak out about everyday harassment and for it to be taken seriously. No matter how "mild" the experience, each instance is a brush stroke in the bigger picture of a woman's life.

A few of my friends keep saying that sexual harassment has gone "viral" in the media, which is a strange concept to wrap your head around, but it's sort of true. The allegations and stories that have been surfacing have been relentless, and I think it's been a long time coming and it's encouraging that the silence surrounding this topic is finally being lifted. I think the #metoo initiative is a very powerful movement. It's been a way of giving women and men a chance to notify people if they had been harassed, without having to be exposed as an individual and explain their story in detail. It gave just the right amount of anonymity and solidarity.

When starting the project, I asked every woman I knew if they had experienced sexual harassment. Every woman responded, and I received two different kinds of answers. The first was "yes, which of my five stories would you like to hear?" and the second was, "Oh...I'm not sure if anything that bad has ever happened to me." From the second response, I realized that some women weren't even aware themselves what counted as harassment. After asking them again if they had experienced anything, ranging from a man shouting from a moving vehicle to receiving an unwanted compliment from a stranger, I then received tons of stories of sexual harassment.

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"I just moved to New York and one day I decided to go downtown. I sat down on the train and one guy got on and stood right in front of me holding onto the rail. I turned my face and body to the right instead of his body in front of me. Then, I see a weird movement happening to my left, in the corner of my eye. It ended up being his penis sticking out of his zipper of his pants and he was rubbing it. I quickly turned my eyes back. I just thought it was sick that he even thought to do that right in front of my face. I am a short girl so anyone that stands in front of me I am eye level to that part of the body. There were tons of seats open and he still chose to stand in front of me. So I quickly just thought to get off at the next stop. I didn't really know what to do. It was a weird experience." —Gina
Eliza Hatch

"I just moved to New York and one day I decided to go downtown. I sat down on the train and one guy got on and stood right in front of me holding onto the rail. I turned my face and body to the right instead of his body in front of me. Then, I see a weird movement happening to my left, in the corner of my eye. It ended up being his penis sticking out of his zipper of his pants and he was rubbing it. I quickly turned my eyes back. I just thought it was sick that he even thought to do that right in front of my face. I am a short girl so anyone that stands in front of me I am eye level to that part of the body. There were tons of seats open and he still chose to stand in front of me. So I quickly just thought to get off at the next stop. I didn't really know what to do. It was a weird experience." —Gina

The response to Cheer Up Luv has definitely been quite overwhelming — I never expected in a million years the number of women who have approached me with their stories to be so high. As well as women of all ages getting in touch, I have also had fathers emailing me, concerned for their daughters, and even an elderly man, apologizing for his past behavior! It has been really encouraging, to feel as though I have been getting through to people, and spreading the message that I intended.

This has been both therapeutic for the women involved and myself. I really feel as though a difference can be made, and I really hope that I can achieve the change I am striving for. I want people to take away positivity from my images and from my project; that is all I have ever wanted from it. My aims have always been to turn what once was a negative situation into one where the woman can speak boldly and be empowered by her situation.

"One night when I was 17, I went to a club in Leicester with my friends. It was super busy. I was walking upstairs and I thought I saw a flash go off behind me. I turned around and saw a couple of guys around a camera. I glanced at the screen and saw a photo that was taken up my dress. They where laughing like it was funny — even some of my girlfriends were. I was so shocked at how graphic it was. I asked them to delete it but they just laughed and shrugged it off. It was no big deal to them." —Sophie
Eliza Hatch

"One night when I was 17, I went to a club in Leicester with my friends. It was super busy. I was walking upstairs and I thought I saw a flash go off behind me. I turned around and saw a couple of guys around a camera. I glanced at the screen and saw a photo that was taken up my dress. They where laughing like it was funny — even some of my girlfriends were. I was so shocked at how graphic it was. I asked them to delete it but they just laughed and shrugged it off. It was no big deal to them." —Sophie

"I was 19, and I had just moved to Paris. I was in a crowded train and there was a guy pressed up against my back, then he started to move against me. I first thought he was trying to get off the train, but then he started to whisper in my ear. I turned around to face him, trying to look angry, but then he put his hands on my hips and started grinding on me. So I stepped on his toes hard, and then stormed out of the train." —Juliette
Eliza Hatch

"I was 19, and I had just moved to Paris. I was in a crowded train and there was a guy pressed up against my back, then he started to move against me. I first thought he was trying to get off the train, but then he started to whisper in my ear. I turned around to face him, trying to look angry, but then he put his hands on my hips and started grinding on me. So I stepped on his toes hard, and then stormed out of the train." —Juliette

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"I was walking behind a group of young girls, and cut through a park. There were a group of guys drinking, and one of them shouts, 'That bald one's alright though.'" —Pascale
Eliza Hatch

"I was walking behind a group of young girls, and cut through a park. There were a group of guys drinking, and one of them shouts, 'That bald one's alright though.'" —Pascale

"One day I was in the subway in Paris, waiting for the Métro and a man in a suit came along and started talking to me. He asked for my number because he wanted to give it to his friend who thought I was beautiful. I said no to him, and he said I was arrogant. He stayed next to me, staring at me for what felt like hours until the train came. Then he spat on my shoes three times and nobody in the station moved a finger. I got on the Métro and the man stayed on the platform, and went straight to another girl." —Julie
Eliza Hatch

"One day I was in the subway in Paris, waiting for the Métro and a man in a suit came along and started talking to me. He asked for my number because he wanted to give it to his friend who thought I was beautiful. I said no to him, and he said I was arrogant. He stayed next to me, staring at me for what felt like hours until the train came. Then he spat on my shoes three times and nobody in the station moved a finger. I got on the Métro and the man stayed on the platform, and went straight to another girl." —Julie

"I was walking home from work one day and I was on the phone, just about to cross the road. A guy stopped his car in the middle of the road and asked me to get in his car. I said no and tried to walk around it, so he drove his car to block my way. I tried to walk behind it but he did the same thing. He then shouted, 'Get in my car or I’ll run you over!'' I then slammed my fists on the car bonnet and shouted at him, which I think shook him so it gave me some time to cross the road and run away." — Jess
Eliza Hatch

"I was walking home from work one day and I was on the phone, just about to cross the road. A guy stopped his car in the middle of the road and asked me to get in his car. I said no and tried to walk around it, so he drove his car to block my way. I tried to walk behind it but he did the same thing. He then shouted, 'Get in my car or I’ll run you over!'' I then slammed my fists on the car bonnet and shouted at him, which I think shook him so it gave me some time to cross the road and run away." — Jess

"After leaving a nightclub with my friends and my girlfriend, we decided to get a bus to another venue. As we were waiting for the bus, a man approached me and started trying to chat me up. I said straight away that I'm a lesbian, and that I was with my girlfriend. He then took that as some sort of challenge, and proceeded to tell me I just needed his dick and tried to expose himself to me. Fortunately, my male friend stepped in and eventually he managed to make him leave. The whole incident lasted about 20 minutes in total and was quite traumatic." —Maya
Eliza Hatch

"After leaving a nightclub with my friends and my girlfriend, we decided to get a bus to another venue. As we were waiting for the bus, a man approached me and started trying to chat me up. I said straight away that I'm a lesbian, and that I was with my girlfriend. He then took that as some sort of challenge, and proceeded to tell me I just needed his dick and tried to expose himself to me. Fortunately, my male friend stepped in and eventually he managed to make him leave. The whole incident lasted about 20 minutes in total and was quite traumatic." —Maya

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"When I was 15, I went through a phase of wearing kilts, and one time as I was walking to my babysitter job, a silver Mercedes pulled up next to me on a busy road. The man in the driver's seat called me over with one hand and asked me for directions, which I didn't know the answer to. He asked me to look at his map, and as I leaned over, he told me that he liked my skirt, and that I had a lovely ass. He then asked me to get in his car." —Olivia
Eliza Hatch

"When I was 15, I went through a phase of wearing kilts, and one time as I was walking to my babysitter job, a silver Mercedes pulled up next to me on a busy road. The man in the driver's seat called me over with one hand and asked me for directions, which I didn't know the answer to. He asked me to look at his map, and as I leaned over, he told me that he liked my skirt, and that I had a lovely ass. He then asked me to get in his car." —Olivia

"Between the ages of 14 and 16 I had random men masturbate whilst staring directly at me three times. Each time was at a bus stop, each time I was alone except for the men, and each time I was in my school uniform." —Idil
Eliza Hatch

"Between the ages of 14 and 16 I had random men masturbate whilst staring directly at me three times. Each time was at a bus stop, each time I was alone except for the men, and each time I was in my school uniform." —Idil

"I was on an overnight train in a cabin filled with men. Every hour or so I was awoken by a man rubbing up against me insisting that I smile. It's always a precarious balancing act being a female solo traveler because without familiar refuge you have to constantly temper your outrage and fear while appeasing men to protect yourself." —Tree
Eliza Hatch

"I was on an overnight train in a cabin filled with men. Every hour or so I was awoken by a man rubbing up against me insisting that I smile. It's always a precarious balancing act being a female solo traveler because without familiar refuge you have to constantly temper your outrage and fear while appeasing men to protect yourself." —Tree

To see more from Eliza Hatch visit her websites at elizahatch.com and cheerupluv.com.


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