BY VICTORIA FITZGERALD
Second year Film and Media Arts and Women’s Studies student at Temple University, Kara Lieff, originally produced the short film for a class to highlight the common misconception of a direct correlation between a woman’s choice of clothing and her sexual availability. Lieff gave this background information to street harassment blog Stop Street Harassment:
“‘Asking For It’ was made for those who believe that there is a definitive connection between a woman’s clothing choice and her sexual availability. Many people think that women who dress a certain way are asking to be, or wouldn’t mind being, bothered, but this satirical take on street harassment shows that what a women really wants does not coincide with her attire.
This video was created for a class, and the assignment was to make a video that would get viewers to accomplish a certain action. I knew that I wanted my video to be a conversation starter – for my viewers to discuss street harassment, their experiences, why it happens, who is to blame, and what can be done to combat this problem. By featuring college-aged adults, I especially hope to reach out to my peers early on.
Street harassment is a huge problem, and any method used – whether it be talking back, writing, art, or videos – to fight back is a step in the right direction.”
BY NICOLA BRIGGS
In 2004, I went to Bangkok to give a Tai Chi presentation at the 15th International AIDS Conference, and while I was there I noticed an interesting bill-board. It depicted a young girl kneeling in front of a man, with her head bowed and hands clasped in the prayer position. I asked the driver what it meant, and he replied in a matter-of-fact tone that the girl was pleading with her father not to sell her into prostitution to support their family. Needless to say, I was deeply shocked, but thought that perhaps it was a problem isolated to poorer societies than those in the U.S. Some of the statistics are startling: over 32 million people are enslaved around the world, and 80% percent of these victims are forced into sexual servitude. Sex trafficking is the second most profitable illicit business globally. And it’s not just a problem overseas, it’s increasing in severity right here in the United States. When I got back to the States from Thailand, I found out that there are 100,000-300,000 American children forced into prostitution. Young girls in every state, some not even twelve years old, have been targeted for kidnapping on their way home from school, or taken in as runaways by pimps, who then sell them into sexual slavery.
I think it would be very helpful to raise awareness of this crime, which very often has subtle indicators. This is especially true, because it may not be obvious who is a victim of sex trafficking, and many times victims try to hide their victimhood for their own safety. The life of a sex trafficking victim is narrow in scope and possibility, and they live a strictly regimented existence. Usually this entails seeing “customers,” working their day jobs, which they have been forced to perform with coercion, and sleeping and living under close supervision in the brothel, hotel, apartment, or restaurant where they work. They are not permitted to go out on their own, for fear that they might escape, and the slave master will lose his (or in rare cases, her) investment. Many times, victims are charged “fees” by their slave masters for the slightest transgression, which even further hobbles their ability to become independent. They are routinely threatened with injury, death, deportation, not only to themselves, but to their families back in their home countries. This is one of the strongest deterrents to escape, and only the strongest and most desperate victims are able to overcome the severe psychological abuses, which keep them locked in their situation. Sex trafficking victims in the United States work in many jobs right under our noses, including office cleaners, landscapers, street vendors, wait staff, bus boys, and hotel cleaning crews.
Frequently, someone is rescued from this type of abuse only after a call is made to law enforcement when an observant and intuitive person sees something that doesn’t add up. Perhaps it’s a massage parlor that’s open 24 hours per day, or a waiter or waitress that seems afraid to speak to you if you ask about what it’s like living in the U.S., as compared to back home in Thailand, for instance. Sometimes it might be just as subtle as a stern look from someone’s boss that elicits an actual look of fear. If your gut is telling you that something is wrong, and you suspect that a worker around you is being exploited, whether a minor, or not, you may be saving a person’s life by alerting the authorities. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has a hotline: (888) 373-7888 to call in tips, or to file an anonymous report. The sooner we start waking up to the prevalence of this situation in the United States and around the globe, the sooner we’ll be able to ensure a safe and wholesome childhood for the next generation of girls.
I was walking back to my apartment after my internship on a Monday. I had already had a rough day and had just gotten off the phone with my mom. It was a little after 5pm and there were people everywhere. I was looking down for a second to hang up my phone when I looked up and saw an older man’s face right in mine. I felt his arm across my stomach and his hand slowly start to move up to my chest as he said, “hey baby.” I kept walking and was hoping someone was going to do something, maybe not do anything to him, but at least ask if I was okay. There were a lot of people around and not one person asked if I was alright. I felt so violated and immediately started crying and continued to walk home.
This week we had the honor of presenting at the Roots Of Change conference in Portland! Emily gave the history of Hollaback! and talked about why street harassment matters. Our board member Chad Sniffen presented on the history of bystander engagement and how Hollaback! is leveraging it in their “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign, and our site leader from Portland, Joe LeBlanc, presented on how their critical diverse partnerships are to making the revolution in Portland go down. Our HOLLAfriends Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman were also there delivering the best. presentations. ever. If you ever get a change to see either of them speak — don’t walk. Run. Their bold visions for a world without sexual violence make it all feel possible.
A note from Emily May, executive director: I’ve spent the past 18 years knowing that my younger sister was the coolest girl on the planet. So when she reached out to me to start volunteering for Hollaback!, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean of course — she’s awesome. But I couldn’t help to feel angry at whatever turd inspired her new volunteering gig. I mean — how can someone street harass my little sister? The one whose diaper I changed when I was 12? I wanted to march down to North Carolina and give this turd a piece of my mind. But my super-smart sister was one step ahead of me. We would proudly join forces and fight street harassment together! Go, sis. You never cease to amaze me. The following is her college essay.
BY KIMBERLY MAY
Street harassment is not only a personal, local, national, or an international concern. It is all of them. Street harassment is any behavior that occurs between strangers that is unwanted, disrespectful, threatening, or harassing and is motivated by gender. Street harassment can range from strange looks and whistles to actual sexual assault or even murder. Statistics show that nearly 100% of females experience street harassment of some form, starting around age twelve and continuing into their 80s.
In 2005 my sister, Emily May, and a group of friends decided to try to put an end to street harassment. They started a blog called Hollaback! where women who are harassed share their story and sometimes a photograph on the website. This movement started in New York City, and now has chapters all over the world.
I have always supported Hollaback! because of Emily, but I did not really understand the full importance of ending street harassment. As I have gotten older and street harassment occurs to me, I have realized how important it is to create awareness of street harassment to try to abolish it. I now work as a volunteer for Hollaback! approving posts and comments that people send in. I edit the posts, give them a title, and then post them on the Hollaback! website.
I think it is terrible that women have to be afraid of going places alone because of the fear of being harassed. It is not fair that street harassment is just accepted as “the price you pay for being a woman.” Even in a small town like I am from women experience street harassment, and it is truly scary at times. I believe that we can work together to eradicate street harassment by being proactive, and I am very proud to be part of a movement that is attempting to accomplish this.