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I want to thank Councilmembers Ferreras, James, Palma, Lander, Levin, and Reyna for their support, but I especially want to thank Speaker Quinn and her team. This is truly a historic day that wouldn’t be possible without their incredible vision, and on behalf of all New Yorkers, but especially women and LGBTQ folks, I want to say thank you.
As we stand here today, I am mindful that some of you have been sexually harassed during your life. Lewd comments, gestures, threats. Public masturbation, groping.
I am mindful that some of you have been harassed this week… and I am mindful that some of you were harassed today.
And I am also mindful that some of you — especially some of you menfolk out there — have never spent two seconds thinking about street harassment, but that most of the women and LGBTQ in New York City have been thinking about it since they were young.
I wish I could tell you that your experiences in some way unique. That the harassment you faced at age 12 isn’t being faced by today’s 12 year olds. But it’s not true.
The truth is, street harassment happens to between 70-99% of women at some point during their lives. And for many — it happens much, much more often.
Harassers love people who they can wield their power over. And if you’ve been harassed throughout your life, you’ve probably come to understand:
This is what is means to be a woman and to walk down the street.
This is what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and to walk down the street.
This is what is means to be a person of color, and to walk down the street.
But today marks the beginning of a new understanding:
Even though we face harassment today and tomorrow. This can and will be changed.
Street harassment is such a widespread issue — and so under-researched. To target this problem, we need ways for New Yorkers to speak up and out on this issue. And we need Councilmembers that listen.
As recently as yesterday, if you wanted to report harassment in New York City, it would have taken you hours to file the complaint. With many people getting harassed as often as three or four times a day, reporting harassment could quickly turn into a full time job. It’s no surprise that so few reports came through.
Now, whether you’ve experienced harassment yourself or witnessed it and tried to help, you can make a report in under a minute. Your report will be publically available at nyc.ihollaback.org and if you choose — it will also be sent to the NYC Council and to the Councilmember in the district in which you were harassed.
With each report you make — you will make NYC a little more intolerant of the hate that underlies street harassment. And as those reports build and grow, each one strengthening the case of the last, we’ll work with the city to make sure public service announcements are in subway stations and educational workshops take place in schools.
With your support, we can make New York City a place where everyone has the right to walk safely down the street — no matter your race, gender, or expression. It starts with your story. We’re ready to listen.
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