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Hollaback! is proud to work with the New York Council to empower the public to take direct action in the face of all forms of street harassment and make their complaints count. This week we relaunched our apps in New York City, allowing users to report street harassment and bystander intervention to Hollaback!, and, if they choose, the New York City Council. In so doing, the City will be able to collect data and develop strategies to combat street harassment. That makes New York City the only large city in the world to proactively and systematically address street harassment.
We’ve received some questions about the app, and we wanted to take a minute to answer them here:
Question: What exactly is street harassment?
Answer: Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Furthermore, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life. At Hollaback!, we believe that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it. While there is always the classic, “Hey baby, nice tits!”, there are many other forms that go unnoticed. If you feel like you have been harassed, Hollaback!
Question: How did this revised NYC app come about?
On October 28, 2010 the New York City Council held the first-ever hearing on street harassment. Advocates in the room consistently requested a citywide study on the impact of street harassment, and the Council agreed. Hollaback! approached the Council with a proposal for a baseline study of harassment, a content analysis of stories already told in New York City, and an app where individuals could directly report their harassment and receive resources, including referrals to local community based organizations. Only the apps were ultimately funded by the city, at the urging of the Council’s Women’s Caucus.
We were able to work with Cornell to get some additional research completed, including, “When Street Harassment Comes Indoors: A sample of NYC service agencies and union responses to street harassment” and “The Experience of Being Targets of Street Harassment in NYC: Preliminary Findings from a Qualitative Study of a Sample of 223 voices who Hollaback!” We are currently advocating to get a baseline study of street harassment completed by adding a few questions about street harassment to the NYC Department of Health’s Annual Community Health Survey. If you’re interested in supporting these efforts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: What are the goals of this app?
The app allows users to report street harassment and bystander intervention. The goals are:
1. To develop a platform where victims report street harassment in real-time to their local government so that there is system-wide level of accountability. The app will also educate people about their rights and community based resources.
2. To train and encourage everyday citizens to safely intervene when they see harassment happening. The free apps will provide resources on how to intervene safely and a platform from which bystanders can share their stories.
3. To analyze the robust data set collected through this project to inform our collective understanding of how street harassment operates and develop long-term policy and community-based solutions to end or at least significantly reduce street harassment.
Question: How does the app work?
When you open the app, you’ll be asked to select a language, your location, and for your email address. Here’s what the page looks like:
Set Language. The app is available in 9 languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Turkish, Czech, Dutch, and Polish. If you are interested in volunteering to help us translate the app into additional language, please reach out!
Your local Hollaback. We operate in over 60 cities in over 20 countries, and growing. If there is no Hollaback in your city, select “No Hollaback in my city” and consider starting one! You will only be able to access the NYC-specific changes to the app by selecting “USA – New York City.”
Email. Your email address will not be shared with anyone, ever.
Next, select “done” to move to the menu. If you want to change any of this information at a later date, you can change it by selecting the “Settings” button on the menu.
Once you’re on the menu, you’ll see seven buttons: Share your Story, Map, Donate, About, Settings, Resources, and Know Your Rights. To share your story, click on the “share your story” button. The first section of questions are the same questions Hollaback! asks no matter what city you’re in. All of this information is optional, so share only the parts you feel comfortable sharing:
I experienced this/I saw this (select one).
Type. This questions is about the type of harassment you experienced, and you can choose multiple. Options include verbal, stalking, homophobic, transphobic, assault, groping, racist, public masturbation, and other.
Name. You can also submit under a chosen name, handle, or pseudonym. If you submit your full name we will not publish your last name on nyc.ihollaback.org to protect your identity.
Your Story. You’re invited to include a narrative with as much or as little information as you want. Please keep in mind our anti-discrimination policy when writing, as we do not publish race or class identifiers.
Upload photo. This can be of the harasser, but oftentimes people upload a photo of the scene including a street sign, your shoes, or a passing car. We encourage you to be creative.
Location of incident. You can use GPS or manually input the address.
Next, you’ll be asked if you want to share your story with the NYC Council. If you choose “no,” none of the information you input above will be sent to them. If you choose “yes” a report will be sent to the Councilmember in the district in which you were harassed, as well as to the Council as a whole once you click “Submit.” If you choose “yes,” you’ll be prompted to answer additional, optional questions including:
Orientation. Options include: Straight, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Other.
Gender Identity/Expression. Options include: Male, Female, Transgender (Male to Female), Transgender (Female to Male), and Other.
Race/Ethnicity. Options include: Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Nat.Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or White.
Incident locations. This question is designed to help better figure out where these incidents are happening. Options include: Park, School, Construction, Subway, Bus, Ferry, Taxi, Street, Retail, and Other. Based on this information, if we see for example that most incidents are happening in parks, we can work with the department of parks to develop preventative measures. Here are examples of policy recommendations that we encourage: http://www.ihollaback.org/resources/policy-recommendations/
Reports made. Here we want to know if you have reported this incident through other outlets. Options include: 911, 311, Station Agent/Driver, or Other.
In addition to the option to share your story, the app includes a Map, where you see incidents of harassment mapped in pink dots, and incidents of bystander intervention mapped in green dots. You also find a resources section, where you can learn more about how to respond to harassment and be a better bystander, as well as a list of local NYC-based organizations that can help including the Ali Forney Center, the Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAE), Legal Momentum, Metropolitan Hospital Victims Assistance and Counseling Program, NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault, Queerocracy, Right Rides, Safe Horizons, STEPS to end Family Violence, Turning Point for Women and Families, CONNECT, and New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP). If you have suggestions of other resources we can include, please contact us at email@example.com. Lastly, you’ll find a “Know Your Rights” section of the app where you can get more information on how to report your incident to the NYPD should you choose to.
Question: What happens with this information?
If you only choose to send the information to Hollaback!, it will be approved by one of our administrators and mapped and publicly available at nyc.ihollaback.org. Your contact information will not be shared.
If you also choose to send your information to the Council, your information will be sent to the Councilmember in the district in which you were harassed through a program called “Councilstat.” Councilstat is a NYC-specific government database that tracks all citizen issues are brought to the attention of the Council. It was launched to make Councilmembers move responsive to their communities.
To ensure that these stories do not get lost in a government database, Hollaback! will issue semi-annual reports that look at issues and trends across New York City. We’ll use these reports to advocate for policy recommendations related to education and prevention. These include, but are not limited to, safety audits, improved street lighting, educational workshops in middle and high schools, and public service announcements on subways and buses. For a complete list of policy recommendations that Hollaback! endorses, click here.
Question: Does Hollaback! endorse increasing criminalization of street harassment?
No. We believe that it is our role as advocates to steer policy makers away from measures that would increase criminalization, and toward measures that engage communities in prevention. As explained in Hollaback!’s article by Deputy Director, Debjani Roy, “Criminalizing verbal harassment and unwanted gestures is neither the final goal nor the ultimate solution to this problem and can, in fact, inadvertently work against the growth of an inclusive anti-harassment movement. The criminal justice system disproportionately targets and affects low-income communities and communities of color, as evidenced by policies such as New York City’s Stop and Frisk program and other degrading forms of racial profiling. Our objective is to address and shift cultural and social dialogues and attitudes of patriarchy that purport street harassment as simply the price you pay for being a woman or being LBGTQ. It is not to re-victimize men already discriminated against by the system.”
Question: What if I don’t want to report my harassment to the NYC Council?
You don’t have to! Reporting to the Council is completely up to you, the user. You are ultimately the expert of your experience and in charge of what you share. We understand that there are many personal, political, or safety related reasons why you may opt out of sharing information with the Council. In that case, you can simply post your story up on the Hollaback! site. It will be posted on the blog and mapped at nyc.ihollaback.org if you are reporting it within New York City.
Question: Does Hollaback endorse political candidates?
No. We are a non partisan non profit 501c3 organization. Our role is to educate policymakers on the best solutions to street harassment.
Question: Does my report also go to the New York City Police Department?
No. If you are interested in filing a report you must do it directly. Click on the “Know Your Rights” button on the menu for more information about how to do this. If it’s an emergency, dial 911 immediately.
Question: I heard something about your position on anti-racism. What’s that about, and what does it have to do with street harassment?
Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper hollaback. Due in part to prevalent stereotypes of men of color as sexual predators or predisposed to violence, Hollaback! asks that contributors do not discuss the race of harassers or include other racialized commentary. If you feel that race is important to your story, please make sure its relevance is explained clearly and constructively in your post. Initiatives combating various forms of sexual harassment and assault have continually struggled against the perpetuation of racist stereotypes, and in particular, the construction of men of color as sexual predators. There exist widespread fictions regarding who perpetrators are: the myth of racial minorities, particularly latino and black men, as prototypical rapists and as being more prone to violence is quite common. Because of the complexity of institutional and socially ingrained prejudices, Hollaback! prioritizes resisting both direct as well as unconscious and unintentional reinforcement of social hierarchies. Simultaneously, Hollaback! aims to highlight the interrelations between sexism, racism, and other forms of bias and violence.
Question: But isn’t street harassment a cultural thing?
Street harassers occupy the full spectrum of class, race, and nationality. Sexual harassment, and street harassment specifically, is resisted by people around the globe: Hollaback! receives e-mails of support and solidarity from around the world. To condense another’s culture into vague assumptions about who and what they are is to generalize dangerously about a wide range of experiences and perspectives that exist within any one given culture.
Question: I want to hollaback and I don’t have an iPhone or an Android.
You can still tell your story on-line.
Question: Confronting street harassers can be dangerous. What about safety issues?
While everyone is vulnerable to stranger rape and sexual assault, studies show that those who are aware of their surroundings, walk with confidence and, if harassed, respond assertively, are less vulnerable. Nevertheless, direct confrontations with street harassers may prove extremely dangerous, particularly if you are alone or in an unpopulated space. While it is each individual’s right to decide when, how, and if to hollaback, do keep issues of safety in mind. Upon deciding to photograph a harasser, you may consider doing so substantially after the initial encounter and from a distance, ensuring the harasser is unaware of your actions.
If you have additional questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome your feedback and engagement in this conversation as we work together to make the streets safer for everyone.
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