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Wales’ government sponsored campaign at ending a rape culture of victim-blaming scores extra points this week from Hollaback. Stop Blame defines sexual assault as “unwanted sexual behaviour directed towards another person that causes humiliation, pain, fear, shame, intimidation or mental suffering,” and asks us to stop handing perpetrators the excuses they need to justify their actions:
“The rapist and society use the same, tired old excuses, time and time again-she was promiscuous, she was drunk, her skirt was so VERY short. She was asking for it.
Well here’s news – No matter how short her skirt or whether she put up a physical fight – No woman, or any of her actions, is responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted. No woman is EVER asking for it.”
Two new studies came out this week, solidifying growing global anti-harassment sentiment and activism as forces to be reckoned with. Studies cross-posted from Holly Kearl at Stop Street Harassment:
#1: In a study of 828 salaried employees in an unnamed city in Korea, 43 percent said they experienced sexual harassment during their commute, and 79 percent were women. Via The Korean Times:
“Nearly 72 percent of the incidents occurred on subway cars, followed by buses at 27.3 percent and taxis at 1.1 percent. Nearly 60 percent said they experienced harassment between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. when most workers are on their way to work, while 17 percent were between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. while returning home from work.
About 61.9 percent said at the time of the sexual harassment, it was too crowded for them to move within the subway train or bus. In response to the harassment, 43.2 percent said they did nothing about it, and 25 percent moved to a different place. Only 18.2 percent strongly protested against the assailants and 6.3 percent shouted in anger.”
#2: In the state capitol of Thiruvananthapurm in the south Indian state Keralaas, 1000 women were recently interviewed about street harassment. Ninety-eight percent said they had experienced it and 90 percent said the harassment was either physically or vocally violent. The harassment was notable on public transportation and 62 percent had experienced it there. Only seven percent had reported any of their experiences of harassment.
India’s study was sponsored in part by UNIFEM, Jagori, and Sakhi Resources Center.
As if she couldn’t get any cooler, here is Nicola Briggs on camera for Jezebel with tips and tricks for fending off those creeps. Oh yes. Oh fucking yes.
It was summer years ago and I was about to be a sophomore in high school, and my mom and I went up to the school for a meeting with some other mother music booster. Mom and the other mom started to talk, and I wandered off into the hallway to fool around with the piano.
About this time, a man in his 30s walked past and smiled. I smiled politely back as he headed into the men’s room nearby. I continued playing the piano when a few moments later I heard the man say, “Excuse me.”
I looked up to see him completely naked. I did the only thing I could think off; I slapped my hands over my eyes. He told me I need to look, that he needed me to look at him to get into a fraternity. I kept my eyes covered and told him to go away. He didn’t. I told him again to go away, and he told me, “Just a minute.” I heard a sound that I later realized was masturbation. Eyes still covered, I insisted that he leave or I’ll scream. I finally heard him jog off, and I looked around to make sure he was gone, before rushing back to the safety of my mother in the next room.
I never told her what happened.
Submitted by Becky
HarassMap officially announced the release of their SMS text reporting platform yesterday that will allow any cellphone user to report harassment and assault by sending a simple text message. This brings to 2 the number of anti-harassment initiatives launched in the middle east that we’ve written about in the past week. This is the fun part of the job.
HarassMap’s model is unique in that any cell phone user may participate, and not just those with iPhones or Droids. This means that replications in other cities around the world could soon be on their way, paving the way for continued success against public sexual abuse.
Reports are already being accepted . To report by SMS text, send details to 0169870900. To send a report by email, send to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can connect with the group via Facebook and Twitter as well. Visit the HarassMap site in English here.
Congratulations, HarassMap team, and THANK YOU for all that you do.
This happened a few years ago when I was walking my dog on the golf course. I was just sitting there, daydreaming, when my dog started barking. I looked over to see a man lying on the grass about 10 yards from me, masturbating. I had done self-defense classes at university and I think my reaction surprised this pervert. I got up and ran AT him – I followed him all the way to his car, memorised the license plate as he drove off, then ran to some nearby golfers, asking for a pen and paper to write down the plate.
Later at home, I wrote a quick description of what happened and did a sketch of the man (he had an unusual hair do) I called the cops and gave them the sketch, the number-plate and the written description of what happened.
They later called back and said that they had given this creep a warning. Nothing else. Then I got angry. I started walking the dog with a friend after that.
Submitted by Gilda
The first time I remember being harassed was when I was about 12 years old. I was walking along 7th avenue in Brooklyn, NY and a man yelled at me that he would love to pop my cherry. I was with my mother at the time and she reassured me that the harassment was not personal, elaborating that even my grandmother gets yelled at. Though she did not encourage me to confront the man or speak up for myself it was immensely helpful that she told me not to internalize it. I continue to wear whatever I want even though I now live in an area of the city where I regularly get commented on 2 to 6 times during my five block walk to the subway each day.
I feel very privileged to live in a city that holla’s back. The October hearings against street harassment were inspirational regardless of the public backlash. Especially in my neighborhood I regularly see sassy badassy women delivering loud retorts to men who comment on their bodies. Seeing other women speak up gives me the courage to do it too. What really gives me hope is the idea that very young girls will follow our example and no young girl will ever have to bear street harassment is silence if she does not want to.
This idea that women of all ages can start a movement and impress upon very young girls just what it can mean to be a woman has started to guide me more and more in my actions. Recently a group of five female public health students at Hunter College (including myself) made a short film following young women activists who are leading actions to combat the sexualization of women in media and on the streets. These young women work with organizations such as The Line, Hollaback, Hardy Girls Healthy Women, About-Face, and SPARK and are doing great work; I recommend that anyone interested in issues of objectification, sexualization, and harassment check them out!
Submitted by Rebecca Pisciotta
On the way home from a camping trip last summer my boyfriend and I stopped at his work so he could pick up his pay check. We parked way in the back of the parking lot, and I got out of the car to stretch my legs. This guy ran up to me and asked me for my number, and of course I said no. He motioned to a group of guys standing around a car a distance away and said his friends didn’t think he was “fresh enough” to get my number and he wanted to prove them wrong. I said, “You’re NOT fresh enough, and my boyfriend is coming back any minute so just leave me alone.” But he kept hounding me. He even said I could write a fake number to show his friends, so in order to get rid of him, I did. I regret not making more of a scene- yelling really loud to embarrass him in front of his friends, or writing 1-800-fuck-you as my “phone number.” This encounter didn’t make me feel threatened, just annoyed that I was forced into being a pawn in their little dick-measuring contest. Submitted by Brittany
Written by Liz Dolfi, one of Hollaback!’s freelance badasses (or, as some people call them, volunteers)
Many kinds of gender-based violence are still are part of our culture. While tremendous progress has been made in women’s rights in the last century and many forms of violence against women are illegal, rape, domestic violence, and discrimination are still frequent occurrences. We condemn these things through our legal system and education and awareness programs, but resources for survivors are far from sufficient and many people still deal with shame and stigma after experiencing gender-based violence. The various forms of street harassment that many people experience as a part of their daily lives are indicative of this culture.
Women in the United States are often raised to be deeply afraid of sexual assault in public places (despite the fact that you are much more likely to be assaulted by someone you know), and as a result, most of the women I know go through a mental checklist before they leave their homes. Do I have a cell phone and mace? Does someone know where I will be? Can I afford a cab home or find someone to walk with?
Personally, I throw shapeless, baggy clothes on before I go outside, even on hot days because creeps on the subway seem to think that I get dressed for them in the morning. I’ve woken up my partner and my roommate to walk me from the subway at 2:00am when I have gotten stuck with the late shift at my job. I won’t do laundry without a friend because of the lecherous men who sit on the stoop by the laundromat, spending the day groping and hollering at women. I peer into windows as the subway rolls into the station to make sure that I get into a car where other women are sitting.
I think that many people who experience street harassment frequently deeply internalize these compulsive attempts to keep ourselves safe. Some of us learn these behaviors through years of harassment, and some of us were raised with a deep sense that we are unsafe in public spaces and our parents spouted nonsense safety tips like “always have your keys in your hand when you are walking through a parking garage – you can use them as a weapon and get away quickly.”
I would like to think that some of the victim blaming that seems to occur every time someone shares a story about sexual assault or harassment is the result of the safety rituals we perform. When we hear than someone was assaulted when walking home alone at three am, our response is a horrified “what?! Why were you ALONE? And at 3am!!!”
This response is understandable, given how deeply we have internalized the idea that it is UNSAFE (picture that in five foot letters and orange flashing lights) to walk alone at three in the morning. But, and listen carefully here because this is important, WE NEED TO CUT IT OUT.
Today, right now, everyone who thinks that street harassment and sexual assault are unacceptable needs to make a commitment to curb that culturally imprinted response and make sure that the first that thing comes out of our mouths when we hear about an incident of harassment or violence is “this is WRONG.”
Harassment and assault are the fault and the responsibility of the person who decided to treat the person they harassed or assaulted as less than human, end of story.
This is not about what we wear so we need to stop telling our stories by saying “I wasn’t even wearing anything cute,” “it isn’t as if I looked slutty” etc. If I choose to walk down the street naked, that does not negate my rights over my own body or somehow imply that I am walking past you for the sake of your sexual satisfaction (I’m talking to you creepy Laundromat guys). This is not about why we are on the street in the first place. We need to stop staying “I was just trying to get to work” as if we need to justify our existence in public places. If I am a sex worker looking for consensual sex at a negotiated price, I am NOT asking for unwanted sexual advances and harassing me is unacceptable.
If we allow our own fears to shape the way that we talk about incidents of gender-based harassment in public places and sexual assault, we end up blaming victims, and ultimately ourselves, for something that is not our fault, and we encourage the people who genuinely do blame the victim to continue to discuss these issues in that way.
So, I would like to recommend being careful with our language and ditching the qualifiers when describing assault and harassment as the official small feminist activist action of the day. Let’s cut out the language that can imply victim-blaming and put blame where it is due.