A new guide! Making Our Communities Safer: How You Can Help Prevent Public Sexual Assault

Making Our Communities Safer: How You Can Help Prevent Public Sexual Assault & Harassment

As you know may already know, in recent months, there have been more than a dozen instances of sexual assault and harrassment in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Park Slope, Greenwood Heights, Windsor Terrace, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge.  In response to the growing concern for public safety, we worked with Public Advocate Bill deBlasio‘s office in conjunction with Center for Anti-Violence Education, Safe Slope, Girls for Gender Equity, and RightRides, to produce a new guide with tips and resources to help prevent and intervene in sexual assault and harassment.Volunteers from the Public Advocate’s office are teaming up to distribute 3,000 copies of the guide in the area. If you’d like to volunteer, email [email protected]

We are grateful to the Public Advocate’s office for their leadership on this project, and even if you’re not located in the NYC area, we hope you’ll take a look and considering adopting it for use in your own community.

UPDATE! The guide is now in Spanish, too:
Haciendo Nuestros Vecindarios Más Seguros: Cómo Puede Ayudar a Prevenir el Asalto y Acoso Sexual Público

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You asked for the NYPD’s sensitivity surrounding sexual assault cases in South Brooklyn, and they listened.


Last week 6,300 of you rallied and signed a petition on for the NYPD to have increased sensitivity surrounding the South Brooklyn sexual assault cases, and today we are proud to announce the NYPD listened.

On Thursday, October 8th – only a week after the petition began –  the commanding officers of the NYPD’s 72nd and 78th Precincts held a meeting with members of Hollaback! and Safe Slope, convened by New York City Councilmember Brad Lander, to directly address Safe Slope’s open letter to the NYPD and the 6,300 people (that’s you!) who signed the petition demanding increased sensitivity.  As a result of that meeting, we are proud to announce the NYPD has agreed to following improvements:

  • Effective immediately, police officers will provide a “trigger warning” to community residents before showing them a graphic assault video . By giving the individuals the ability to opt out, the NYPD acknowledges the sensitive nature of viewing attack footage, especially for victims of sexual assault.
  • Effective immediately, police officers will make women aware that they are being escorted home by the police before starting to follow them. This will help avoid confusion and fear that the individual following them home may be a potential attacker.
  • Concerned community groups, including Safe Slope, Hollaback!, and others, will draft an updated safety pamphlet for NYPD’s consideration, which will include community resources and helpful tips on what community members can do to help keep themselves and others safe from sexual assault. If approved by NYPD leadership, this will be the first time the pamphlet has been updated since 1992.
  • Lastly, the NYPD will review a proposal from Safe Slope to do sensitivity training at the police orientation, as well as to show an educational video to existing officers prior to their shifts. The purpose of the video is to provide officers with simple strategies to make their interactions with the community more sensitive and educational regarding sexual assault.

Clearly, there is still work to be done. But we couldn’t have made it this far without your support.

In addition to your efforts, our heartfelt thanks go to Safe Slope, The Line Campaign, Permanent Wave, the organizers of SlutWalk NYC, and Women in the Media and News for organizing with us to make the petition happen, and Councilmember Lander for setting up the meeting with the NYPD.  Shelby Knox, Director of Community Organizing for Women’s Rights at said, “the coalition of activists that made this happen should be commended for using people power, online and offline, to improve police sensitivity surrounding sexual assault cases.  Their work will serve as a blueprint on how residents can respectfully petition the NYPD — and it is my belief that the impact of their efforts will live on long after the South Brooklyn rapist has been caught.”

Keep using your voice to change the world, and remember to always…


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Hate Speech & Hockey


Wayne Simmonds was the victim of a racially charged display one week before when a fan chunked a banana in front of him during a Philadelphia Flyers exhibition game in London, Ontario.  On September 24th, however, he found no problem with calling Sean Avery, an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community, and forward of the New York Rangers, a “f*cking f*gg*t.”  According to Simmonds, his actions were the result of a sucker punch Avery hit him with earlier in the game.  Whatever his reasons, Simmonds was wrong.  In this day and age of the camera constantly being in every athlete’s mouth, to even “slip up” and say something like this a perpetuation and a promotion of the homophobia that runs rampant in our culture and so blatantly and consistently ends in the deaths of young people across the country.  The NHL would do well to react swiftly and decisively because a lack of a response in this case should be understood as nothing less than an endorsement of this type of behavior. We all remember Kobe’s $100,000 fine, so my eyes are fixed on the NHL.  What kind of league do they want to be? One that fosters hate speech and homophobia or one that promotes tolerance and equality?  Of course they can’t control what every individual player says, but they can set standards that make it clear that bigotry will not be tolerated.  Unfortunately, it does not appear as if they plan to enact any repercussions on Simmonds, without any prodding at least.  I encourage you all to prod, and to join the 50,000+ other people who have signed the petition to fine Wayne Simmonds for his homophobic slur against Sean Avery.  You can read and sign it here.


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How To Be An Interruptor


Is there a way to reduce violence in communities without traditional police intervention? What about through disease-control methods? Enter CeaseFire, an awesome Chicago-based organization.

CeaseFire curbs violence through an on-the-ground approach by using professionals from the actual communities to intervene in crises and mediate conflicts. They make use of a public health-inspired model:

1. Identification & detection
2. Interruption, Intervention, & risk reduction
3. Changing behavior and norms

They are working, overall, to change how we think about violence and overturn the conventional “prosecution over prevention” approach. They aim to find a solution to the epidemic of violence in other ways than incarceration.

Interested? A new documentary called “The Interrupters” follows a year in the footsteps of the CeaseFire crew who “interrupt” violence on the streets. You can find screenings here.

This method isn’t just confined to CeaseFire, however. You can also be an “interruptor” in your own life, as shown in this great article. Interrupting racist or sexist discourse, and of course, street harassment, is one big way to cause change in your own community. The ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ campaign is one big way Hollaback! is working on bystander prevention.

Overall, CeaseFire is employing a refreshing approach to a seemingly unstoppable problem. Like Hollaback!, theirs is a grassroots movement that really takes the local community into account. Go CeaseFire!

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Chicks Don’t Dig Street Harassment

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Freeze the Tease and Chappal Maarungi

We just wanted to highlight the work of two amazing college-based initiatives – Freeze the Tease and Chappal Maarungi – in the Mumbai-wide and global fight to end street harassment.

Freeze the Tease is the brainchild of six students at St. Andrew’s College – Perma Dsouza, Andrea Fernades, Digi George, Anishka Alvares, Rochelle Barrie and Valeska Reveredo. The initiative began as a response to a class assignment and has solidified into a dynamic, awareness-raising campaign. Their campaign has involved encouraging women to sign a pledge saying that they will not be silent in the face of street harassment and wearing bands that say ‘I pledge to freeze the tease.’ They have also organized outdoor activities, such as a recent outing where they distributed ‘Freeze the Tease’ bands in Bandra and other public spaces. Check out their Facebook page here. Amazing stuff!

Similarly, Chappal Maarungi was started in response to a class assignment at Wilson College and has taken on a life of its own. Their Facebook page states “Chappal Maarungi” as a campaign is not directed towards men, asking them to stop cat calling and eve teasing. Instead, as the name itself suggests, is directed towards women: asking them to raise their voices against inappropriate behavior. The “chappal” here is symbolic for women raising their voices and not necessarily their footwear (unless of course, they need to!)”

Amazing stuff! Their angle is that when women are empowered to take a stand against harassment, men will learn that harassment of any kind in any arena is entirely unacceptable. The group has created a 5-foot tall chappal and placed boxes of chappals around their college campus as an encouragement to women to step up (no pun intended : ) Check out their Facebook page here!

Awesome stuff! So good to see other campaigns working to end street harassment in Mumbai. Together we shall overcome.

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HOLLAWho? Meet Istanbul.

Meet Kacie, the social entrepreneur fighting street harassment in Istanbul, Turkey.


Why do you HOLLA? I HOLLA because people just can’t be treated this way.

What’s your craft? Social entrepreneurship, essentially figuring out how to make a living while caring about the world. I’m also a locavor and foodie.

What was your first experience with street harassment? I really don’t remember, but I’m sure it began when I was 12 or 13 years old. When I was 18, I remember realizing that it would become a normal experience of my daily life. I learned that street harassment could be dangerous when I was 20, and now that I’m 24 now I have learned how to respond to it.

Define your style: Tweed, androgyny, nose ring, modesty, and my trusty red cowboy boots. Also trying not to look too American while I’m living abroad.

What do you collect? Postcards from my penpals.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Make sure that the dreams you dream are big enough for you.

My superheroine power is…that people tend to trust me and believe in me.

What inspires you? Mostly other people’s amazing stories partnered with my pragmatic idealism.

In the year 2020, street harassment…will be apart of legislation that’s enacted in many countries across the world.


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Campus harassment is a growing problem. What’s your solution?


The issue of peer-to-peer harassment on campuses has come into focus over the past year – and for good reason: the statistics are staggering. Amongst the LGBTQ community, CNN reports that 33% of LGBTQ and 38% of transgender students, faculty and staff have seriously considered leaving their institution due to harassment, and in a 2005 study by the AAUW, 62% of women and 61% of men report being sexually harassed on campuses. The epidemic is widespread, and 51% of male students admit to harassing their female counterparts at least once. Yale students caught on tape yelling “no means yes and yes means anal,” have caused a nationwide uproar, and a group of student activists sued Yale University for creating a “hostile sexual environment” on campus.

Nationwide outrage related to gender-based violence on campus has led the U.S. Department of Education to follow suit in denouncing sexual assault on campus, and recently issued a statement requiring universities to improve their sexual assault policies and mandate reporting. In tandem with this focus on sexual assault, the suicide of Tyler Clementi – a young, gay male who was caught on camera by his roommates during a sexual encounter – has put an unprecedented amount of focus on the harassment of people in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer) community.

As attention mounts on gender-based harassment and assault, we have a unique and historical opportunity (not to mention a responsibility) to address campus harassment.  We want to hear from you: what is your campus doing to address harassment?  What strategies do you think would be effective?

Let us know, as always, keep holla’ing back!



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NYPD: Train Your Cops to Blame Rapists for Rape, Not Victims!

Since the early spring, there have been 11 sexual assaults, including one rape, in Park Slope and surrounding neighborhoods.

In response the NYPD has released information about at least three suspects, including multiple videos and composite sketches, and increased police presence in the area. While we applaud the police for taking the attacks seriously, neighborhood residents are concerned with some aspects of the police response.

The Wall Street Journal reports that officers are telling women not to wear shorts or skirts to prevent being assaulted. This is victim-blaming, not prevention. This approach is indicative of a police force that is effectively disconnected from the community and unaffected by the current outcry and mass mobilizations against rape and victim blaming provoked by a Toronto police officer’s declaration that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Safe Slope, a Brooklyn-based collective formed in response to the attacks, recently chronicled additional worrying NYPD behavior, including:

– Officers following women home at night without communicating with them and showing video of the attacks to residents without warning, both practices that are frightening and triggering to sexual assault survivors.

– Only providing information about the assaults to women, which sends the message that men and genderqueer people aren’t sexually assaulted – a dangerous myth – and that sexual assault prevention is a women’s issue rather than the responsibility of the entire community.

– Only providing prevention and information materials in English, which prevents non-English speaking members of the community from receiving safety tips and information they need to protect themselves.

These missteps are the latest examples of a police department that is unprepared to responsibly and effectively prevent rape and sexual assault. A police force that is hurting those it is supposed to protect, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of society, is an outrage and an affront to the civil and human rights of all and requires action at all levels. Systemic victim-blaming leaves all people, but especially historically marginalized members of society, more susceptible to violence and arrest when they report rape or sexual assault to the police. We must build an analysis of police behavior, recklessness, lack of sensitivity and lack of adequate training as a systemic problem that has a significantly negative impact on those affected by violence and their communities.

In two recent incidents, two NYPD officers were accused of rape – and convicted of official misconduct for repeatedly entering the home of a woman without cause – and another officer was apprehended while committing a sexual assault. Videos have also been circulating of police violence at the Occupy Wall Street protests, adding to public mistrust of the NYPD and its motives, tactics, and actions.

We, the undersigned, call on Commissioner Ray Kelly to enact these steps immediately in regard to the situation in Park Slope:

– Immediately order sensitivity training for all officers assigned to work on the Park Slope case, to be completed by October 15th

– Ensure officers provide information about sexual assaults and prevention in Spanish and other languages reflective of community needs

– Ensure information on sexual assault be provided to individuals who are not female-bodied people

– Insist NYPD officers identify themselves and inform people who are being followed home

We further call on Commissioner Kelly to:

– Insist all NYPD officers complete mandatory sensitivity training by January 1st, 2012.

– Facilitate a safe and violence-free SlutWalk in New York City on Saturday October 1, 2011 with zero instances of police brutality or unwarranted police force.

Signed by:

Black Women’s Blueprint
The Line Campaign
Permanent Wave
Safe Slope
The organizers of SlutWalk NYC

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“Stop Looking at My Mom” goes national, and our HOLLAcrush on Brian Bradley grows


Remember when “Stop Looking at My Mom” by the Astronomical Kid went viral last year?  The world was cheering, and the anti-street harassment community went wild.  The verdict was clear: this kid was amazing.

And then he took it to the next level.  He showed up to New York City’s first street harassment hearing with his mom to testify against street harassment on October 28th of last year.  His testimony was smart, thoughtful, and insightful.  This wasn’t just a catchy song to him – it was a call to action.

And now, Brian Bradly, the 14 year old Astronomical Kid, has wowed us all again by taking the issue of street harassment to the main stage of the XFactor.  As Veronica and I just watched this clip in the office – I couldn’t but to cry tears of happiness.  As Brian Bradley accomplishes his dream, he’s also accomplishing mine by bringing the issue of street harassment to the main stage.

Brian, we’ll dance to your revolution any day.  Keep winning, keep inspiring us, and don’t stop believing.   I know we won’t.


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