“Hey sexy lady! Check THIS out…”
[Michael Jackson-esque groin thrust in my direction]
‘Ohh please’ I think ‘please wait while I hurry over and give you my phone number, you prehistoric, knuckle-dragging moron’
You may assume that the slimy guy leering at you in the street or beeping his car horn is simply a victim of tragic social ineptitude, but this situation is more sinister. Street harassment ranges from whistles, shouting, and dodgy trouser pocket movements to full blown groping and physical attacks. Where does ‘harmless fun’ end and ‘serious assault’ begin? And exactly how much fun is it for the women who enjoy this uninvited attention?
A victim-blaming culture tends to emerge when we talk about harassment. How many times have you heard someone ask what the woman was wearing when considering a case of sexual violence? I don’t care if she was strutting around naked wearing a pair of stiletto heels, nothing gives one human being the right to attack and violate the personal space (physical or psychological) of another. OK, naked strutting on a Friday night might explain why you get harassed in the UK, but it doesn’t condone it. And what about in Egypt? By this logic we support those who argue that not wearing a veil legitimises physical attacks on women. And – FYI anyone gearing up to have this debate in a pub – the kind of people who dish out the ‘oh but she was in a mini skirt so it’s her own fault she got raped’ argument are often the kind who audibly balk at the idea of Islamic dress codes. The social standards may change, but the argument stays the same – if women don’t wear whatever I think is ‘respectable’, then I have the right to humiliate, intimidate and even hurt them.
This is a story we are all familiar with, and it sucks. Running up against the same outdated responses that demean their significance and often blame the victim, women rarely report these incidents…Until now.
The increasing use of mobile technology and access to the internet has given rise to an interesting phenomenon – people are using cell phones to report harassment and serious sexual attacks in order to alert others, shame perpetrators and, just to be heard, and to have a voice. I don’t yell back if some meat-head shouts obscenities at the bus stop, and it makes me feel small. But reporting it on sites like ihollaback.org gives me a voice again.
In Egypt, blog.harassmap.org uses open source data to create a map of sexual harassment incidents that are experienced by 83% of Egyptian and 98% of foreign women. Users send a text message to central computers and receive resources on how to file a police report, referrals to counselling and more via SMS. Their report is added to data that puts pressure on local authorities to deal with trouble hot spots, and to address a problem that all too often is denied or ignored.
Mobile technology is also being used in Haiti to report gender-based violence, people trafficking and attacks in a country where legal infrastructure is often non-existent. Again, women receive support in the form of referrals, advice, and information, but importantly, their voice is heard and their experience recorded.
Gender-based violence, which is on the rise in the UK (UK Home Office 2011) relies on all of us ignoring and accepting these incidents. Shrugging off the remarks of an obnoxious drunk in a bar might seem OK at the time, but it normalises behaviour that leads to a climate of fear, silence and oppression. Using mobile technology, women can report in safety and confidence, finding help but also finding their voice.
Hollaback welcomes the New Year with strength. We continue to grow and we are rapidly covering the globe. We are experiencing exciting times.
As a result of its international expansion, Hollaback has decided it is time to pass the torch at the local level (NYC) and give 10 youth (ages 18-22) the opportunity to become the leaders of HollabackNYC. We seek a diverse group of youth from the different neighborhoods of NYC, who are committed to making social change. Youth who are eager to learn and are able to invest at least 10 hours a week to this process. The new leadership of HollabackNYC will receive training in social media, community organizing, policy/advocacy, and marketing. They will also become part of an international movement that will broaden their networks and aid their development as agents of social change.
We are excited to be in this recruitment process and to move forward in solidifying youth leadership to continue to build the movement against street harassment. Help us create this pool of youth leaders and spread the news. Our recruitment flyer and our short application are available here for download: Info flyer and iHollabackApplication. If you need more information contact Claudia De la Cruz at [email protected].
Spread the word… HollabackNYC is on the move!
I am at 14th street with my daughter last week. I was talking to my daughter who is 10 and I notice this guy is flicking his tongue at me and “adjusting his jeans” directly across from me. As soon as I noticed this I took out my phone and tried to get his picture. He looked freaked out and got off at grand central! I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture but it worked and got the perv off the train. My daughter didn’t notice anything because she had her nose in her book. What balls this guy has.
Submitted by Samantha
I was on the LIRR train on my way home from school when a man sat down next to me and began trying to strike up a conversation. I was cordial, but then began ignoring him as he clearly started trying to hit on me. After about 15 minutes, he took his phone out, tried to casually hold it with his right arm (the side next to me), and slanted it up so that it was angled between my legs and up my dress. This all happened in seconds. Then, I heard the distinctive click of a camera sound.
I was stunned, but after a second or two I stood up and immediately started screaming at the man in front of the other passengers. In my shock that something like this had actually happened to me, it was cathartic to stand in front of him and all the other passengers and recount what he had done. I called him a “disgusting pig” and said “how dare you take an upskirt picture of me.” I wanted all the other passengers to know what he did, in hopes that if nothing else, he would be embarrassed by his perverted act.
Being a law student, I knew that immediately I wanted to create a record of what had happened. After I told the person who had taken tickets for my car, and he alerted the conductor (who, in turn, alerted the police), I turned around and walked back towards the man. He had plugged in his phone to charge it and while he was talking on it I held up my phone and took two pictures of him, while saying “how do you like having your picture taken.”
Although he got off the train at the next stop, I gave the police his pictures and all the information the man had volunteered when he was trying to hit on me on the train. He gave me his nickname (Alejandro) and his Myspace name. I also had gotten contact information from a man sitting in front of me who had witnessed the incident.
Two days later, I took the morning train out of Jamaica on the Ronkonkoma line. A few stops before I got off, Alejandro, the SAME man who had taken a picture up my dress, came up to me and sat down right across from me. Instantly, I was fearful and started looking around to see my options if I had to get away from him or if I needed to alert someone. Remarkably, he didn’t seem to recognize me at all.
I took advantage of this, and when he hit on me, using all the same lines as he had before, I played into it. I kept my head to the side so he could only see my profile and kept my sunglasses on, in case he suddenly had a flash of recognition. I found out his full name, his job, where he lived, and his phone number. I told him fake details about my life when he asked and stared at his phone every time he took it out so that I could give the police its exact details.
When I got off the train, I immediately contacted the detective the police department had put me in touch with and gave him all the information.
I ended up setting up a fake “date” with the man and the detectives I worked with were able to catch him. He had 17 prior convictions on his record, ranging from more benign crimes to violent ones. He also had a warrant out because he had skipped out on his probation meeting. I cooperated with the Assistant District Attorney and told my story to aid in his conviction of “Unlawful Surveillance.”
Women should feel that they have the right and ability to embarrass their harassers; but, it’s also important to follow through and report the incident with the police. Use your words, use your cameras, and use your ability to share your stories.
Submitted by Emily
This guy sure thinks he’s a hotshot when he’s on the end of this big fancy phallic crane. So he decides to catcall a few ladies on their way to the train station this morning. As soon as I told him I was taking his photo for Hollaback fame, he didn’t feel so good anymore. And then all his buddies started laughing at him.
This happens a lot at this construction site. You stay classy, Carroll Gardens!
Submitted by Katharine
There was a construction site near my house for several months. I had been avoiding walking near it whenever possible, taking the longer route between my home and my bus stop. One day I had the *audacity* to just take the faster way home. I figured that if I just walked fast and pretended to be on the phone that I would be safe. Wrong.
Several men, both on the ground and on the building, started to yell at me. A couple of them even approached the fence to get as close as possible, making vulgar gestures and remarks.
When I got home I made this sign and posted it late at night. I used zip ties to secure it to their fence, facing the busy street in front of the construction site. They didn’t manage to get the sign down until 9am – long after all the rush hour traffic got to read my message.
On the back of the sign, I included the definition of sexual harassment and a special message for the assholes that made me feel unsafe in my own neighbourhood.
Submitted by Jessie
“Stop looking at my moms!” There are 1001 creative ways to say NO to street harassment. Come up with your own, and then say it with $5.
Finally! We are so proud to announce that the iPhone app is in stores. This app was funded by 356 donors, and we are so, so grateful for their support. Download it today, here!
The Droid app will be coming out within the next few days, stay tuned!
Like the app??? Want more??? Say it with another 99c. (or $5, but you get the picture.)
I was sitting on the train one day and had my ipod on blast not paying attention to anything, mind you that day I decided to wear a skirt, a guy walks in wearing a yankees hat very low to hide his face i found this very strange, he sat across from me and was looking at me for a period of time . I noticed his arms were low and i looked at his hands , there I saw a camera phone, i had just been up skirted. I was I shocked I did not know what to do .
Submitted by Michelle
This is (a sadly very blurry) photo of a subway masturbator I took on friday night at the Carroll street station. My friend (visiting from boston) and I were heading into the city to meet up with a group for drinks and dancing. Being a friday evening I knew the train would be a while so we sat down on the bench. Across the platform this man was also lounging on a bench. He had made himself comfortable- his bags were strewn around the bench and he was slouched across two seats. Upon seeing us he yelled across the platform “hello ladies” to which I gave him a nod as it had been relatively polite. As it turns out he had bothered my friend as she left the station earlier that evening- asking her where she was going, could he come along etc.
So we ignore him, talk about our new post grad lives blah blah when I hear a rustling which caused me to look at the tracks (I am terrified of getting rabies after a whole other story involving prospect park, a rabid bat and my friends vagina) to make sure nothing is climbing out (I’m aware this is crazy). As I look I notice the man across the platform masturbating furiously! I immediately blurted out, “He’s masturbating!” At first I didn’t think my friend believed me- so she looked over and I began rummaging for my phone. Of course he had heard me, and knew we saw him but it wasn’t until I got my phone out that he covered up! “No pictures” he smirked. To which I responded “no masturbating in public!”
It took me about a minute to even find the camera setting and the pictures aren’t good, but I wanted to freak him out. I then loudly told my friend about hollaback and how useful these pictures will be to the cops when I contact them. Seeing that my pictures were so bad she pulled out her own camera, snapped a few which she intends to touch up so they are more visible.
Thinking that was over, we started talking about street harassment. How common it was in the city. Her own terrifying experiences with men in cars. Then we heard some muttering and looked across the platform to find him at it again! Looking straight at us and mumbling “I like you both… Boobs… Bubble” (couldn’t really understand him). Again we yell at him- there are more people in the station now so I am hoping we can embarrass him. No such luck. We take out our cameras. He covers himself again. Still for the next 30 minutes that we wait for the train he keeps talking to us “I love you… Bubble.. Etc”. Now the normal thing would have been to move but I imagined that as backing down so we stayed, I yelled at him a few times, pretended to have reception and called the cops etc.
The train finally comes, we get to the city and I immediately try and report him. Of course no one is picking up and I keep mysteriously being redirected. My friend is on her phone trying to find the group we were meant to hang out with. It turns out that they had had to leave, as one girl had been roofied (she was thankfully with observant friends who took care of her).
Submitted by Kate