We’ve got answers to your questions. Click each section or question to jump directly to the answers.
–How do I validate what the escalated individual is feeling, while not placating or giving them any inkling of my support for their opinions?
See our answers below:
What are Hollaback!’s mission and vision?
Hollaback! is a global, people-powered movement to end harassment — in all its forms. We believe that we all deserve to be who we are, wherever we are.
We believe we all have a role to play in disrupting harassment and building a culture where it is no longer seen as “just the price you have to pay” for being a woman, LGBTQ+, a person of color, or any other marginalized identity. We teach people to take action and to reach across their own identities to ally with others and establish a united front against harassment each time we witness it.
Our mission is to end harassment in all its forms by transforming the culture that perpetuates hate and harassment.
We carry out this mission by building the power of everyday people to create safe and welcoming environments for all.
We envision a world where all people have the freedom to move through public space, participate in civic life, and reach their full potential.
In this world, people will never face hate or harassment as they walk down the street, go to school or work, sit in the park, attend a public protest, vote, or participate online or in media.
We all have the right to be who we are, wherever we are.
What do you do at Hollaback!?
Hollaback! operates as a perpetual affront to harassment — in all its forms. We started in 2005 working to end gender-based harassment in public space, also known as street harassment. In 2015, we expanded our mission to work on harassment across all spaces — including online, the workplace, transportation, protests, the polling booth, and all identities — including women, LGBTQ+ folks, Black folks, Indigenous folks, people of color, religious minorities, people with disabilities, immigrants, and all others who are treated as “less than” just for being who they are. We seek to uproot hate and harassment whether is perpetuated by individuals, institutions, and the messy areas in between in issues like voter suppression, police brutality, and ICE raids.
Our goal is to change the culture that makes harassment OK. We do that work by moving people into action:
- We collect stories of harassment at ihollaback.org and on HeartMob, as well as through our free app, from all around the world. Research shows that when people tell their story on our site it helps them move from understanding harassment as a personal problem requiring personal solutions (take a different route, get a cab, etc) to a societal problem requiring societal solutions (activism, policy change). Share your story supports healing and increases your likelihood of taking action.
- We train people to respond to, intervene in, and heal from harassment. We recognize that the systems and structures that create and reinforce harassment across our society are fundamentally made of people. We want aim to equip everyday people with the tools to undo harassment in their everyday lives and to create impact in the organizations, institutions, and businesses around them. We teach people how to fight for their own communities experience of harassment, but also how to reach across communities and fight alongside others who may experience harassment differently.
- We grow and develop leaders inside the larger movement to end harassment through our global site leader program and partnerships with organizations and businesses. Harassment will end because of the global power of movement designed to defeat it, not because of the actions of any singular organization or individuals. We seek to build the capacity of the movement as a whole and elevate the voices of those most marginalized inside of it.
Join us as we explore different ways of being together that are rooted in taking care of each other in an effort to minimize hate, harm, violence, and create a world free of harassment.
What are Hollaback!’s history and accomplishments?
You can learn more, here.
How can I donate?
You can also mail us a check, at:
30 3rd avenue, 800B
Brooklyn, NY 11217
You can also donate stock, either through our partners with Overflow (which makes donating stock easy) or using this account information, and then emailing us at [email protected] to confirm it went through.
DTC #: 0062
Acct name: Hollaback Inc.
Acct #: 21286595
To get a matching donation from your company or for other questions regarding making a donation, email [email protected]
How do I join the team?
Click here for open job opportunities.
What kind of training do you offer?
You can see a full list of trainings we offer, here.
We provide free training to the public and customized training experiences for businesses, organizations, schools, and colleges. We have proven methodologies in the areas of bystander intervention, conflict de-escalation, harassment prevention, and resilience.
What can I do if I want to offer these trainings in my company or organization?
We’ve brought our trainings to over 200+ major corporations, including Starbucks, Costco, Moderna, and TJX. For training inquiries sending us an email [email protected]
If you’re interested in going a step deeper, email [email protected] to join our Corporate Accomplices Program.
Can I share and use your methodology?
To protect the integrity of our work we ask that you not use or re-purpose our training methodologies without permission. This includes our methodologies in the areas of bystander intervention (the 5D’s), conflict de-escalation (Observe, Breathe, Connect), harassment prevention, and resilience.
If you are a corporation looking to share our methodology with your team or customers via social media, for example, you must first join our corporate accomplices program. Email [email protected] for more information. If you’re looking to have Hollaback! come and train your company or organization using our methodology, email [email protected]
If you are a values-aligned non-profit seeking to teach our methodology, you must first go through our three full-day (or five half-day online) train-the-trainer workshop to license the methodology. The train the trainer is fee-for-service. Email [email protected] for pricing and availability.
We do not currently license our methodology to individual trainers; however, you can check our job board for availability.
What should I know before I take one of your trainings?
Please keep in mind that you have to register in advance to attend one of our trainings. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Our trainings take place on Zoom and we use the webinars format which allows view-only attendees. The trainings are interactive and use the polling and Q and A functionality.
Can I record your trainings, or can you share a recording with me?
We record the training for internal purposes and we do not share recordings externally. If you wish to join a training, we have ongoing free, public trainings available. Click here to sign up for a training.
How long are the trainings?
All our free, public trainings are an hour long. Training for businesses, companies, and organizations can be customized and are sometimes longer.
Will there be captioning available?
Yes, we have closed captioning available in our trainings.
Can I join if I’m from outside the US?
Our trainings are all held online so you can participate from anywhere in the world! Everyone is welcome. Click here to sign up.
The training is full, can you squeeze me in?
Unfortunately, if the training is at capacity you will have to register for another date. We will continue to add more dates and times as long as there is demand. Click here to sign up for a training.
Are your trainings available in different languages?
Most of our trainings are currently only offered in English but we are seeking funding to expand it into other languages. For our Bystander Intervention to address Gender-Based Harassment, we offer select training dates in Spanish.
I missed the training, can I register again?
Yes, we add more times and dates as needed. Feel free to register again.
Do you offer trainings for youth?
Yes, we offer an adapted version of our 5D’s of bystander intervention methodology, especially for youth.
How does Hollaback! understand the problem of harassment?
We believe the problem of harassment requires a deep understanding of how people experience the world we live in differently based on identity. Those most marginalized in our society not only experience more harassment, the harassment is also more severe and thus has deeper psychological, social, and financial impacts. The root cause of harassment is not “a few bad apples,” but rather a larger, global culture of racism, sexism, and homophobia, etc, that is, unfortunately, an inescapable part of the air we breathe.
To solve harassment, we must tackle harassment at its root and center the voices of those most impacted by harassment in the conversation. We must also move beyond the overly simplistic framework of “victim” and “perpetrator.” Although some people may experience harassment more than others based on their identity(ies), most of us have the experience of being treated as “less than” just for being who we are at some point during our lives. Most of us too, have the experience of being disrespectful or even hateful towards others at some point during their lives. To break the cycle of violence, we must commit to seeing the humanity in everyone (including ourselves). We must move beyond “us” vs. “them” frameworks and do the work to heal from our own history of harassment while we simultaneously hold accountability for our own mistakes and work to undo how bias shows up in ourselves and the systems around us.
We believe that although our struggles and our histories may be our own, our lives and our freedom are intertwined. Harassment touches all of us, but we cannot just solve for our own experience of harassment. If we are truly to be free, we must fight for the freedom and dignity of others, too.
How should I respond to harassment?
Remember that it’s not your fault. You’re not alone.
While it is each individual’s right to decide when, how, and whether to respond to harassment, we recommend keeping issues of safety in mind. We’ve got some ideas of how to respond here. If you want support, we’ve got your back. Read on to find out how to report harassment on Hollaback!’s website or via the app.
Should harassment be criminalized?
Does Hollaback! think harassment should be made a criminal offense? No.
Criminal law and punishment are disproportionately applied to people of color, low-income individuals, and trans and gender-nonconforming people. We believe that it is our role as advocates to steer policymakers away from measures that would increase criminalization that predominantly affects these groups, and toward measures that engage communities in prevention. As we explained in a 2013 Huffington Post article:
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 LGBTQ. It is not to re-victimize men already discriminated against by the system.
Replacing sexist oppression with racist oppression is not a proper hollaback.
How to intervene when you witness harassment?
For our bystander intervention trainings we use our proven 5D’s methodology: Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, and Direct. Exit polls show that 99% of people we train leave confident they will intervene next time they witness disrespect or harassment. Some of the trainings that we offer in this space include Bystander Intervention to Address Gender-Based Street Harassment, Bystander Intervention to stop Anti-Asian/American Harassment, and Bystander Intervention to stop Police Sponsored Violence and Anti-Racist Harassment.
Hollaback!’s Five D’s are different methods you can use to support someone who’s being harassed and emphasize that harassment is not okay. Learn more here and don’t forget to check out our free interactive trainings.
How to intervene when the perpetrator might be mentally ill or might be violent?
You should always prioritize your own safety before intervening. Less direct approaches like “distract,” “delegate,” “document” or “delay” can be effective, but if these are not available to you — or, if none of these options feel safe, do not intervene.
Check out our Bystander Resources page where you can learn more about some of the tactics you can use to respond.
What would be the best way for me to be helpful in a situation when the police are involved?
We invite you to check out our Bystander Intervention to stop Police Sponsored violence and Anti-black harassment. You’ll learn what to look for and the positive impact that bystander intervention has on individuals and communities. We’ll talk through Hollaback!’s five strategies for intervention: distract, delegate, document, delay, and direct; and how to prioritize your own safety while intervening.
How do I de-escalate conflict?
At Hollaback!, we teach Hollaback!’s Observe-Breathe-Connect methodology to conflict de-escalation. Check here to see if we have upcoming trainings available.
How is conflict de-escalation different than bystander intervention?
Bystander intervention is a form of conflict de-escalation that everyone can do. The focus of bystander intervention is helping the person being harassed by demonstrating support and disrupting the act of harassment; whereas, our approach to conflict de-escalation focuses on the person doing the harassment or violence, with a goal of reducing the risk of violence.
How do I validate what the escalated individual is feeling, while not placating or giving them any inkling of my support for their opinions?
An example could be acknowledging their emotions, “I understand that you’re angry right now.” Or acknowledging and summarizing what they’ve said, i.e. “From what you’ve said, it seems like you’re really worried about catching COVID-19.”
Reporting Harassment on Hollaback!
How do I share my story of harassment?
If you’ve experience harassment of any kind, we encourage you to share your story with Hollaback!. We received over 1,000 stories of harassment a year, and we’ve received over 15,000 stories since we were founded. Studies show when you share your story with Hollaback!, you’re shift your understanding of your experience of harassment from the realm of the personal, i.e. “this happened to me, it is specific to me,” to the realm of the societal, “this happened to me, but it’s not about me. This is a bigger, societal problem.” Once you’ve made that shift in your understanding, you’re less likely to blame yourself for what you experienced — and more likely to take action on behalf of others.
To share your story:
What is Hollaback!’s Anti-Discrimination Policy when sharing stories?
We will not fight harassment at the expense of other marginalized and/or oppressed people. We will not accept submissions that play up stereotypes based on racism. Same for classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and the usage of any other identity signifier. Harassment comes from people in every facet of our cultures and every stratum of society.
We ask that you refrain from referencing physical attributes of your harasser unless they are clearly explained and constructive to the story. For example, if the post is about racist harassment, it may be appropriate to mention the race of the person doing the harassment,
At Hollaback!, we are about changing societal values, not pointing fingers.
What is your Comments Policy when sharing stories?
We think that speaking up about your experiences with harassment is an incredibly bold act. We admire the people who take this brave step, and we want their experience to be 100% empowering. Too often survivors of sexual and gender-based violence do not get the respect they deserve. That culture stops here, with our short and sweet comments policy.
- No “coulda, woulda, shoulda.” Keep any advice you have for what the person should have done in the situation to yourself. We know you’re just trying to help, but harassment has a way of filling folks with self-doubt, and they don’t need your encouragement.
- No hater language. If you leave a comment along the lines of “you deserve it” or cuss someone out or call them names, you’re wasting your time. We’re not listening to that nonsense, let alone posting it.
- Debate ideas, not people’s lives. If we post an idea or a concept on the site that you don’t like, tell us about it. If we post someone’s personal experience on the site that you don’t like, too bad. We think they’re awesome.
On Online Harassment
What is online harassment?
Online harassment includes a wide range of targeted behaviors such as threats, continued hateful messages, doxxing, DDoS attacks, swatting, defamation, and more. Online harassment can target (or come from) a group or individual and often has the expressed purpose of having the individual or group leave the internet, take down their content, or to dissuade them from publicly having a point of view.
While there is space for debate and discussion online (as well as conflicting ideas!), what separates online harassment from healthy discourse is the focus on harm: including publishing personal information, sending threats with the intention to scare or harm, using discriminatory language against an individual, and even directly promoting harm against a person or organization. We believe in a free internet where individuals feel safe to connect and speak freely, regardless of their religion, identity, or political ideology.
How should I respond to online harassment?
Remember that it’s not your fault. You have as much right to use the internet and social media as anyone else. You’re not alone.
One option you have is to use HeartMob, a program and platform by Hollaback! that specifically addresses online harassment. Consider signing up to receive support from compassionate bystanders. Look over HeartMob’s self-care guide and other resources for more ideas and information on staying safe.
How does HeartMob work?
For too long, many of us have sat back and watched, unsure how to ask for help or how to provide support and resources. With HeartMob, you’ll have a system of supporters beside you, and a user-driven set of actions you can take right now to lend a helping hand. HeartMob allows users to easily document their harassment and maintain complete control over their story. Once documented, users will have the option of keeping their report private and cataloging it in case it escalates, or they can make the report public. If they choose to make it public, they will be able to choose from a menu of options on how they want bystanders to support them, take action, or intervene. They are also given extensive resources including: safety planning, materials on how to differentiate an empty threat from a real threat, online harassment laws and details on how to report their harassment to authorities (if requested), and referrals to other organizations that can provide counseling and legal services.
Bystanders looking to provide support will receive public requests, along with chosen actions of support. You can “have someone’s back” and know that you’re helping them out in a time of need while directly contributing to safer spaces online. HeartMob staff will review all messages and reports to ensure the platform remains safe and supportive.
Is HeartMob secure?
We take the security and privacy of HeartMobbers very seriously. The last thing we want is for someone to be harassed as a result of using HeartMob. As a result, HeartMob will implement social and technical security best practices. These practices include:
- Moderated accounts and trusted invitation system
- Regular technical safety audits
- Moderated messaging
- Privacy options for reporting
How Is HeartMob moderated?
All activity on the platform is reviewed by trained staff on the HeartMob team. This includes harassment cases, supportive messages, help requests, documentation, and HeartMobber accounts.
All HeartMobber accounts are reviewed prior to being accepted through the social media account linked to the request to determine if a person has a stable online identity, as well as no history of hate. Some well-intentioned HeartMobber accounts may be rejected if their linked social media platforms do not meet our predetermined criteria. We hope that you understand that this is a safety precaution, and you are free to reapply for an account at any time.
Who can see my report on HeartMob?
Once online harassment is documented on HeartMob, users will have the option of keeping their report private and cataloguing it in case it escalates, or they can make the report public. If they choose to make it public, they will be able to choose from a menu of options on how they want bystanders to support them, take action, or intervene. HeartMob will review all messages and reports to ensure the platform remains safe and supportive.
What about freedom of speech?
Free speech doesn’t mean anything if individuals do not feel safe and are not free from abuse and harassment. Although the line between hate speech and free speech is a difficult one to draw, people should be held accountable for what they say on the internet.
Isn’t Online Harassment the price you pay for using the Internet?
No, absolutely not. Everyone has the right to live a life free from any form of abuse and harassment and this concept does not suddenly fail to apply in the online world. Being online doesn’t make a threat less real or a racist comment less hurtful and they should be held to the same standards as those of offline harassment. It is not your responsibility to accept harassment for using the internet; it is the responsibility of harassers not to harass you.
Who developed HeartMob?
HeartMob is a project of Hollaback!, a nonprofit organization that works to address harassment in public spaces. The project was conceptualized by the Hollaback! team in conversation with over 100 people who had been harassed online. Initial funding was provided from the Knight Foundation and Digital Trust Foundation. Today the project is funded by the Craig Newmark Charitable Trust and Jigsaw (a project of Google).
Sassafras Tech Collective developed the HeartMob platform. They are a worker-owned technology cooperative specializing in web/app design and development for nonprofits. The collective brings expertise from industry, academia, and social justice organizing, alongside extensive professional backgrounds in code and design.
What is street harassment?
Street harassment is sexual, gender-based, and bias-motivated harassment that takes place in public spaces like the street, the supermarket, and the social media we use every day. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups of our vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Street harassment punishes women, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized groups for being themselves in the world. Street harassment is not about sexual gratification. It’s about power. Sometimes it’s sexual, sometimes it’s racist, sometimes it’s homophobic, and sometimes it’s all of the above and more. Whatever form it takes, it tells us that we’re not safe in the physical or online spaces we share with friends, relatives, acquaintances, and strangers.
At Hollaback!, we believe that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it. If you feel like you have been harassed, we believe you, we support you, and we invite you to share your story.
What are some myths about Street Harassment?
It’s a Cultural/Racial Thing.
Street harassers occupy the full spectrum of class, race, and nationality. Sexual and gender-based harassment, and street harassment specifically, affects people around the globe. And across the world, there is resistance. Hollaback! has sites in over thirty countries and receives emails of support and solidarity from even more countries from every continent. And in New York City, where we have the longest history of posts with pictures, the racial breakdown of harassers perfectly mirrors the racial breakdown of the city itself. Harassment happens in all social cultures and demographics.
In the U.S., as in other countries with long and continuing histories of racial oppression, there are racialized myths about perpetrators and victims of gender-based violence. Initiatives combating gender-based violence continually struggle against the perpetuation of racist stereotypes, in particular, the presumption that men of color are more likely to be sexual predators.
Because of the complexity of institutional and socially ingrained prejudices, Hollaback! is devoted to resisting the reinforcement of social hierarchies, whether done directly, subconsciously, or unintentionally. We highlight the interrelations between sexism, racism, and other forms of bias and violence.
Catcalling Is a First Amendment Right.
Not so fast. Legally speaking, harassment falls under “sexual assault” in many U.S. states. Take a look at the Center for Disease Control’s definition of sexual violence. The CDC, along with a multitude of other government agencies and advocacy organizations, say that sexually charged language qualifies as assault when directed at an individual who doesn’t want it.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically outlaws sexual harassment in the workplace, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clearly states, “Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature… and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.” There are also protections against sexual harassment in educational settings. And that’s not even getting started on hate speech laws.
This myth coincides with the false idea that street harassment is just flirting or paying a compliment. But let’s reexamine that idea. If a man approaches a woman in public politely, strikes up a conversation with her, receives a clear rejection, and respects her wishes, that’s not harassment. Researcher Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment found that women take no issue with gender-neutral greetings, compliments, sentiments, and smiles. Once things start veering into discussions of physical attributes, however, many saw these comments as reductionist, if not outright threatening. Street harassment happens when words and actions are obviously unwanted and nonconsensual. For those who experience harassment often or who have histories of sexual assault, street harassment can feel like ripping a scab off.
If It’s Not Physically Violent, It’s Not Harmful.
Sexual violence exists on a spectrum. Mild verbal harassment sits on one end, and sexual assault and rape sit on the other. Although these experiences aren’t interchangeable, harassment carries many of the same traits as other forms of sexual violence, and can cause considerable mental and emotional damage.
Acts on the least severe side of the scale leave no physical scars, but that doesn’t mean they can’t hurt those on the receiving end in other ways. For survivors of previous molestation, sexual assault, rape, or other forms of sexual violence and exploitation, even a seemingly harmless sexual comment can trigger trauma responses ranging from flashbacks to panic attacks. Depending on the individual, such a disruption could require hours or days of recovery, or more.
Men Aren’t Going to Change. Resistance Is Futile.
That’s just how men are. Deal with it.”
We’ve been hearing variations of this argument ever since we started Hollaback!: The problem is too big. There’s no way to change people. Men are hardwired to abuse. No one will take you seriously.
But we have seen change. Prominent figures from Laverne Cox to Leslie Jones are speaking out against harassment in public spaces. From New York to New Delhi, women and LGBTQ+ people are standing their ground in opposition to the voices that try to silence and intimidate us. Men are stepping up to intervene as bystanders and fund anti-harassment work. Commentators and activists are finding that they have the language and the analysis they needed to describe the problem and talk about what needs to change.
In a world that sometimes seems to cycle back into oppression every time we take a step to overcome it, we have to recognize that the movements we build and the progress we make are not broken by these setbacks. We still have each other and we still have our ideas, and another world is possible.