BY EMILY MAY
Since starting to map street harassment in 2010, we’ve seen a flood of little pink dots popping up all over the world. People are holla’ing back everywhere, and our collective voices grow louder with each one.
But over time the map also became a constant reminder that, despite our best efforts, street harassment is at epidemic proportions. It seems more common across cultures than access to drinking water. And with each dot, and each moment of resistance, comes another incident of violence.
“The stories are amazing, but our map is a bit depressing,” I said to our volunteer, Esty. “We need to map something happy, too. We need to show people they can end this.”
We brainstormed about what kinds of happiness could come from being street harassed. Not much, is the truth. But after throwing out a bunch of ideas for ways to get people involved, Esty said, “What about when people stand up for you? You know, when people have your back?”
And so it was born.
In most of the stories on our site where bystanders are present, they either fail to act or do something that further traumatizes the victim (i.e. “you shouldn’t have worn that”, “where is your boyfriend?”, type stuff). We wanted to build a platform where people didn’t feel like they had to strap on superhero spandex and swoop down and beat everyone up when they saw street harassment happen. We knew that the only good way to provide real-time relief to people who are harassed is to get bystanders engaged, but we also knew that bystanders wouldn’t act unless we showed them how.
Our concept was this: we’d develop resources, trainings, and we’d start mapping bystander stories in green dots. Then, we’d build an ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ button which users can click to show support. At the end of each day, the person who submitted their story will get an email telling them how many people have their backs.
We thought we’d map these stories in green dots, because you know, green looks good with pink (these things are important!). And then we found out there was a whole organization called Green Dot (www.livethegreendot.com) that trained people how to intervene, but didn’t do the mapping part. We called them, attended their training, and fell in love with them.
Our plan was off to a great start. Only one snag: we needed funding to partner with them. We applied to one foundation and got turned down. So we applied to five more foundations, and got turned down again. Not liking to be told ‘no’, I did what any self-respecting executive director would do: I called them and begged. And it worked! A month later, Green Dot was on a plane to New York. We spent a week conceptualizing the project, and although some things are still on hold, pending additional support, we got a lot of pieces up and running.
Thanks to Green Dot, 268 donors, and our pro-bono team of developers which include Jill Dimond, Kevin Finity, and Josephine Hall, we’ve revamped Hollaback!’s website with bystander resources and are working to train Hollaback!’s 150 sites leaders in 44 cities and 16 countries on how to do bystander workshops in their communities. Successful bystander stories are now collected through ihollaback.org and Hollaback!’s newly re-released iPhone and Droid apps, and the ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ button is awesome and being clicked as we speak.
This campaign is still in its infancy, but we’re pretty confident: the ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ campaign is going to put a serious dent into street harassment by shifting the culture that’s made it OK for way too long. Everyone has a role in this movement — so start intervening and share your story today at ihollaback.org.
Join us at our “I’ve Got Your Back” event tonight in Brooklyn, details are here.