My first year of college was a rude awakening to the commonality of street harassment. While I’d faced incidents before, in college, street harassment became a nearly daily experience. I faced honking, whistling and comments from men when I walked, ran, or took the bus. A few weeks into my first semester, a man groped me on the street two blocks from campus as I stood outside a friend’s house at night. It was very upsetting.
Sadly, my experiences are not unique. Street harassment is a problem on and around college campuses nationwide.
Over the past two years, I’ve given talks about street harassment on more than 20 college campuses, from Stanford in California to Central Connecticut State University, from the University of Iowa to Georgia College & State University. I even gave a talk at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and it’s a problem there! At every campus, students share story after story about the harassment they’ve experienced. We talk about why it happens, the impact it has on our lives, and ideas for activism.
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article about my talk at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington state this past February:
“Sophomore Kate Pritchard said she had never experienced street harassment before coming to PLU.
“Coming to college,” Pritchard said, “I’ve experienced a lot of it, and so this is something that’s relevant, I felt, to the PLU community.”
During the lecture, Kearl discussed techniques for addressing street harassment and emphasized telling harassers their actions are offensive.
Sophomore Katie Giseburt said she found these techniques for handling street harassment particularly interesting because ‘it just would be very startling and then you could follow up with, you know, ‘Don’t harass women.’ Just having those tools and knowing them already and being able to mentally prepare and visualize is extremely helpful.’
Sophomore Jessica Simmons said the lecture taught her street harassment can lead to sexual assault.
‘It’s not just something that we can ignore and say, ‘Well, you just need to deal with it or buckle down or walk away as fast as you can,’’ Simmons said. ‘It is something that we need to really confront. Everyone needs to take a stand and say, you know, ‘This isn’t okay. You can’t do this.’”
If you’re interested in bringing me to your campus this year for a talk or to lead a workshop, let me know! I can focus on the topic generally, look at international issues, and/or focus on activism and ways to respond.
I have many more examples of activism that works after my own experiences this spring helping bring an anti-sexual harassment campaign to the Washington, DC Metro system and using a Change.org petition to bring down an offensive pro-street harassment sign at a mall in New Jersey. Also, I organized International Anti-Street Harassment Week in March and more than 100 groups from 21 countries participated in some way and can speak about why the week is important and what different groups did to raise awareness in their communities.
So do reach out if you’re interested in a campus talk about street harassment this year!Share on Facebook