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USA: From Harassment at School to the Streets

correspondents, Stories, street harassment | on March, 31, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Dr. Dena Simmons, New York City, USA, Blog Correspondent

Girls working with The Women Worldwide Initiative in Brooklyn

“Leave me alone,” I screamed.  Stop it! Stop!

But he kept inserting himself into my space no matter how hard I pushed him away.

I was in sixth grade when one of the boys from seventh grade cornered me so that he could grope me. After taking what he wanted, he left me in a corner, violated.

This inappropriate touching was an unwelcomed part of my middle school years. During class trips, during transitions in the hallways, at lunch, and at recess, the boys would sneak free-feels of the girls’ butts for fun. Many of us girls disliked the sexual harassment, but back then, no one did anything to protect us.  We did not even have the vocabulary to describe what was happening to us.

Worse, one of my male English teachers would gently pinch my ears and stomach and rub my shoulders intimately, which made his class an unwelcomed part of my middle school years.  I had no power to tell him to stop. I felt paralyzed by his actions.  He touched other girls inappropriately too—without any shame. Fed up, I organized a movement against his casual touching, which included having our parents come into school to complain about his behavior.  The principal reprimanded him, but he kept his job.

I never felt justice from reporting my teacher’s unwanted touches or the harassment from my male classmates—and still today, I walk the streets of New York City, subject to harassment that, for me, began between the walls of my school.  Too often, young feminine bodies are sexually objectified in the very school buildings that should keep them safe.  As a teacher, I would walk through the hallways and hear adolescent boys throwing their bravado around through derogatory comments about their female-bodied peers.

I can’t wait to hit that!

Did you see her ass?

I like her boobs.”

I hear she’s easy. You should go for her.

I want to fuck her.

I would hear stories from my female students who complained about the ways their male peers touched them when no one was looking, the way it bothered and distracted them from learning.  Similar to when I was a middle schooler, many teachers did little to address the unwanted touching and the verbal harassment about which our students complained. Often times, these events happened when we were not looking. Most teachers and school leaders never learn how to handle the inappropriate touching that happens between students at school.

How are we supposed to have safer streets if we have not prepared adults at school to keep our school communities safe from harassment, safe from victimization and bullying?

Our pedagogy as a nation has been so watered down with test preparation that there are so few opportunities to teach students to be respectful and kind to people regardless of their differences, to have conversations about feminism, sexism, and gender with students and colleagues, and to teach lessons about power and privilege among other topics.  There is so much work to do.

As adults, parents, school leaders, big brothers, uncles, teachers, and fathers, let’s do more for our youth. Let’s call out street harassment and other forms of victimization when we see it.  Let’s build our youth’s problem-solving skills, empathy, self- and social awareness, and conflict resolution abilities. And, let’s model the type of respectful, thoughtful, and loving behavior we want to see in our youth.

Dr. Dena Simmons serves as the Associate Director of Education and Training at Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. She is a recent graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, where her research focused on teacher preparedness to address bullying in the middle school setting.

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Kenya: I Confronted Street Harassers Today

correspondents, Stories, street harassment | on March, 30, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Linnet Nyawira Mwangi, Kisumu, Kenya, SSH Blog Correspondent

Over the weekend I attended a friend’s birthday party in town but I had to leave early because I had a busy day the following day. After saying goodbye to my friends I decided to go get a cab outside and declined the offer to be walked out by some friends since everyone was having fun and after all, I would get one outside…or so I thought. After waiting for a few minutes I decide to walk to the next block which is usually more open so that I could get a cab with ease. Three men appeared from the direction I was heading to and from the noise they were making and their sluggish walk, you could easily tell (assume) they were drunk.  The path was well lit so I had no fear and I continued walking towards them.

As I got closer to them, one shouted, “Hey sexy lady where are you cat walking to at this time of the night?”

A second voice asked, “Business is not good today, ha?” By now they were right in front of me.

Another voice crept in “Come with us we can pay you handsomely.”

By now, one of them had blocked my way and as he stepped close to me I shoved him angrily with my purse. This angered his counterparts who in turn started shouting at me in a language I could not understand. I had walked through this street many times during the day and evenings as I left work and I knew there were guards on duty in these business premises and if it got any worse I would scream and draw their attention. But I was not ready to let these men have their way. Harassing every woman they saw walking at night and misjudging us felt totally unacceptable!

By this time I was so angry and I quickly raised my voice at them and told them to treat women with respect and dignity and respect themselves too. One of them asked me why I was talking back at them and whether my mother did not teach me to listen to men talking as he took a step towards me and I told them it was my right to defend myself against harassment. They all burst out laughing asking me what right I was talking about. I then told one of the men to excuse me and if he touched me I would scream loud enough to attract the soldiers who were guarding a bank a few yards away and they would all end up in prison.

This worked and as I walked past them I could hear them shouting after me that I would never get married like other feminists with that kind of attitude. So they actually knew what they were doing if they referred to women who stood up for themselves as feminists? Luckily a cab appeared and I got in and I could not help but feel good that I had actually stood for myself and stopped some men from taking advantage of me. I realised that street harassers know what they are doing they are just preying on scared and fearful women to take advantage of.

Linnet is a student at Maseno University in Kisumu, Kenya pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology with IT. Follow her on Twitter @Shantel_lyn and Facebook @lynnette Shantellah.

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Two Weeks to Go!

anti-street harassment week, street harassment | on March, 29, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Raise your hand if you’re energized to be joining 150+ groups in 32 countries (so far…) during the fifth annual International Anti-Street Harassment Week, April 12-18!

With just two weeks to go, here are a few important updates.

Global Night of Action, April 17
Stop Telling Women to Smile (STWTS), an internationally-recognized art project that confronts gender-based street harassment, is organizing an international wheat pasting night on April 17. Those interested in participating can visit the website to request downloadable PDF’s (in their preferred language) of STWTS posters.

“The idea behind the wheat pasting night is to create a night of solidarity. People from all all over can participate in a night of action, knowing that hundreds of people in different parts of the world are doing the same thing.”
- STWTS Founder Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Tell Us What You’re Doing!
We want to know what you’re doing! Please either complete this form or e-mail Britnae with details, BPurdy@stopstreetharassment.org.

These are examples of the exciting actions that will be taking place:

* Groups in Korea and Nicaragua will be releasing data they’ve collected on street harassment.
* A club at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh will be distributing fliers and speaking to taxi drivers, rickshaw drivers, and shop keepers throughout the week, as well as chalking the sidewalks.
* Safecity will be hosting workshops and street plays in India.
* The Women Against Street Harassment Movement in Zimbabwe will be speaking at schools, handing out fliers, hanging posters, appearing on radio and television, and inviting people to sign petitions and survey.
* Girls Speak has developed shareable images and posters encouraging bystander intervention.

Press Release Template
Download a Word doc press release template you can customize to alert local media to your actions for the week.

Write about It!
Starting April 1st, we’re hosting a “Write In.” We’ll be posting daily writing prompts and providing tips for getting your writing about street harassment published. We hope you will consider submitting a piece to your local newspaper, magazines, college publication, or blogs. Op-eds, poetry, research, news articles, and personal columns are all welcome. You can also submit a piece for publication on the SSH Blog! More info.

Twitter Chats: 
Join in the twitter chats (#EndSH)!

April 12, 4-5 p.m. IST. Safecity and SEEW will talk about reporting harassment.

April 13, 2- 3 p.m. EDT, SSH, Paremos el Acoso Callejero in Peru and Imprint Movement in Egypt will discuss practical solutions to street harassment.

April 14, ALL DAY, various groups across the globe will tweet information throughout the day about street harassment and related issues in their region.

April 15, 1-2 p.m. EDT, Everyday Feminism will discuss what communities can do about street harassment.

April 16, Time TBD, Pixel Project and Breakthrough will discuss cultural differences in harassment and responses to it.

April 17, 1-2 p.m. EDT, virtual chapter of NOW will host a chat on a TBD topic.

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“Taking pictures of me out of his window”

Stories, street harassment | on March, 28, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

When I was at the gas station a few days ago, I decided to clean my windshield whilst my car’s tank was being filled. When I turned around I discovered that a male stranger was photographing me from his car. He stopped when I looked straight at him and started to slowly drive away. At this point I went back to cleaning my windshield but soon realized that he had resumed taking pictures of me. This time when I turned around to face him, he didn’t stop, he just slowly started driving again still taking pictures of me out of his window. I kept watching him until he had left the gas station completely. The whole event was very scary and made me extremely uncomfortable.

- Anonymous

Location: Gas station in Arizona

Share your street harassment story for the blog.
See the book 50 Stories about Stopping Street Harassers for more idea

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“Make anti-street harassment lessons compulsory “

Stories, street harassment | on March, 27, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

I walked into school and a group of boys started making tit jokes and whistling at me. They were so bad at whistling one of them brought an actual whistle. It made me feel uncomfortable. Fortunately, at that moment the bell rang.

Late that day a boy in my form class, while he was walking past me and touched the side of my breast. I reported it to my teacher but she said it must have been an accident. I wasn’t surprised. My school never takes this stuff seriously.

Optional: What’s one way you think we can make public places safer for everyone?

Make anti-street harassment lessons compulsory as part of PSHE/Sex ed.

- E

Location: Schoolyard

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See the book 50 Stories about Stopping Street Harassers for more idea

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ʺRun home to daddy b****”

Stories, street harassment | on March, 27, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

My high school is located in the upper downtown area of Indianapolis, Indiana. When I was a sophomore I was walking down the city street from my school to a coffee shop about five blocks away to wait for my father to come pick me up. It was the middle of July and hot outside, so the streets weren’t too busy. As I waited at a stop light to cross the street, a man started to approach me walking fast. As he got up next to me he shoved a tube filled with liquid to my face asking ʺHey beautiful, do you know a man that smells like this?ʺ Terrified that it was laced with drugs or something I held my breath and stepped away. I told him as politely as I could muster, ʺNo, I’m sorry I do not.ʺ

He said, ʺYou didn’t even smell it.ʺ And shoved it to my face again.

This time I began to walk quickly across the street as my light changed, where he then began to follow me, and started to become angry. I asked him to leave me alone, and then I was confronted with angry yells like, ʺSpoiled mother f****** racist princessʺ ʺRun home to daddy b****.ʺ

I spotted police cars parked by a CVS and quickly made my way in there, where he finally walked away. I waited in there for about 30 minutes, then ran the rest of my way to the coffee shop. Later when I told a trusted older cousin about the incident, she told me things like that wouldn’t happen to me if I didn’t wear the clothes I wear. I was 15, In a baggy t-shirt and cut off shorts, in 90 degree weather. I’m 18 now, and this event still haunts me, along with others.

#StopStreetHarassment

Optional: What’s one way you think we can make public places safer for everyone?

If you see it, say something. If the actual attack isn’t horrifying enough, its being surrounded by people who didn’t say a thing.

- Melissa

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

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See the book 50 Stories about Stopping Street Harassers for more idea

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New Resource for Runners in Philadelphia

News stories, Resources, street harassment | on March, 26, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Credit: Samantha Varnum

Alon Abrahamson is the creator of the Philadelphia-based running website Run Philly and created an “Incident Report” page that allows runners to log in incidents of harassment, physical assault, muggings and more that happen while they are running.

Via Runner’s World:

““These incidents must happen every single day, multiple times per day,” Abramson told Runner’s World Newswire. “I want to provide a mechanism to capture that. In doing so, we would actually have material to give to decision-makers and people with actual power to makes some changes like fixing bad intersections or putting out more patrols. It’s a bit of a civic experiment.”

After crowdsourcing data through this fall, Abramson will create a heatmap, which will ideally reveal hotspots of trouble for runners in Philadelphia.”

H/T Michelle Hamilton

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SSH will not publish any comment that is offensive or hateful and does not add to a thoughtful discussion of street harassment. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, disabalism, classism, and sexism will not be tolerated. Disclaimer: SSH may use any stories submitted to the blog in future scholarly publications on street harassment.