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“Why Me?”

Stories, street harassment | on October, 24, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

I am so damn sick of this happening to me. Today while outside I experienced getting harassed twice and each and every time that it has happened I have tried to ignore it and even stand up to it, but I have then realized that there is no use in me even wasting my time or breath to try and make these guys understand how small, degraded, disrespected and angry I feel.

They seem to get this sick and twisted perverted pleasure out of it and I’m tired of being ignored and humored and I am tired of people turning a blind eye to it. The sad part is when I try and stand up for myself, I am the one who is punished. I’m the one who has to suffer and pay for it. I didn’t ask for this. I try to come outside and leave the house for some fresh air but I can’t go anywhere in peace without being bothered. I am mainly experiencing this everyday. I don’t know nor understand this and why me? Do I have some type of stamp on my forehead?

Location: One incident occurred outside my local library. The other was while I was coming out of the bank.

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“Luckily I could escape this time”

Stories, street harassment | on October, 23, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Biking from school (art school is open till late) at 22.00, it was raining cats and dogs. Since I didn’t got a raincoat, I could feel the water running down my skin into my shoes. In an attempt not to get to grumpy, I started to sing. Almost home, I needed to enter several tunnels and here there was a man looking for some shelter. Being polite, I smiled and immediately I regreted my kindness.

He started shouting at me, HE WET PUSSY! and so on. The harder I biked away, more demented his voice became. Not sure if he even ran after me for a bit. It made me so angry, aggressive even, but I was definitely no match for him. I said something like: Let it be!

It was like oil on a campfire. As if my response gives him all reason and meaning to what he did and he shouted even more. Luckily I could escape this time. But I do fear the next encounter, since this is the second time seeing him.

What can I do? Change course? That feels like surrender and takes me even longer through the dark. Same way to night/next week?

I’m scared he’ll rape me. I feel ashamed for my kindness and guilty that I put myself in danger after being raped before. Despair for not having control over my own safety, where people say its a save country and where I should be grateful for my rights. Right? To hell with that!!! All this, because it rained…

Zula

Location: Netherlands

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“Is there anything we can do to stop catcallers?”

Stories, street harassment | on October, 23, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Today someone catcalled to me for the first time in my life. I am 15 and my friends who were with me are also in high school in a small town in New England. We are on the cross country team and were out in the middle of a run. We were at a crosswalk waiting for all the cars around us at the intersection to have a red light so we could cross. The lane nearest to us was already stopped. A man pulled his car up and rolled down the windows. He looked about 25-30 years old, nearly twice my age. He yelled “Hey, beautiful girls,” in what he seemed to think was a sexy voice.

I looked to my friends to see if they knew this man and they looked just as bewildered as I did. He kept talking, “No answer? Come on pretty babies come see me. I have some beautiful healthy genetics! Wanna see?” I glared at this man, full of hatred. Finally the light turned green and he repeated, “Beautiful healthy genetics!” as he laughed.

I found it so disgusting and offensive, and never would have expected it in the middle of the day in a small New England town. Afterwards I immediately and deeply regretted not looking at his license plate so I could report him.

Now I want to know, is there anything we can do to stop catcallers?

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

Make catcalling illegal.

- Anonymous

Location: Massachusetts

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“My Night Was Ruined”

Stories, street harassment | on October, 23, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

The bus was overly crowded. I was pushed up against other people and I had trouble staying upright. My arm was already aching from holding onto the overhead bar for dear life, trying to keep myself from falling on top of the people in front of me, a group of men sitting on a long-ish seating facing the back. I noticed them looking at me, but I decided it’d be best to ignore them.

I was with a male friend and I was excited because we were going to watch a movie. Our stop arrived and I scrambled to squeeze out, as did the men sitting in front of me. Just as I’d reached the exit, one of the men came up behind me and grabbed my butt. I was disgusted and whirled around to yell at him, but the crowd was already pushing me out.

I got off scowling and muttering curses under my breath, unable to see which one of the men had grabbed me through the crowd thronging around the bus, desperate to get on. My friend asked me what was wrong but I knew he would start a fight if I told him so I kept quiet. However I couldn’t quite shake off that feeling that’s all too familiar to anyone who’s had their personal space violated. I was walking along, still fuming, so my friend kept asking me why I was so mad. I told him and he asked why I hadn’t told him right then and there. I explained to him I didn’t want him to start a fight, to which he replied, “Then stop being angry. It’s no use being mad over it now”.

I tried to explain how I couldn’t just shrug it off like it was nothing. I could still feel his hand on me, and I felt helpless and violated. I kept trying to explain it to my friend, but he refused to listen and we just ended up fighting. Needless to say, my night was ruined, just for a fleeting moment of satisfaction for one lecherous fellow passenger.

- S.T.

Location: Nepal

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UK: Empowering Women through Street Art

correspondents, street harassment | on October, 23, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Siel Devos, London, England, SSH Blog Correspondent

Via the Jordan Times

Last month I wrote about how I experienced harassment in Amman, and I ended my post by wondering how we can address this issue and bring a change to the mentality of Arab men and boys towards women. You can imagine my excitement when I came across a project called Women on Walls that focuses on women’s empowerment through graffiti and gives artists a chance to express themselves through street art.

Women on Walls (WOW) was founded by Angie Balata and Mia Grondahl, who recorded the contributions made by graffiti artists to the 25 January Revolution in Egypt in her book “The Revolution’s Graffiti”. After noticing that of the 17.000 street art photographed in the book only 253 featured women, they decided to take action and came up with the Women on Walls project to draw attention to women’s rights issues through street art. Thanks to their graffiti project in the Bourse area in Cairo, WOW gained more exposure, which eventually led them to collaborate with women’s and anti-harassment organisations like HarassMap and Uprising of Women in the Arab World in 2014. WOW is currently expanding through the region, starting with a street arts festival in Jordan, where 25 women artists from Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon contribute works to the wall to spark the conversation on women’s issues.

Laila Ajjawi, one of the artists participating in the WOW festival in Amman, says she wants to bring a message to men who still look at girls as objects instead of full-fledged human beings with intellectual depth. Research has shown that 80 percent of Jordanian women have experienced street harassment, and 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have reported being sexually harassed, so it’s clear that street harassment is still a problematic issue in the region. This is the reason why Ajjawi choose to focus on street harassment in line with the Women on Walls festival theme “Stories from Fear to Freedom”. She finds that street art is the perfect way to address the issue of street harassment because it reaches a much wider audience. “It challenges harassers in their domain: the streets. This kind of art doesn’t just decorate cement walls; it forces a conversation. “It catches the eye,” says Ajjawi. “But it’s not confrontational.”

Women are often fearful of speaking out against harassment, but Ajjawi hopes that her art may stand in for those who have been silenced into submission.

“If a women is silent, it’s because society compels her to be silent,” says Ajjawi.

The Amman festival combined the Women on Walls project with Baladak, launched by Al Balad Theatre in 2013, who aim to enhance the sense of citizenship through street art. In addition to revealing the street art gallery, the festival also included discussions, lectures and meetings initiated by local organisations to “raise awareness on women’s issues in Jordan and the Arab world, and create an inspirational space for artists to express their opinions,” says Al Balad Theatre Programme manager Lubna Al-Juqqa. The aim is to change the stereotypical image of women that is presented by the media as “just a pretty face”.

A great initiative if you ask me – I hope Women on Walls will expand throughout the region and most importantly, continue to raise awareness of street harassment and women’s issues in the Middle East.

Siel is a master’s student in Middle Eastern studies with a major in contemporary Islam at SOAS University in London. Find her on twitter and instagram under @mademoisielle.

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USA: Safer streets becoming a reality in Kansas City

SSH programs, street harassment | on October, 22, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Our six Safe Public Spaces Mentees are half-way through their projects. This week we are featuring their blog posts detailing how the projects are going so far. This sixth post is from our team in the USA. Their projects are supported by SSH donors. If you would like to donate to support the 2015 mentees, we would greatly appreciate it!

BikeWalkKC has made some exciting progress toward making our streets safer in the last three months. BikeWalkKC, Kansas City’s only regional bicycling and pedestrian advocacy organization, helped pass an anti-harassment ordinance to protect vulnerable road users (pedestrians, bicyclists, people in wheelchairs) on October 2.

As a biking and walking advocacy organization, we work to empower individuals to pursue active forms of transportation. Just as poor sidewalks or a lack of bike lanes are barriers to walking or biking, street harassment also causes individuals to feel unsafe walking or biking on our streets.

In order to get the ordinance passed, we reached out to City Councilmembers and local law enforcement earlier this fall. We also launched a petition, gathered letters of support, and conducted an online survey about street harassment. Interesting survey results include:

* 82% of individuals had experienced harassment while walking
* 75% of individuals had experienced harassment while biking
* The most frequent source of harassment was from motorists (65%)
* Only 17% say bystanders have ever intervened

One survey respondent said she experienced street harassment on an average three times a week. “I shouldn’t have had to have been so nervous to walk down my own street in the middle of the day. But I was. Every day. People shouldn’t need to be afraid like this.”

The full report can be seen here.

We received a lot of local press and nationwide attention about the ordinance, such as the Huffington Post, Jezebel, and City Lab. There are at least three other cities in the metro currently working on passing an anti-harassment ordinance.

We were pleased that Kansas City, Missouri City Council is committed to making Kansas City a safer city. Before the ordinance was finally passed, there was a lot of debate among councilmembers concerning the language and making sure First Amendment rights were not being infringed upon.

“During the process to pass it, we found an ally in the ACLU, rekindled a relationship with our local ADA advocacy organization, and really solidified our relationship with council members at city hall,” says BikeWalkKC Marketing and Development Director Sarah Shipley. “It has quite frankly been an amazing experience.”

View the testimonies of the courageous citizens who testified on why we needed safe streets in Kansas City at a City Council meeting.

Now that we have passed the ordinance, we are currently planning an educational campaign and workshops surrounding street harassment for community members. Stay tuned for this soon, and thanks again to Stop Street Harassment for all their support and assistance.

Here is the text for the ordinance:

140777 (Sub.)Amending Chapter 50, Article VI, Offenses Against Public Safety, by enacting a new Section 50-205 which will prohibit certain acts against bicyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchair operators.

SECOND COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE FOR ORDINANCE NO. 140777, AS AMENDED

Amending Chapter 50, Article VI, Offenses Against Public Safety, by enacting a new Section 50-205 which will prohibit certain acts against bicyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchair operators.

WHEREAS, Kansas City wants to encourage modes of transportation other than motor vehicles; and

WHEREAS, it is desirable to create a healthy, safe environment in Kansas City for all people; and

WHEREAS, harassment of bicyclists, pedestrians (including those walking with a guide dog or a white cane), and wheelchair operators increases the hazards already posed to these persons operating on our City streets; NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF KANSAS CITY:

Section 1. That Chapter 50, Article VI, Offenses Against Public Safety, is hereby amended by enacting a new Section 50-205, Harassment of a Bicyclist, Pedestrian or Wheelchair Operator, to read as follows:

Sec. 50-205. Harassment of a Bicyclist, Pedestrian or Wheelchair Operator

(a)    The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this section, shall have the meanings ascribed to them below, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

Bicycle means any device upon which a person may ride, which is propelled by human power through a system of belts, chains, or gears, and may include an electric assist motor, and has wheels at least 16 inches in diameter and a frame size of at least 13 inches.

Wheelchair means any manual or motorized device designed specifically for use by a person with a physical disability for means of conveyance.

(b)   No person shall, for the purpose of intimidating or injuring any person riding a bicycle, walking, running, or operating a wheelchair or for the purpose of intimidating or injuring such person’s service animal:

(1)               Throw an object, direct a projectile, or operate a vehicle at or in such person’s direction or at or in the direction of such person’s service animal; or

(2)               Threaten such person; or

(3)               Sound a horn, shout or otherwise direct loud or unusual sounds toward such person or toward such person’s service animal; or

(4)               Place such person in apprehension of immediate physical injury; or

(5)               Engage in conduct that creates a risk of death or serious physical injury to such person or such person’s service animal.

(c)    Any person convicted of a violation of this chapter shall be punished for that violation by a fine of not less than $50.00, but not more than $500.00 or by imprisonment of not more than 180 days or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Rachel Krause is BikeWalkKC’s Marketing and Communications Coordinator.

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DC: Volunteer with RightRides DC!

Events, Resources, street harassment | on October, 22, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

From our DC friends Collective Action for Safe Spaces:

On Friday, October 31, we’re launching RightRides DC, our groundbreaking new, grassroots program to provide free, safe, late-night rides home for women and LGBTQ people. The number one thing we need to make this service a huge success? YOU! We’re still in need of dispatchers, drivers and navigators. Each car will have a driver and a navigator, so apply with a friend!

Be a part of something big. Sign up to volunteer now!

When Do You Need Me to Volunteer?

Volunteers must attend our training session on Thursday, October 23, and must be available to volunteer during RightRides operating hours from 11:30 pm to 3:30 am on October 31. All volunteers will be provdied with a free Zipcar membership as well as free transportation home!

What Do I Need to Do?
Volunteers will be paired up in driver/navigator teams (yup, that means you can sign up for shifts with a friend!) to operate three donated Zipcars. Prefer not to drive? That’s OK, we need dispatchers, too! Volunteers must have a valid drivers license, be able to attend our October 23 volunteer training, and pass a background check. They also should be able to commit to volunteering on at least two service dates this year.

Why Should I Volunteer?
Staying safe can end up unfairly costing women and LGBTQ folks in time, opportunities, and cold hard cash. RightRides DC, the first service of its kind in the city, is an important first step in addressing the “safety gap” in DC’s public transportation. Do good to your community and be a part of something big!

P.S. Be sure to RSVP to our RightRides DC Launch Party on Wed., 10/29 at Right Proper Brewing Company!

And don’t forget to save the RightRides DC number in your phone now; call or text 202-556-4232 for a free, safe ride home from 12am-3am on October 31. Tell your friends!

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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.