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“I was trapped and felt cornered”

Stories, street harassment | on April, 17, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

I was sitting at a cafe, minding my own business, when a man started talking to me. At first the conversation was simple, pleasant. But then he started asking invasive questions about my marital status and where I live. He then asked for my number- I declined. He asked me out- I said no. But he kept asking and wouldn’t leave me alone until he had to go. I didn’t know what to do; I was trapped and felt cornered. I didn’t want to leave because I had work to do and had just gotten to the place, but I felt like running away.

- Anonymous

Location: Azerbaijan

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Sexual harassment and abuse is not normal, but many people believe it is

News stories, Resources, street harassment | on April, 16, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Whenever I give a talk about street harassment to a group of people that hasn’t identified as feminist, I am likely to hear comments like “It’s men’s nature,” “It’s a compliment,” “Sure we don’t like it, but what can we do about it?” Recently, had conversations with two different young women who said their mothers have told them it’s a compliment and just part of life as a woman. That is similar to what my mom once told me when I was a teenager.

The belief that this behavior is “normal” and “natural” and there’s nothing we can do about it is sadly widespread. Take this latest research, via Think Progress:

“Most young women assume that being harassed, assaulted, and abused is simply something that everyone experiences, according to the results from a forthcoming study that will be published in the next issue of the journal Gender & Society. The perception that gender-based violence is normal dissuades most victims from reporting those crimes.

In order to arrive at those conclusions, sociologist Heather Hlavka analyzed interviews conducted with 100 young women between the ages of three and seventeen years old. The interview subjects had been identified as potential sexual assault victims through an advocacy group that works to combat child abuse. Hlavka discovered that most of those girls rationalized their everyday experiences of abuse and harassment, simply believing there was nothing unusual about being victimized.

“Objectification, sexual harassment, and abuse appear to be part of the fabric of young women’s lives. They had few available safe spaces; girls were harassed and assaulted at parties, in school, on the playground, on buses, and in cars,” Hlavka writes. “Overwhelmingly described as ‘normal stuff’ that ‘guys do’ or tolerating what ‘just happens,’ young women’s sexual desire and consent are largely absent. Sex was understood as something done to them.”

In other words, these young women tend to believe that men can’t help it. They’ve been taught that men can’t control their aggressive sex drives, so it makes sense to them that girls will inevitably become the subject of that aggression. That’s a central aspect of rape culture, and Hlavka argues it’s been deeply socialized into young women. Most of the study participants didn’t understand that there was any other way for men and women to interact.”

When I worked at AAUW and co-authored a national study on sexual harassment in grades 7-12, this attitude was common among the harassers — “it’s no big deal/it’s just part of school life” was commonly given as the reason why they harassed another student.

As much as I’d like us (the anti-harassment movement) to be doing more prevention work, sadly, a lot of what is necessary right now is simply raising more awareness that sexual harassment and sexual violence are NOT normal and NOT okay.

I strongly believe that story-sharing can play a central role.

Take for example, a recent talk I gave to 100 students and faculty at a college in Maryland. During the Q&A a few men had no problem announcing to the room that it’s human nature for men to harass, women are to blame because of the tight clothing they wear, and (my favorite), that men are natural predators to women who are natural prey.

The talk was followed-up by a workshop with about 40 people, including the young man who made that last remark. At the start of the workshop, invited people to share their stories and several women did. And do you know what, that young man listened to their stories and shut up and did not say any more ridiculous things. I could see understanding and even empathy dawning in his eyes.

When people we care about — be they classmates, family members or friends — are negatively impacted by something, we are more apt to listen and to care, regardless of now “normal” or “okay” society says those issues are.

So, please, when you can, share your street harassment stories with people you trust – -raise their awareness that this a problem and why. Together we can help change social attitudes and go from seeing sexual harassment and assault as normal to deplorable.

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“I see silence as involuntary agreement that deeply affects your emotional well-being”

Stories, street harassment | on April, 15, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

I have been barked at while walking down the street with my husband, yelled at from cars “Nice labia!”, laughed at by teens who claimed I was a man (they were seated at the table next to me in a fast food restaurant). I have had people direct gender-speculative comments at me on the street, in a restaurant while I was out with my family for Mother’s day, in front of my apartment building, in the hallway of my apartment building, at bars…bars are the worst. I have had my path blocked by a man in a van who propositioned me for sex and have been told to smile by complete strangers.

Optional: Do you have any suggestions for dealing with harassers and/or ending street harassment in general?

I always chose to ignore street harassment. Except for the harassers in the restaurant on Mother’s Day. Those men were sitting at a long table with several women and the owner of the restaurant, whom I knew from years back while working for the company. I didn’t have the nerve to confront them at the time, but instead wrote an anonymous letter to the restaurant owner detailing the harassment and how I had decided to share the burden of their unkind behavior. In the future I will meet it head on because harassers get pleasure out of soliciting discomfort and silence. In fact I now see silence as involuntary agreement that deeply affects your emotional well-being.

- Anonymous

Location: Where hasn’t it happened?

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“I learned to just put up with it”

Stories | on April, 15, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Does it have to be a “street”? Inside my high school I had to walk past several leering male students, often up to three years younger, to get to my locker, who would taunt me with catcalls. I talked to the guidance counselor, but we agreed there was nothing that could effectively be done to stop it without provoking the boys to make things worse for me. I learned to just put up with it. This was 40 years ago.

- Anonymous

Location: A small town high school in the Midwest of the USA

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Digest of Street Harassment News: April 14, 2014

street harassment | on April, 14, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

** Sign up to receive a monthly e-newsletter from Stop Street Harassment **

Street Harassment Stories:

Share your story! You can also read street harassment stories on the Web at:

Stop Street Harassment Blog

Bijoya in Bangladesh

Collective Action for Safe Spaces

Everyday Sexism

HarassMap in Egypt

The Hollaback Sites

Ramallah Street Watch in Palestine

Resist Harassment in Lebanon

Safe City India

Safe Streets in Yemen

Street Harassment in South Africa

Street Harassment in the News, on the Blogs:

* ThinkProgress, “Hundreds Of New Yorkers Rally Against Street Harassment: ‘I’m Not A Dog, Don’t Whistle At Me’

* Flavorwire, “Self-Portraits Offer Creative Response to Street Harassment

* Hollaback Boston, “International Anti-Street Harassment Week Chalk Walk Recap

* New York Times, “An Artist Demands Civility on the Street With Grit and Buckets of Paste

* CNN, “Is Egypt in the midst of a sexual harassment epidemic?

* Ahram Online, “Egypt’s new anti-sexual harassment law submitted to cabinet

* The Guardian, “Flirtation or sexual harassment? Here’s how to tell the difference

* AllAfrica.com, “Leering Glances – the Silence on Sexual Harassment Is Untenable

* MiamiHerald.com, “Movement enlists bartenders to protect women from sexual harassment

* Away She Goes, “Street Harassment and Traveling Advice for Women

* The Astute Bloggers, “How Effectively Will Egypt’s New Government Combat Sexual Harassment?

* NY Mag, “Ending Sexual Harassment Will Not Make It Harder to Get Laid, Promise

Announcements:

New:

* Did you participate in International Anti-Street Harassment Week? Please fill out this report form where you can say how your action went (no matter how big or small). This information will be used for the annual wrap-up report and potentially for articles about the week.

* SSH Founder Holly Kearl and board member Patrick Ryan McNeil will join Collective Action for Safe Spaces on a panel about street harassment at the George Washington University on Wednesday, 7 p.m.

10 Tweets from the Week:

* @awlzr: Had the worst street harassment experience of my life. What gives people the right to f*cking shout slurs a person bc she wont turn around

* @kirstyboo79: If you hear a girl had her arse grabbed in Cambridge & yelled at the perv, that’s me. My body, my rules. F*cking prick. #streetharassment

* @teacup: The amount of street harassment I got last night was f*cking insane.

* @tala_roo: I somehow missed the memo that spring was also street harassment season -_-

* @_arnesa_: In what world do men think it’s okay to “holler” at a girl as she is coming out of a doctors office #EndSH

* @fyeahmfabello: These men actually just bowed down to a woman’s ass on the street while hooting and hollering. What the actual f*ck. #EndSH @HollabackPhilly

* @britt_turtle: Just got followed by an obvi mentally ill dude jerking off while saying nasty things to me… #ThisIsMyLA #streetharassment

* @RSwirling: Sometimes I say hi to men who say hello in hopes that it’s friendliness, not #streetharassment. Every time I end up wrong & objectified.

* @laurennn: This guy just hollered at me from his stoop. His toddler DAUGHTER was right next to him #wtf #streetharassment

* @peacockprince: it is so hot it’d be nice to go walking outside today too bad about that street harassment thing tho huh

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The Process Behind Stop Telling Women to Smile

anti-street harassment week | on April, 14, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Watch.

Stop Telling Women To Smile from Dean Peterson on Vimeo.

“It’s important for me to show the process behind creating these pieces. Each portrait is an actual woman who has a story, who goes through this treatment daily, who has something to say about it that deserves to be heard.

I initially decided to portray the women as drawings instead of photographs because it was my natural inclination as a portrait painter. But also, drawing someone’s portrait makes you really look at them. You have to recognize their humanity not just physically but personally. And I hope that’s what comes across when people see these portraits in the street.” -Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

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Conversation about the Monument Project

anti-street harassment week | on April, 14, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

By: Rebecca Nagle, Codirector of Force: Upsetting Rape Culture

A group of community members came together at the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial Library in downtown Washington on Wednesday, April 2nd, to have a conversation about the Monument Project: a call to create a national monument to survivors of rape and abuse in the United States.  The group strategized about concrete next steps for the Monument Quilt, which will be both a precursor to and way of getting buy-in for the Monument Project itself. The Monument Quilt is a collections of stories from survivors of rape and abuse that creates public healing space.

Attendees also discussed why we want a permanent monument, including the presence of permanent healing space for survivors, public education, and having a representation of the power we can have when we come together.  Last, the group brainstormed ways in which the Monument Quilt can support current and future policy initiatives to improve response systems that support survivors as well as prevention efforts.

The event was organized by Collective Action for Safe Spaces and Force: Upsetting Rape Culture as part of International Anti-Street Harassment Week.  CASS helped organize the advocacy effort that led to the recent passing of landmark sexual assault reforms in DC.  Read more about the effort here.

Force just announced a 10-city tour for the Monument Quilt and are currently hosting a Kickstarter to fund the tour.  Pitch in if you can!

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Comment Policy

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.