New York City Council Hearing 2010

City Council Hearings create awareness about an issue and can lead to concrete change. To date, only two have occurred solely on street harassment.

1 -  Oct. 28, 2010 in New York City.  2 – Nov. 7, 2013 in Philadelphia, PA

New York City Council Hearing

As a result of the hearing, the city is now pursuing funding to conduct the first city-wide study on street harassment. With that data, they can make policy recommendations and changes to stop street harassment in New York City.

On Oct. 28, 2010 the New York City Council’s Committee on Women’s Issues, chaired by Council Member Julissa Ferreras, conducted an oversight hearing on the street harassment of women and girls in New York City. (Read the briefing paper for the hearing.) This is the first time an American city has held a hearing on street harassment.

The hearing was inspired by an op-ed Ferreras read, written by journalist Elizabeth Mendez Berry in El Diario (which speaks to the power of well-written op-eds!), and by reports of harassment from school girls in Ferreras’ district.

In a press release, Council Member Ferreras said, “I hope that this hearing will begin to cast light on this depraved practice and that women and girls will no longer have to adopt a veil of caution when they want to do something as basic as walk down the street.”
Eighteen women and men – activists, writers, and members of the public – testified about how pervasive the problem of street harassment is in the lives of the girls and women they work with and, for many who testified, in their own lives. They offered suggestions for change and asked the NYC Council to take action.

By the end of the hearing, Council Member Ferreras said she would pursue a city-wide study on street harassment and an anti-harassment PSA campaign. This is huge. This is social change.

More than 200 media outlets covered the hearing. I hope every city takes notice and considers holding their own street harassment hearing and working on community solutions for making their city safer and more welcoming for women and girls!

What’s Next?

1. For New Yorkers, contact your city council member to let them know that you believe street harassment is an issue that needs to be addressed by the council; encourage them to read the testimony and support Julissa Ferreras and actually get something done. Find out who your council member is here.

2. For people outside New York, call your local council member and let them know what happened in NYC and suggest that they call similar hearings. You could also write an op-ed about street harassment for your local paper and it might inspire action the way an op-ed in NYC did!

Testimonies:

Elizabeth Mendez Berry, journalist
Written Testimony

Holly Kearl, founder, Stop Street Harassment
Written Testimony

Emily May, executive director of HollaBack
Written Testimony

Violet Kittappa, HollaBack
Written Testimony

Nefertiti Martin, Girls for Gender Equity

Quentin Walcott, Connect

Mandy Van Deven, RightRides
Written Testimony

Alison Roh Park, Center for Constitutional Rights
Written Testimony

Grace Tobin, high school student
Written Testimony

Ana Rokafella Garcia, Full Circle Prod Inc
Written Testimony

S. Song, age 25
Written Testimony

Beckie Weinheimer, author Brian Bradley, performance artist

Press Coverage:

Some of the other press coverage included:

CBS News, “NYC Women Demand ‘Harassment-Free Zones‘”

Ms. Blog, “‘Whose Streets?’ Asks New York City Council

New York Post, “Women tell City Council of catcall horrors

Jezebel, “Can A City Effectively Ban Catcalls?

Salon, “Legislating against catcalls

Gothamist, “Street Harassment Finally Gets City Council’s Attention”

NY Daily News, “City Council hears plea to curb catcalls; women say it’s an ‘issue of safety‘”

Tampa Bay, “The skinny: Women hit back against street harassment

Aha Life, “Hollaback

Pink Scare, “Should we legislate against cat-calling: I say yes

AAUW Dialog, “New York City Fights Street Harassment

The New Agenda, “Hearing on street harassment of women and girls in New York City

Foreign Policy, “What Next?

Good Men Project, “No More Catcalls?

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