It seems widely understood and accepted, unfortunately, that sexual harassment, at times not just verbal but physical, befalls women around the country and the world, but ultimately goes unreported and ignored. One way women are now countering continued harassment is through networking and spreading the word about this prevailing problem encountered far too many. City residents and traveling businesswomen alike face these issues that men and society perhaps forget exists.
A group of young women in New York City who have had to deal with such offensive experiences decided to change things for the better by creating a social network that allows women to unite against harassment. “We were fed up with street harassment, and even more frustrated by not having a response. When we walked on, we felt weak; when we yelled at the guys, the situation escalated. And of course the police didn’t care,” a statement explains on the website. “At the time, the blog and the cell phone camera were relatively new technologies. We put two and two together and violÃ – HollabackNYC was born.”
Hollaback! as it’s called, at www.ihollaback.org, was bred for women to both share experiences without fear of repercussions, and to allow them to document harassment so people could be alerted and future occurrences prevented. That was 2005, and the group of friends included Emily May, who last year became the first full-time executive director of Hollaback! Over the years Hollaback! has grown and expanded in step with technology and world connectivity. There exists 12 similar sites around the world, with 14 more in the works for the near future. Argentina, India, France, and the United Kingdom are represented, as are U.S. cities such as Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, and one for Southern California.
If nothing else, Hollaback! allows women to reveal the experiences and submit stories regarding harassment; it is an outlook for disclosure that comes without pressure, condescension, or retaliation that may sometimes arise when going to police or bosses. Voices are anonymous, but the quality of words and quantity of numbers make the site powerful.
At its best, the site will help curtail sexual harassment. Now, more than ever, women have the power to stop harassment with technology and avenues for their voice. An extensive mapping project has been created to allow women to document where harassment took place in a city, which in turn offers travelers an opportunity to avoid other areas. Women are encouraged to take pictures of the place if the chance arises, so more detailed documentation can be catalogued.
May and her colleagues not only want to create awareness, by give women power and confidence when they are on their own. It is telling that the first value listed on their website is “A culture of badass,” embracing bold ideas and looking to create significant change in a society where it is accepted that women are harassed. Still, not every woman who is part of the cause needs to think and act alike; a comment that some many find offensive, others may not. But at it’ purest level, Hollaback! looks to stop harassment by raising awareness, cataloguing it, and getting more women involved, and in that way they are successful.
The group takes donations, asked for fans to spread the word through social media, seeks videos, blogs, and data from women, and hopes that other volunteers will help set up more sites in different communities around the world. There are forms available on the site for people to submit stories, and there are also apps for both the iPhone and Droid, and they are of course free. Check out the site and help stop harassment.