Hollaback!

One of my favorite organizations is at a pivotal moment in its growth today and I wanted to share something about them here. The group is called Hollaback and it has chapters all over the country.

I first became a fan at the age of 19 when on my first ever trip to NYC I was verbally harassed on the street outside Grand Central Station by a couple of guys. They whistled at me to get my attention and then one of them told me that he would “sure like to tap that.” As they started walking towards me, I froze. Being young and out of my element, I had no idea what to do. A woman in her late twenties walked up beside me and snapped a picture of the two men with her camera before telling them to back off in a loud clear voice. They called her a bitch and walked away.

I turned to thank her. She handed me a piece of paper with a web address on it and said, “no problem, check out the site.” What I found was an online community where women posted photos of street harassers and spoke out about their feelings after being catcalled. I checked the site a week later and sure enough, there was the photo of the two men who had harrassed me. The site has since grown into a nationwide movement.

Today, Hollaback is on the verge of getting an iPhone app, but they need money to get it. They have 1 day and about $1700 left to raise. If you are able, consider donating to them here: www.ihollaback.org

And if you want to learn more, check out this link for an interview with the amazing Miss DC, Jen Corey. You can watch a video of her on NBC discussing her experiences with street harassment.

“You’ll have to kill me”

I read this article yesterday about John Gardner, who murdered Chelsea King and Amber Dubois. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I hear about this case that surprises me. He was a predator. A repeat sex offender who had attempted to take the lives of other young women as well. After years of hearing all the horrible things people do to each other, I think I finally understand that in order to be effective in making things better I can’t let all that bad have so much power over me. So I am choosing to find some good in the bad.

There were two key points that struck me in this article. The first was about the woman who got away. She told authorities she was on a hiking trail and a man walked past her. She said hello, as did he. He then tackled her to the ground. She began screaming and kicking and when he told her to “shut up” her response was “you’ll have to kill me”. She continued to struggle and was able to sit up and strike him in the nose with her elbow. He was injured and she was able to get away.

I’m not in any way intending to say the other victims did anything wrong, but for this particular woman who did fight back and did get away – it shows me that self defense can and does work.

The second point was with another young girl Gardner was likely intending to harm. The girl told police that Gardner’s vehicle drove past her and then parked about 30 feet in front of her. Gardner stayed in the vehicle and did not attempt to speak to her. Then a woman pulled up next to the girl and told her the person in the vehicle “seemed very suspicious” and offered to follow her home.  She watched over her for the remaining two blocks.

That’s a wonderful testament to the goodness in people and why it’s so important to make it your business! I’m very hopeful about all of the people we can empower to fight back and to be good bystanders.

Making it Our Business

On January 28, 2010 Aiesha Steward-Baker was attacked in the Seattle tunnel. She was punched, stomped, and kicked by another 15 year old girl acting with a larger group. These facts alone are scary enough. However, the story gets worse. Aiesha was shopping in Macy’s when a boy from the group moved closer to her with his fists balled. She asked the Seattle police for help several times before leaving the store. The police told the boy and the rest of the group to leave the store but ignored Aiesha when she insisted they would be waiting outside the store for her. In an interview, Aiesha stated that “I was trying to explain that the kids were following and threatening me, which both officers witnessed, but the police officer just wasn’t listening.”

Aiesha was attacked after exiting the store into the Seattle tunnel. She was attacked in front of three security guards and multiple other citizens. You’re probably wondering how many people helped her. The answer is zero. Nobody helped Aiesha. Apparently there is a policy for security personnel in the tunnel that they can call for help but cannot intervene. This makes me wonder about some things. At what point does the gravity of the situation unfolding in front of you trump the policy at your job? At what point did policymakers feel it was a good idea to enact such a policy?

Unfortunately, nobody can change what happened to Aiesha. What we can do is focus on what we will do going forward, how we will live our lives, and how we will treat other people. I genuinely believe that we are all here to look out for each other and that should be reflected in our behavior and policies. Think how much safer we would all be if everyone decided to have each other’s backs. Think of Aiesha and how different her situation could have been if the policies in the Seattle tunnel reflected that attitude. Going forward, when we see a serious situation that could benefit from our intervention, I say we make that situation our business and lend a helping hand to keep each other safe.

To view the full story, including video follow this link.