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We’ve taken a break from our regularly scheduled programming as our team (safe and sound) monitors the situation in our city. Shelter in place recommendations are in effect – stay safe!
In the meantime, check out these eerie photos of Boston in lockdown, refresh your knowledge of Chechnya and Chechen terrorism, consider the magnitude of events this week with a review from the Washington Post, and if you are so inclined, donate to The One Fund to support those affected by Monday’s events.
And Boston, don’t worry – Dunkin is open.
image credit: Tauntr
A friend of mine led me to this article recently on Jezebel, about a new free iPhone anti-harassment app that helps individuals come up with quick responses to harassment in various situations such as at school, at work, on public transit and on the street. “Not Your Baby,” developed by Andrea Gunraj and the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) in Toronto was released last week. This is a big step in the wave of iPhone apps that are being used for public safety and violence prevention, such as Circle of Six.
My initial thoughts are that this is a step in the right direction and is helpful for those who want to prepare themselves for the onslaught of street harassment or workplace harassment. But I am a firm believer in the notion that there is no wrong way to respond to harassment because women shouldn’t have to be conditioned to have a “snappy response” to street harassment. Additionally, while this app may not be easy to access in the moment, for those who experience street harassment more often it could be a good tool to have for future incidents. Building confidence to say something more assertive can be empowering, if someone has traditionally not spoken up.
After spending time using the app myself, I have found a few problematic response suggestions. “Excuse me?” is a suggestion that comes up if you want a response for a stranger harassing you on the street, as well as “No, thanks” and “Maybe next time.” These suggestions imply that the harassment was an interaction that should not be treated with severity and the individual who is harassed needs to treat the harasser with respect. “No, thanks” does not name the behavior that was wrong or tell the harasser that their actions were harassment that will not be tolerated. “Maybe next time” implies that the behavior may work again another time with the harassed. If we’re talking about harassment as unacceptable and threatening behavior, we should divorce it from the idea that uncomfortable comments on the street are compliments that should be handled politely.
That being said, there are assertive responses that come up such as “Don’t be that guy” or “Don’t harass women.” What are your thoughts on the app? Share your comments and questions below!
Last week, we were invited to set up a table in the lobby of Rosie’s Place, a community center and sanctuary for poor and homeless women. We were very excited to have the opportunity to bring the message of our organization to a population of women who experience street harassment in different ways than the majority of people that have access to our website and mission.
The staff member at Rosie’s that asked us to come in was hoping to empower the women to, if not share their stories with us directly, begin to think about the harassing and threatening behavior that they experience on the streets of Boston as being something that is not okay. I think that oftentimes behavior can become normalized when we exerience it day in and day out, and women who live on the streets are exposed to much more omnipresent harassment and violence than those of us that do not. I think that’s it’s easy to expect and accept that behavior because you see it as something that comes with the territory of living outside or working as a prostitute or having a substance abuse problem or just plain being a woman because that’s how it’s always been.
Here at Hollaback! we want to change the conversation about harassment and violence on the streets and make the streets safer for all women, not just those in privileged positions that can access our website via their smartphone or hear about our mission in a classroom on their college campus. I feel so privileged that Jane and I had the opportunity to speak to women that were coming into Rosie’s to get lunch that day. Many women stopped by and shared snippets of their experiences, and all of them acknowledged that harassment on the streets was something that they struggled with on a daily basis.
One women disclosed a story of harassment that she said that she’d never told anyone before. She said that she’d been afraid to reveal it even to her husband for fear that somehow it was her fault. Another woman told us that she had been stalked for years, and that she was very hypervigilent about her safety now because of it.
One women spoke to us about the constant harassment that she experiences when she’s on the streets. She spoke of men constantly yelling, “Are you straight? Hey, are you straight?” at her. She said, “What is it any of their business if I’m straight? They think they’re gonna get some if I am? No way!” She also said that she doesn’t like being outside after dark because that’s when the harassment is worst. She said that she hoped that the streets will be safer for her grandchildren than they have been for her.
A woman who got visibly agitated when we described street harassment to her said, “What happens to me out there on those streets makes me want to get a weapon. People think I’m kidding but I’m serious! That’s what it does for you. I need a weapon, for real.”
One woman shook her head sadly and said to us, “It happens every day, all the time.”
Saundra, who shared her story with us, talked to us about men who “judged a book by its cover.” She explained that men see her as one thing, and that is a sex object. She spoke about the fact that she had worked as a prostitute in the past in order to survive and men that don’t even know her still see her as that. She said that when she walks down the street, she feels like men think she will have sex with them just because that’s what she used to do, or just because she’s someone who lives on the streets. She said, “They don’t even know me.”
I think that it is so important to hear experiences of marginalized populations of all kinds. So often women who are fighting for basic resources and just trying to survive from day-to-day are overlooked. Their voices have been taken from them in so many ways, and we hope that we can begin to give them a voice in even the smallest way and give them even a little bit of hope that someone wants to hear what they have to say and their experience is valid. So many of the women that we spoke with were women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and women with substance abuse problems. These are all women that our society is quick to overlook and when someone falls into more than one of those boxes, they can really and truly feel invisible. We want every one of them to know that we see them and we value everything that they shared with us that day. I feel so privileged to have spoken with each of the women who took the time to approach our table and hope that I will have the chance to do so again.
The MBTA Transit Police have launched a new app to make it easier to report suspicious activity on the T.
The MBTA highlights the discreteness of the app, as it gives users the option to remain anonymous when submitting a report, and automatically turns off the flash when snapping a photo from the app. The app also allows users to call transit police directly, and transit police dispatchers can also contact users through the app, responding to inquiries and garnering more details about a particular issue. The app also features a detailed stream of T alerts and delays.
We think this sounds promising! Maybe we can start to catch all those pervs that have been frequenting the Red Line lately!
From the Somerville Patch:
A man ejaculated on a 21-year-old Cambridge woman riding the Red Line into Davis Square, according to a report from MBTA Transit Police.
According to the report, the woman got on the Red Line train at Alewife Station at about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday and began to read the Boston Metro newspaper.
As the train pulled into Davis Square Station, “the victim noticed what she described as a disgusting smell and something wet on her jacket, and [she] also noticed a male party next to her with his hands down his pants,” the report says.
The woman initially accused the man of urinating on her, and he said, “no no” while zipping his pants up, the report says.
At this point, “the victim reached down to her left side and felt a wet substance on her jacket. She looked at her hand and described the substance as something that looked like [semen],” according to the report.
She wiped her hand with the newspaper as the train pulled into Davis Square and the doors opened and the man got off the train, the report says. The woman tried to follow, but the doors closed.
According to the report, the woman rode the train to Porter Square, where she exited and contacted Transit Police.
Transit Police pulled up surveillance video, and the victim made a positive identification of the man, the report says. Detectives recognized the suspect as 26-year-old Eric Howes, who was a suspect in an earlier lewd and lascivious crime committed on MBTA property, the report says.
Detectives knew Howes often spent time at a homeless shelter in Boston, and they eventually found him at the Woods Mullen Shelter, near Boston Medical Center in Boston.
Howes voluntarily provided a DNA sample to detectives and admitted to the crime, according to the report.
He was arrested and charged with indecent assault and battery.
A 24-year-old Allston woman who has declined to be named saw a man exposing himself on a B Line trolley and had had enough. The woman held onto him and screamed until the cops arrived. She says that she went into “She-Hulk mode.” The man, Michael Galvin of Somerville, was charged with open and gross lewdness.
The woman had this to say: “I’ve had enough of being harassed on the street. I’m tired of it and I want it to end. It was the last straw.”
And to all those people on the train that did nothing? She says, “That’s appalling. That makes me so angry. I want everyone to know that they have to say something.”
We love this woman and want to thank her for not being afraid to hollaback! She’s a badass inspiration! Watch the video at the link!
You may or may not have heard by now that Boston University and sexual assault have been in the news together quite a bit lately after the two high-profile cases against members of their men’s hockey team. The last thing that the university needed was more negative attention that was in any way related to rape or sexual assault.
Which is why it is baffling that their student newspaper, the Daily Free Press, thought it would be a good idea to run a “rape spoof” in their April Fool’s Day edition. Forgetting for a minute the recent history of the university and sexual assault allegations, I still fail to see anything even remotely funny about this piece. Maybe it’s just be, but things like:
The female victim, described as the “fairest of them all,” reported to have been roofied after drinking an appletini at the Beta Rho omega fraternity party , according to Captain Robert Hook of the BU Police Department.
The girl with raven black hair and bright red lips, Hook said, woke up wearing no clothes with seven BRO dwarves laying naked in bed with her. She called BUPD immediately and was sent to the Far Far Away hospital in Never Ever land.
“BRO has bro0ed itself out,” said Gaston, the Chairman of the IFC. “No one drinks like the BROs, no one shoots like the BROs and definitely no one should rape like the BROs”
The fraternity is known for its rousing parties where the “cocktails flow freely and bitches are easy,” according to a BU student who wishes to remain anonymous.”
The CGSC is calling for a university-wide analysis of underage drinking on campus and the sterilization of all BU males.
“I want our women to be safe and I want our appletinis to be drug-free,” Pocahontas said. “But most of all I want to be able to party without worrying about being gang-banged by a bunch of BROs.”
do not strike me as remotely funny. It could just be my feminist lack of humor, of course. But luckily, a lot of people agreed with me, and the paper tweeted an apology with the promise of a formal apology to come. That apology was published. The paper acknowledged:
While apologies and words may seem insignificant to the wider population reading our paper, our sentiments are sincere. We did not publish any of the stories to offend or negate the immense progress BU has made regarding issues of sexual assault. However, we did. We aggrieved many of you with our insensitivity; we exasperated many of you with our unintentional perpetuation of “BU rape culture” that we have condemned in previous editorials. We were faced with some decisions and we made the wrong calls. Any fury or wrath the student body wishes to unleash will not be refuted or denied.
It was also announced that the Editor-in-Chief of the paper, Chelsea Diana, would be stepping down. I wasn’t sure whether or not that was the right decision when I first heard the news. She’s a student and this is a learning opportunity for her. It is definitely a “real world” example of the kind of power and responsibility you take on when you get into the field of journalism. But then she released her own public apology, in an article for the Boston Globe that likens to rape spoof to a “sophomoric mistake.” Says Chelsea,
In the last few days I have been rightly criticized for publishing a satirical “April Fools” newspaper that mocked sexual assault at a time when Boston University is working hard to expunge the rape culture that pervades our campus. I apologized, I made amends with BU student groups, and I resigned as editor-in-chief of The Daily Free Press, the independent student newspaper that I have come to love and respect over the past two years.
And in reading this, I have to wonder if maybe stepping down was the right decision. Because when I read this statement, I see someone that missed much of the point of what the outrage was about. If Chelsea thinks that her only mistake was “mocking sexual assault at a time when Boston University is working hard to expunge the rape culture that pervades [their] campus,” then she hasn’t really listened to what anyone has said. The bigger mistake was that she mocked sexual assault AT ALL.
Taken in context, this piece was supremely idiotic. When there has been so much press about rape culture at BU, something like this was the last thing the school needed. But even looked at without context, the piece is just as idiotic. Anyone who thinks that it’s a good idea to publish something that makes light of rape and sexual assault, especially on a college campus when the numbers for these crimes are higher than in the general population, probably isn’t ready to be the Editor-in-Chief of a paper.
I just hope that the entire message has been heard loudly and clearly. Mocking, making light of, or joking about sexual assault is not funny in any context.
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center is an awesome organization. They are an amazing resource for survivors of rape and sexual assault and we highly encourage you to check them out if you’re looking for help or information in that area. They also have a lot of really amazing volunteer opportunities if you want to take action. They were also kind enough to write a piece about this site on their blog!
They did a great job of really summing up what the mission of this site and this movement is all about.
Hollaback is a movement dedicated to ending street harassment through online apps and social media. It was created as a safe space for females and LGBTQ individuals to talk about their personal experiences, as they are vastly more likely to be affected by gender-based violence. It allows them a space to report any form of street harassment they may personally experience or that they see happen to a friend or stranger. It offers people the ability to report what happened, how it made them feel, how they responded, and if they wish they had responded any differently now that time separated them from the harassment. It also allows readers to comment about the stories and to offer words of validation and support.
The creators of Hollaback believe that the concept and ability to write about harassment is important for a couple different reason. First, on an individual level, it gives people an outlet to write about what happened and to learn that they aren’t the only ones who are frustrated on a daily basis by street harassers. By writing about the street harassment, each individual is given the opportunity to speak out in a safe and controlled environment whereas they may not feel comfortable responding directly to the harasser but don’t want to remain silent. Secondly, these stories affect society as people across the country and around the globe can read and post stories from their cities or others. It allows others to try to empathize with how pervasive street harassment is and how it makes each individual feel. With each story, the movement is able to get a bit stronger and could inspire changes within formal organizations, such as the police and lawmakers. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect in their work place, their home, their school, and on the street.
Police are asking for help in identifying a man who was seen “touching himself” and committing “lewd acts” twice on a Red Line train last weekend. One of the witnesses was able to snap a picture with her cell phone.
The suspect is described as a white male, 20-30 years of age, with short brown hair, and a goatee. At the time of the incident, he was wearing a long sleeve green and orange striped polo shirt, khaki shorts, dark Nike sneakers, and was carrying a large suitcase.
If you can identify the man or know anything about the incidents, please contact the Transit Police.
In other local news regarding creepy assholes being assholes, Cambridge police are noting that two recent attacks on women wearing headphones are likely related. The women were attacked near Harvard Square. Both women described the man as “a light-skinned black or white man in his 30s.” In predictably victim-blamey language,
Police urged people to be aware of their surroundings and to not wear earphones while walking alone. They also urged people to walk with confidence and to look at the person if they feel they are being followed.
So, yes, please be aware of your surroundings. And remember to try to avoid being assaulted while walking alone, because I know that you usually go out of your way to appear to be the perfect victim so that you can lure attackers. We’d also like to advise the man committing these assaults to, you know, STOP.