A guest post from Josephine at the Wellington Young Feminists’ Collective, cross posted on the WYFC blog. Many thanks to WYFC for submitting this.
The WYFC is launching Hollaback Wellington this week and we’re really excited!
Hollaback was started by a group of people in New York as a website and mobile application to raise awareness of the street harassment many women and LGBTQ folk were experiencing on a daily basis. The idea was so simple but effective that soon Hollaback chapters were being launched across the world, and now we are bringing it to Wellington.
The idea behind Hollaback is that people who experience street harassment need a voice. Hollaback’s aim is to do this through harnessing mobile and web technology, creating a global network of blogs and a mobile apps relating to different countries and cities. All chapters are unique but linked by a common goal - to reduce the amount of street harassment that happens in their city.
Harassment in the home, workplace or at school is widely considered unacceptable but it seems that in our public spaces all bets are off. Street harassment is a form of gender and sexuality based violence that a huge number of people all over the world experience everyday.
Street harassment includes touching, groping, lewd comments, following, flashing, assault and other violent acts. The logistics of reporting these events involves users filling out a form on the Hollaback website, which is then posted by a site administrator to a map of Wellington, showing a red marker where the incident occurred and outlining the story in full. We’re primarily targeting women and LGBTQ people, but anyone who experiences street harassment is welcome to post.
We’re setting this up in Wellington because we felt the need for a service of this kind. My own motivation came from some awful experiences I had at university, where a guy from my maths class decided to start following me around campus, and when he saw me out in public, following me on the street. Not knowing this guy’s name, I couldn’t report him to anyone. What I really wanted to do was tell someone about how his behaviour made me feel: unsafe, alone and disgusting. Hopefully Hollaback Wellington can be some sort of outlet for people who have similar experiences to mine - we want them to know that this is not something you have to brush off or that you have to deal with by yourself.
As we continue to get set up we will promote other organisations that deal with gender based violence, such as HELP Sexual Abuse and Wellington Rape Crisis. We’re also interested in holding self defence workshops, bystander intervention workshops and working with the Council, Students Associations, and engaging with our lawmakers on these issues.
Longer term, we want contribute to making this kind of behaviour socially unacceptable. One of the ways to achieve this is by encouraging people who witness street harassment to speak up. Hollaback International’s most recent fundraising campaign - “I’ve got your back” - raised money so that we can redevelop our blog and mobile app platform to include stories from bystanders who have intervened in street harassment situations. They will be mapped with green marker, and each story will have a button similar to the Facebook ‘Like’ button so that readers can show their solidarity.
Please share this site with your family and friends in Wellington, and contact Hollaback International if you are interested in launching one in your town or city. We’re also having a launch gig at Happy on the 13th, so if you’re in town you should come along.