When Samuel Carter’s female friends told him about their experiences on the streets of New York City — taking a roundabout route to dodge areas where creeps frequent, being afraid to go out at night, and not taking a job because of feeling unsafe in an area — he was blown away.
“Everyone had a million stories about street harassment!” he exclaimed. And so he helped found Hollaback!, a public awareness and data collection movement dedicated to exposing crimes of public harassment and creating an urban space where women and members of the LGBT community can feel comfortable walking down the street.
Hollaback! encourages victims to snap a quick picture of the situation — here’s looking at you, creep! — for the purpose of documentation. The idea is that modern day technologies, such as the cell phone camera, can serve as witnesses— and deterrents.
“When people introduced the cell phone cameras into the situation, it was as if there was another person there – an objective third party,” Carter explained.
But Hollaback! is not satisfied with enabling victims with cell phone cameras; it wants to motivate bystanders to intervene.
To do this, Hollaback! teamed up with Nicola Briggs — the woman who cowed a condom-wearing flasher in the subway last year and became an overnight sensation — and launched its “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign, whose goal is to create an interactive map that displays the locations of instances of harassment and the bystanders who intervene.
But don’t worry, even if you feel awkward or uneasy about confrontation — as any typical New Yorker would be — you can still show your support! The app will include a Facebook-inspired “we’ve got your back” button which users can click to relay virtual feelings of goodwill from a thousand miles away — a truly democratic process.
Hollaback! doesn’t offer a definition for sexual harassment. “We leave it up to the victim to decide what that line is,” Carter explained, “because we don’t want to impose a definition on the world. We’re much more interested in that gray area. We want to create a space for people to talk about what sexual harassment is.”
Carter does insist, however, that every woman “has the right to define her own self instead of being defined by some creep’s point of view.”
Yesterday, as the fundraising drive reached its 36-hour countdown, Carter compared Hollaback!’s campaign for safer streets to “what we did collectively as a society in the 70’s and 80’s — make the work place safer.”
The drive closes today and there will be a rally tomorrow featuring community and health speakers such as Katherine Diaz of Da Urban Butterflies and Sarah Combs from the Helen B. Atkinson Health Center. The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. on 116th Street and Lexington Avenue, where women and supporters can gather in a show of solidarity.
Donations are welcome. Creeps are not.