Activism combats street hassling

Kirk McBatterson attempted to get the attention of Jessica Jeffries, senior biology major at California Baptist University, by catcalling her while they both were on vacation, separately, with friends.

His first attempt did not work in McBatterson’s favor, and it took him two more tries to get Jeffries to give him a chance. Jeffries said when he finally talked to her like a normal person, she realized they had more in common than she initially thought.

“If he hadn’t come up and talked to me, where he actually acted like I was a person instead of just someone to holler at, I would have thought so poorly of him,” Jeffries said.

In their case, the face behind the catcall was a man who had a degree in microbiology and dreams of becoming a firefighter, and led to a relationship that is still going strong six months later.

However, some people who experience catcalling do not share the same connection as Jeffries and McBatterson do.

According to a 2,000 person study done by non-profit organization Stop Street Harassment, 65 percent of women and 25 percent of men admitted to experiencing some form of street harassment. Viral videos and blogs illustrate how increasingly common street harassment experiences are when walking across a college campus or around a city alone.

“There seems to be a strong — although I would argue inappropriate — expectation for ‘proof’ that catcalling and other forms of street harassment are symptoms of sexism,” said Lindsey, the founder of Cards Against Harassment.

“Women have known it for decades, but for some reason a lot of men demand evidence that it occurs or that it’s a sign of more than just saying hello when it does occur.”

Lindsey, who goes by her first name to protect her identity, released a series of YouTube videos depicting her experiences with catcalling. Collectively, her videos have amassed over 2 million views.

The Cards Against Harassment website contains cards with sayings generated by Lindsey as well as from comments she has received from the public on YouTube. The cards vary from encouraging street harassers to “not be that guy” to musing about how harasser’s mothers “would be really disappointed to learn that she had raised a street harasser.”

“I am hoping to release a template of blank cards allowing people to write in adjectives, like mad-lib cards against harassment, to make them more tailored,” Lindsey said. “Everyone’s experience is different, and while these cards captured my voice, I love hearing from other people on what might help them express theirs.”

While street harassment is not something everyone deals with, student stories prove that the problem is not unfamiliar to those attending California Baptist University.

Alexandria Leal, senior exercise science major, said she experienced catcalling during trips to Los Angeles and in her neighborhood when passing by the homes of high school boys.

“It didn’t matter where I was going or what I was wearing, there was always some sort of catcalling,” Leal said. “I usually ignore it. I don’t want to do anything to egg anybody on.”

For students who are unsure about what to do when confronted with street harassment, CBU’s Public Safety Office offered personal safety advice in its annual Campus Safety and Security Report. They recommended walking in groups, paying attention to surroundings, locking all modes of transportation and reporting any suspicious activity to their office located in Lancer Arms.

When alone after dark or in situations that feel unsafe, Public Safety encourages students to call the university’s escort services at 951-343-4311.

A Public Safety employee will respond to escort anyone who calls and provides a name, location and destination.

Additional tips to find people with similar experiences can be found online. Lindsey encouraged people to connect with organizations on Twitter such as @StopStreetHarassment and @CardsAgstHrsmt.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with gender violence or street harassment, but sometimes seeing the widespread activism out there is a great way to find where your experience and voice fits in,” Lindsey said.

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