Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
On Monday November 18th CTV’s Alberta Primetime interviewed Hollaback Alberta co-directors Renée Cabana-Marshall and Lauren Alston for a special feature on street harassment.
The interview included common questions such as defining what street harassment is and what to do if one is a bystander and witnesses street harassment taking place.
Every year the history of Take Back The Night (TBTN) continues in cities around the world with the mission to end sexual violence. This year the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton hosted the TBTN in Edmonton while the TBTN in Calgary Committee worked with help from The Women’s Centre of Calgary.
The History of Take Back The Night in Canada:
“Canada has also seen its share of sexual violence against women. As a result, Canadian women held their first march for women in 1978 in Vancouver, British Columbia, organized by the Fly-By-Night Collective. The Vancouver Rape Relief held Take Back The Night marches from 1980-1985. In 1981, The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centers declared the third Friday of September to be the evening for Take Back The Night marches nationwide.”
-Official Take Back the Night website
Photos of Hollaback Alberta at Edmonton’s Take Back the Night:
Lily from ConsentEd and Victoria and Lauren from Hollaback Alberta below:
Rally sign for Take Back the Night:
Hollaback Alberta stickers and the new Hollaback Bystander information card:
For more photos of the Edmonton TBTN rally click here!
For more photos of the Calgary TBTN rally click here!
Around 815 this morning, I was rounding the corner by the downtown Library branch in Calgary, on my way to the City Hall LRT platform to catch the train to work. I heard a man ahead of me shouting as he was slowly walking along the platform. Though this isn’t entirely unusual in this part of the city, what became apparent was that he was loudly shouting about sex, primarily to women.
The moment I passed him, he started shouting at me. I kept walking along the platform as I normally would, and stopped where I normally would. I was thankful there were other people there, mostly men. Then, this man caught up to me, walked in front of me, shouted non-verbally at the man to my left (just a loud noise, really). Then, he started in on me. He noticed a scar I have on the left side of my face, and used that to suggest he and I would be “good” together. He started suggesting we have violent sex, he started going on about how he thought I would feel if he would rape me. It was horrible.
The worst part, though, was that the bystanders all moved away. No one would even stand by to silently witness. The bystander reaction is what made this terrifying.
The only nice thing he said to me was when a train pulled into the station. He said, “after you, sweet pea.” I told him I wasn’t taking that train (which was true, even outside his stated desire to sexually assault me). He shouted at me again, boarded the train, and immediately began targeting another woman in the train car.
I’ve filed a report with Calgary Transit, but it didn’t even occur to me to find the help phone on the train platform. I guess it didn’t even occur to anyone else there to use it in solidarity.
This past week Amanda Bladon wrote a thought-provoking letter and shared it on Facebook. Within a few days the letter spread with many shares, likes, and comments (of all varieties). The topic of street harassment targeted towards women is still a heated issue. The letter written by Bladon is based on her own specific experiences of street harassment and highlights the importance of respecting people on the street. The letter is specific to her encounters with a handful of straight men, but its message is applicable to all genders interested in women.
Dear Persistent Straight Male of Edmonton,
I bear a heavy heart this afternoon, after numerous encounters with you have left me with feelings of confusion, violation and fear. After nearly ten years of intimate experiences with you, it feels as though every single time we meet, our relationship continues to decline. For me, last night acted as the catalyst and the reason as to why I need to write to you today.
The ways, in which you have behaved towards me as of late, have left me with more than just anxiety, annoyance and frustration; they have left with me utter disgust.
Last night, not only did you stare at me until the point where I felt nauseous, but you also heckled me as I walked to my car and ambushed me as I was quietly sitting next to my fiancée. I never asked for your attention, nor did I want it, but for some reason, you felt it necessary to present yourself and to make your existence known.
Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to break the societal norms that I have become accustomed to over the years and even though you are always the one to back me into a corner that I feel I cannot escape from, I feel the need to continuously treat you with respect. Even though you are the one putting me in an uncomfortable situation, I feel the need to bite my tongue.
You feel compelled to court me and I feel compelled to “put up” with it.
As you know, there have been recent occasions where I have reached my threshold with you and I have acted out against your advances, always keeping my civilized manners intact. This never works well with you, though. No matter how diplomatic I may convey my disinterest, you find it hurtful and feel the need to barrage me with a verbal assault. Even when I attempt to speak to you with the same intensity, hoping to make myself clear, you find my stance threatening and find a way to make the verbal lashings hurt even more.
I fear for the day when the verbal attacks you bombard me with after I ignore you or reject you, are not enough.
With each negative incident, I’m becoming more fearful of you. Now, I not only notice you behaving this way to me, but I notice it with other women too. I see the way you salaciously stare at her, licking your lips like a predator about to devour its prey. I see the way you ignore her refusals, knowing deep down, that if she dressed like that, she’s asking for it.
I see the way you see through her tears and know that she wants it.
I write to you today, to hopefully, help you so you can in turn, help me. I write to you, not only as a woman, but also as a lesbian. I find this information to be imperative to you because we both share something in common – our attraction to women.
When you feel your heart pound in your chest at the sight of a beautiful woman, I feel it too. When you feel your tongue-tie at the thought of talking to her, I feel it too. When you feel your palms sweat and your knees buckle, I feel that too.
When you feel like you want her, I feel like I want her too.
That being said, our shared attraction to women is where our commonalities begin and simultaneously, stop dead. There are vast differences between us and how we handle the feelings of attraction and desire for women. These differences are, unfortunately, partially attributed to our contrasting genders.
While you have spent your life learning how to pursue me, I’ve been learning how to protect myself against you.
Our differences in gender cannot explain all of our differences though, because how I handle my feelings of attraction and desire for women can be boiled down to one thing and one thing only:
I will never stare at a woman, especially not to the point where she needs to move to a new seat in a restaurant.
I will never yell at a woman walking alone to her car at night, because I know she just wants to get home.
I will never approach a woman who is sitting with her hand interlocked in someone else’s, because I know she is in a relationship and I respect that.
I will never whistle or catcall a woman on the street, because I know that is defined as street harassment and I will never put her in a position of fear.
I will never overstay my welcome with a woman and never pressure her into something she doesn’t coherently consent to.
I will never insult her if she rejects my advances, because it’s her choice and I will leave her alone if she doesn’t want me.
I will never make her feel uncomfortable or fearful of me, because she always deserves to feel safe.
I will never force her to cross the street to avoid me, because every place should be a safe place for her.
I will never assume her wardrobe choices reflect her desire for me, because women are allowed to dress however they want and I am a human being who is able to control my urges.
I will respect her because I do respect her. I am her and I hope you learn to respect me too.
I see the good in some of you; let’s see the good in all of you.
I reported a physical assault against a woman at Grandin station
on February 24, 2013, at around 6:00-6:15pm.
My friend and I were walking down the escalator stairs (the escalator was
not working, by the way), and we heard screaming. The train was pulling in,
so it was all quite rushed and I didn’t get a look at the person who
assaulted this woman, but she was sobbing and bleeding from the mouth. It
was a little difficult to understand the story, because she was so shaken
up by the whole event, but it sounds like a man approached her and asked
her for money. She said that she didn’t have any, and he persisted, so she
walked down the platform a bit. He followed her and began yelling at her,
and he then punched her in the face twice. Nobody waiting at the platform
did anything to help her, and clearly no security personnel were nearby to
intervene. She was screaming and begging him not to hit her again, and it
wasn’t until the man tried to punch her a third time that somebody waiting
at the platform drew attention to it and started calling for help. This was
exactly at the moment that my friend and I were on the escalators, and we
arrived on the platform as the train was arriving. We got the woman onto
the LRT and took her to the University station, where we were all headed,
and we urged her to phone the transit authorities when she got to her
I was walking west down Whyte avenue with a friend around 8:40pm. We had just finished a great catch-up at Block 1912 and as we passed Army & Navy a small car zoomed past us heading east down Whyte and as they drove past us one of the men in the car screamed out the window: “SUCK MY DIIIIIICK!!” We were the only ones within the direct vicinity when it happened but a few people up the street at Black Dog noticed.
It was ironic because I was actually telling my friend about Hollaback Alberta right as this happened and I went to run after the car (it had stopped at the 104th street light) but they turned right before I could get close enough for a picture. Surprised at my response, my friend asked: “What would you have done?!” and I said: “Taken a picture and put it up on Hollaback! There’s no way they should get away with that crap!”
I just wish I got that picture.
So I was walking on the UofA campus, right by Good Earth Cafe when a car full of youngish, white men pulled alongside me. All the windows were open and the two on my side of the car were leering. I could here comments being made and guessed they were about me but wasn’t quite sure, so I ignored them and kept walking. As I walked heard more clear sexual comments followed by a demand to “show me your boobies”. At this point I turned, looked right at them, and gave a strong middle finger. Their laughter followed me as I walked away.
I kept walking, turned the corner and walked all the way to the next corner by the Macs, where I usually cross the street. I felt something whiz right by my head. It was pizza. They threw pizza at me. Again, laughter filled the air. I lost my shit. I walked to the middle of the crosswalk (the one I was crossing anyway) and shouted “Are you serious? You just threw fucking food at me? I have a right to walk down the street without being shouted at or having food thrown at me! Unbelievable!”. It was busy, there were people around. They stopped laughing, closed all their windows, and sat silently while waiting for the light to change. I finished crossing the street and waited at the next corner, shaking. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do and if my response might escalate their violence. They tried to drive away quickly but had to stop for a pedestrian and I was able to write down the license plate.
I went straight to campus security and made a complaint. I have to say, the were pretty supportive. Because I was just off of campus property when it happened, they aren’t sure if they can act on it, but said they would follow up with me to let me know. They also let me know that I can report to Edmonton Police if I like and gave me the phone number I would call. I’m not sure that I will but it was nice to be taken seriously by Campus Security anyway. I hope these fuckers get a call from an officer telling them that street harassment is taken seriously on campus and that it is not tolerated.
I think what makes me the most mad is the act of throwing the food. Not that they threw the food, but that it was a threat. The following me and the food throwing felt like a clear message: “Know your place bitch. Don’t talk back. You should stand there and listen to what we say to you, even if you don’t like it. In fact you should like it.” This is the part that is still bothering me.
On September 18, between 2:30-3:30, I was sitting having lunch at Remedy Cafe, one of my favourite places to stop between my university classes. A heavier set young man with short, curly blonde hair wearing a grey sweater and U of A sweats (and with a mild speech impediment) came up to where I was sitting (at the big table and booth in front of the cash register), stopped, and said, “I know you from somewhere.” I told him he might, to be honest, he did look a little bit familiar (he reminded me of a guy I went to high school with but never knew personally). He asked if he could join me, and since I was sitting at the booth that several individuals and groups often share due to the massive size of it, I said sure. He proceeded to tell me his life’s story and ask me questions about myself. I figured, “Ok, just a friendly stranger, whatever.” When I had the opportunity to bring it up in conversation, I made sure to add a snippet about my boyfriend in hopes of deterring any potential pick-up attempts. By this time I had stopped eating my lunch, and he asked if I was going to finish it (no, not since you so kindly interrupted me), and I told him I was taking the leftovers to go.
Soon after, he started asking me if I wanted to go for coffee with him sometime. I tried to say no nicely, reiterating that I have a boyfriend, that I was busy with school, etc. He persisted and wanted my phone number. I told him I don’t give my number out to strangers. He replied, “Well then how do you get to know new people?” I still firmly said no. He then proceeded to attempt to solicit my email address, at which point I decided that I would give him a fake one without telling him to get him off my case. I am submitting this under “Pseudonym ‘Alysha’” because that was the name I wrote down when he asked me to include it, and on the off chance he reads this, I do not want him to find out my real name. He eventually let me go on my way. I told the server who gave me my order to go about him, but he had left before I had the chance to point him out.
It pisses me off to no end now that a PUBLIC place that I love to frequent no longer feels like a 100% safe space to me because this pushy guy couldn’t take one of several hints, and that I find myself not wanting to return without my boyfriend or another friend with me as I am afraid my space will be invaded once more, or I what this man might do or say should I run into him again.
Remedy goers, beware. The staff is aware of him, and it sounds like I’m not the first one he bothered. He seems harmless enough, but let’s not take any chances–keep an eye out and if he decides to bother you or someone around you, hollaback!