If you experience harassment on the streets of New York City, you’ll now be able to tell the Mayor about it in a matter of minutes.
On Monday, city council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn and Executive Director of the group Hollaback!, Emily May, rolled out the culmination of a $20,000 investment by the NYC city council: The Hollaback! app.
The new app allows victims or witnesses to upload, in real time, information about where they experienced harassment on the street. It creates a map of pinned locations where harassment occurs, providing near-instant feedback to the city council’s and mayor’s offices. The app collects demographic data, too, to help officials better understand the details of where harassment occurs and who it happens to.
This streamlines what used to be a cumbersome process of submitting a formal complaint.
“As recently as yesterday, if you wanted to report harassment in New York City, it would have taken you hours to file the complaint,” said May at the event. “With many people getting harassed as often as three or four times a day, reporting harassment could quickly turn into a full time job.”
Hollaback! is an international nonprofit group dedicated to stopping the catcalling, lewd comments, and threats that women and LGBTQ people face daily as they walk down the street. The group’s app is an expansion of an already thriving online project to document where and when street harassment occurs, uniting those who face it and attempting to create an empowered network to end it.
This tackles a pervasive type of rape culture that happens in the United States and around the world. When street harassment occurs, women and LGBTQ victims on the street are treated as objects there for men’s entertainment or pleasure, adding to a general culture that treats women as something other than human beings. And it happens all the time; a join study by Hollaback! and Cornell University found that 96 percent of people have been or know someone who was a target of street harassment. More local studies have found similar or worse results. In Ottawa, for example, 97 percent of respondents said that they had been targeted victims of street harassment in the last year alone.
What might start as a shout from a passing car can also turn into something much more dangerous. The numbers are certainly lower, but women also report being followed on their walks, groped on the street, or assaulted. In fact, Washington, DC’s government just recently launched an app similar to Hollaback! that lets women report sexual assault — something, one DC law enforcement official lamented, that is “widely underreported.”