A woman from Sudbury says street harassment is a major problem in the city.

The term street harassment describes unwanted words or attention from a stranger in a public place, and can range from leering and catcalling to assault.

Sudbury-raised Julie Lalonde is the founder of the Ottawa branch of Hollaback, a group that fights against street harassment by tracking instances of the behavior.

Julie Lalonde

Julie Lalonde says she's received a backlash of nasty and abusive emails, tweets and letters after publicly complaining that she was verbally abused by Royal Military College officer cadets she had been invited to speak to last fall. (Julie Lalonde)

She said Sudbury needs a similar group to help dispel the myth that street harassment isn't a problem here.

"Sudbury's unique in that it's not a small community, but it totally has a small-town vibe,” she said.

“People think no! I know everybody in this town, and nobody would do that."

Lalonde says what might seem like a compliment can make women feel uncomfortable and ultimately contributes to violence against women.

Sudbury resident Carly Ohrner said she is accustomed to unwanted attention while she walks down Sudbury's streets.

"[There are] people whistling, people screaming from their cars, people beeping their horns,” she said.

“It's derogatory. It's sexist. I don't like it."

Ohrner says she receives cat-calls or is followed at least once a week.

"I know my girlfriends ... they usually feel good about themselves [when it happens to them]. But I'm just like, ‘eww’."

It's something Julie Lalonde says needs to change.

Lalonde said she hopes someone will start a Hollaback group in Sudbury, so people who have experienced street harassment have a place to tell their story.

“There's the catharsis in that moment of venting and saying, ‘this just happened to me on this corner and I'm super angry about it.’,” she said.

“But also a little dot goes on the map. And we can actually start tracking where harassment is happening across the city to be able to refute the claim that it's not happening in our community.”

Sudbury police say street harassment is not something they specifically track.