British Columbia

Hollaback! Vancouver aims to end street harassment against women, LGBTQ community

Local group Hollaback! Vancouver is hoping to end street harassment of women and the LGBTQ community, encouraging victims to share their stories online.

International parent group was founded in 2005 by three men and four women in New York

Alexa Dredge is co-founding a local chapter of Hollaback! to fight street harassment. The group started in New York City nearly 10 years ago, but now has chapters in 79 cities in 26 countries. (CBC)

There are many stories, primarily from women, about being harassed in public, primarily by men. 

It might be while riding transit. It might be while walking on a street. Whatever the venue, one thing is constant  the interaction is unwanted.

As Alexa Dredge puts it, "I had somebody stop me on the street, asked me to take my head phones out so he could talk to me and he wanted to tell me he had been following me to check me out."

But Dredge is fighting back, helping to found local group Hollaback! Vancouver, which aims to create a community where street harassment isn't tolerated.

Fellow Hollaback! member Shannon Fisher is encouraging people to post their experiences of street harassment on the group's website. 

"That starts a conversation about how we're experiencing it and where and how often and it takes the stigma out of talking about it and feeling like you have to put up with it."

Stories posted to Hollaback's website illustrate encounters from the verbal and fairly benign to much more threatening. 

Alexa Dredge and Shannon Fisher, who are co-founding a local chapter of Hollaback! says it's one way to fight the harassment many women endure simply walking around the city. (CBC)

"A lot of the stories that we've received through Hollaback! have been stories of public masturbation, exposure, yelling, cat-calling," said Dredge.

The website also offers advice on how to safely respond to street harassment and how to intervene as a bystander if you witness street harassment.

The group emphasizes they are fighting street harassment against everyone, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people.

Dara Parker with Qmunity BC's Queer Resource Centre applauds the initiative.

"Public spaces are some of the biggest targets for people in terms of their vulnerability so certainly on public transportation we hear stories about people being harassed," said Parker.

In January, Dredge helped create a Metro Vancouver website to share stories of sexual harassment on public transit and in April she supported a transit police initiative to crackdown on offenders.

Now she is urging everyone — victims and bystanders alike — to take action to stop street harassment.

Hollaback! Vancouver is holding an official launch party Saturday night at Heartwood Community Cafe, from 6:30 p.m. PT until 22:00 PT.

Hollaback! was founded as a local project in New York by three men and four women in 2005, but has since become a non-profit organization and spread around the world, to include sites in 79 cities in 26 countries.

On mobile? Click here to watch a Hollaback International campaign video on YouTube


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