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Photo credit: Dawn Aiello of Saving Dawn Photography
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2013
Contact: Sarah Peck
INTERNATIONAL GROUP DEDICATED TO ENDING STREET HARASSMENT TO LAUNCH LOCAL CHAPTER IN ATHENS THIS WEEK
April 15, 2013 (ATHENS, GA) – Hollaback!, an international organization dedicated to ending street harassment, launches in Athens today. According to the CDC, non-contact unwanted sexual experiences, including street harassment, are the most common form of sexual violence experienced by both women and men in the United States. Hollaback! is now in 64 cities in 22 countries, with leaders speaking more than 11 different languages.
“Street harassment occurs every day in Athens. As a defense attorney, I do not want to see individuals criminalized for this behavior. However, I believe that Hollaback! can increase awareness and education about this problem so that our streets can be more friendly, welcoming, and considerate to all persons, regardless of gender. I have no doubt that this initiative will benefit our city given the dedicated people who’ve made it a reality,” said Sherrie Hines, Assistant Public Defender with the Western Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office.
“It’s important to see street harassment for what it is: part of the problem of gender-based violence. Street harassment is about power. Failing to address it means that not everyone has equal access to public spaces, and this is particularly true for women and individuals who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, transgender, or who the harasser feels do not conform to gender expectations,” explained Dr. Blaise Parker, instructor in the University of Georgia’s Women’s Studies Department.
Hollaback! Athens is run by a team of local community leaders who are deeply committed to working online and offline to end street harassment in their community. The Athens site leader, Sarah Peck, has lived in Athens since 1999. A former instructor at the University of Georgia, she currently instructs women’s self-defense courses. In both settings, students routinely disclosed histories of sexual violence to her.
“Over time, I realized that although empowering victimized groups and teaching individuals how to defend themselves is important, the problem cannot be fixed without addressing how our communities allow and even encourage gender-based violence. I wanted to do something to change that culture here in Athens, to make our town safer for everyone,” Peck said.
“Because street harassment is considered normal, it’s become invisible. Calling attention to the problem and realizing there are things we can do to stop it has been enormously empowering and energizing for everyone I’ve talked with. I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response and desire to take action,” Peck added.
Hollaback! Athens will run their local blog and organize their communities through advocacy, community partnerships, and direct action. The leaders of Hollaback! Athens are as diverse in their backgrounds as they are in their experiences of harassment. The Hollaback! movement reports that 41% of site leaders are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer; 33% identify as people of color; 76% are under the age of 30, and 90% are women.
“We only have 8 or 9 years before the babies in strollers today start experiencing street harassment, too. Our children deserve better, we deserve better, and Hollaback! Athens is going to get us there. Share your story and join the movement today,” said Hollaback! Executive Director Emily May.
In addition to Athens, Georgia, new locations include: Antwerp, Belgium *Appalachian Ohio, USA * Belfast, Northern Ireland * Bosnia and Herzegovina *Chemnitz, Germany * Hamilton, Canada * Los Angeles, California, USA * Toronto,Canada
About Hollaback! – Hollaback! (ihollaback.org) is a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world. We work together to better understand street harassment, to ignite public conversations, and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces.
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