When activist Nuala Cabral testified about gender-based harassment on the streets of Philadelphia, she asked those attending the City Council hearing a simple question.
"How many of you have been followed, catcalled, or touched inappropriately?"
Nearly every woman, and a few of the men, in the crowd of about 50 raised their hands.
Cabral said that of the five East Coast cities where she has lived, she has experienced the "most aggressive and persistent street harassment in Philly."
The non-profit organization Hollaback! Philly on Thursday presented its case for fighting street harassment at the hearing moderated by Councilman James Kenney.
The group's director, Rochelle Keyhan, said the results of a survey found that 93% of the 416 respondents had experienced some form of unwanted attention from a stranger at least once in the past week, and a significant percentage said that it had happened to them several times a day.
She detailed the types of harassment that occurred most regularly, such as staring and being honked at from a car. A Cabral-produced video was played that showed teenage girls reciting some words they have heard called at them: "Damn!" "You 18?" "Can I get your number?" and "Oh, so you don't like boys?"
The speakers at the hearing were varied in their backgrounds and occupations, but each shared stories of harassment that they said had ruined their day and made them feel unsafe. One person who identified as transgendered, lesbian, disabled and low-income spoke of being verbally and sexually harassed on a SEPTA platform and receiving little help.
Anna Kegler, Deputy Director of Hollaback, said that when harassment happens in public areas, "We receive the message that we do not control these spaces."
Hollaback has proposed leading a citywide "safety audit," based on a U.N. model, that would train community members in different neighborhoods to assess potential dangers in public spaces, such as poor lighting, abandoned lots, and little foot traffic. The group asked for support from the city as well as connections to others who could further the effort. They also suggested bringing a D.A.R.E.-like, age-appropriate, anti-sexual-harassment-education program into the schools.
Councilman Kenney told the group "men need to understand that they have no right" to harass women, and said he saw a need to "bring a better sense of respect ... and decency" to the city's streets.
Concert review: Lorde @ Tower Theater
[3/8] “Did you just die? I just died.” This was exclaimed not by Lorde — despite her zombie...
Icepack Illustrated: Kroll, Starr, Thicke, etc.
If Icepack Illustrated looks a little short this week, it’s due to some physical health issues...
See Braille street art in its unnatural environment — a gallery
Back in August we wrote about Braille street art, the product of a special partnership between...