Update on Midtown Harassment Tragedy

March 30, 2009
Picture of the scene

Picture of the scene

The NY Daily News has photos and more information about the two women who were hit by a street harasser in New York on Friday. Sadly/infuriatingly one of the women died and the other woman, thankfully, will survive her injuries.

“When the two [women] ignored the men’s advances, the van slammed into the women, pinning Katsiambanis, before coming to a stop at a CitiBank, police said…Cops arrested Keston Brown, 27, of the Bronx, and charged him with driving while intoxicated and possession of marijuana. Sources said Brown, who has prior arrests, was flirting with the women while driving by them. When they spurned him, he lost his temper – and control of the van, they said.”

In the other news stories I’ve read in the last year where street harassment escalated to murder, the women similarly ignored or turned down the men’s advances. In my research I’ve found that women’s most common response to a harasser is ignoring them, for numerous reasons, like they don’t want to give the men any sign of encouragement. But harassers can escalate whether they are being ignored or whether they get a reaction from the person they are harassing. This is why ending harassment boils down to a focus on the harasser, not how women respond. It may not matter how women respond because different harassers are looking for different reactions and when they don’t get them, or if they do get them, they escalate the harassment.

*Mar 27 - 00:05*All that being said, seeing the photo of the woman who was killed with her family is very saddening.

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Woman Killed in Midtown by Street Harassers

March 28, 2009

Yesterday evening in Midtown Manhattan, two pedestrian women were hit by two men in a Gristede’s (supermarket chain) van as the women were heading home from their jobs at Israel Berger Associates, an architecture firm. One of the women was killed and the other woman is in serious condition at a hospital. The men were taking away in handcuffs by police officers.

The New York Times has a detailed description of the tragedy. What caught my eye was this paragraph, almost hidden within the full article text:

“There were two men in the front seat, a driver and passenger, and the passenger was leaning out the window and yelling at and harassing the women, Mr. Contreras said, citing his coworker’s account. All of a sudden, he said, the van shot up suddenly onto the curb.”

Street harassment. Nothing more is mentioned about the harassment or why the men’s van “suddenly” went up on the curb. I guess we are to assume they were distracted by harassing the women and weren’t paying attention and suddenly they ran them over? The article didn’t seem to imply that hitting them was intentional, though I have read a news story about a young woman in Florida who was intentionally hit by a car because she refused to talk to the man driving along beside her, harassing her. Both incidents are horrible.

An innocent woman and her future child (she was pregnant) are dead and her friend is in critical condition simply because they were female on a street (using the logic that the men were harassing them as females and they wouldn’t have run them over had they not been harassing them). Street harassment must stop!

Update: The driver of the van has been charged with [wo]manslaughter and assault.


HollaBack Shout Outs

March 26, 2009

Shout Outs to a few of my street harassment activist allies & an announcement about the upcoming launch of a new HollaBack DC blog:

  1. Brittany & Hilary of HollaBack Boston and HollaBackTalk. For nearly three years (May 06 – Jan 09) they raised awareness about street harassment and gave people in the Massachusetts area a place to share their harassment stories. They are on a break from their blogs now and I hope sometime soon their schedules will allow them to return to it. Shout Out to Brittany and Hilary for all their time and effort addressing street harassment!
  2. Emily, co-founder and current facilitator of HollaBack NYC. Without HollaBack NYC, there may not be as many people aware of or talking about street harassment. Its launch in 2005 set the stage for allowing people to have a space to share their stories online, feel empowered, and raise awareness about street harassment in NYC and beyond. It inspired dozens of other HollaBack websites. This week, Emily wrote a great article for On the Issues about HollaBack NYC – check it out. Shout Out to her for making sure HollaBack NYC continues and for all her work to make NYC safe for women.
  3. Chai & Shannon are officially launching a new HollaBack DC blog in April. If you’re in the Washington, DC area or have been harassed while visiting DC, send them your stories as they have started taking submissions in preparation for the launch. A DC resident myself (well, for work), I am thrilled to have them as nearby allies and look forward to seeing all they do in the DC area to combat street harassment. Shout Out to them both for embarking on this much-needed work – good luck ladies!

Bookstore Masturbator

March 25, 2009

I was reading an atlas at the bookstore and as there was only a bench (no tables/chairs) i was sitting there, bending down over it to read it. I noticed a funny rattling noise, ignored it, noticed it again and realised an old man was masturbating behind an open newspaper. I went to get my brother and informed him that we were going to leave immediately. It is nauseating that some simple cleavage in a top that, when i put it on, made me feel good-looking and confident, can compel dirty men to break the law. I stopped wearing that shirt out. I wish i could say that if it happened again I’d call the police or at least store management but the shock of it will probably just make ME leave rather than “make a fuss.”


T Groping in Boston Leads to Arrest

March 23, 2009

Transit police in Boston, MA, are working with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) to address low level sexual harassment on public transportation (ie street harassment) and Gina Scaramella, executive director of BARCC says twice as many people are reporting incidents since the campaign launched.

The Boston Globe describes a recent incident that ended in arrest:

“Jose Carlos Delacruz, 24, was accused of touching at least three women in an inappropriate manner around 10 p.m. Friday on the train in Brookline.

After allegedly groping one of the women, Delacruz then moved on to the two others and touched them inappropriately, according to transit police. When another man tried to place himself between Delacruz and the women, the suspect pushed him and continued trying to grope the women, the police said.

The train stopped at Coolidge Corner, where an MBTA inspector detained Delacruz until police arrived. When police arrived, he became combative and started cursing loudly at the officers, transit police said. It took three officers to subdue him, police said.

Police charged Delacruz with indecent assault and battery, disorderly conduct, and three counts of assault and battery.”

Transit police advise riders who are groped to “move away to the best of their ability and to draw attention to the attacker and enlist the help of fellow riders. ‘If possible, get a picture of the individual with your cellphone,’ said Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan. ‘It’s one of the best ways for us to catch the attacker.'”

Police awareness & sensitivity & collaboration with a rape crisis center all sound very promising as does the fact that this perhaps serial groper is getting regulated for his behavior. Keep it up Boston! And gropers, stop groping!


Egyptian Women Blog

March 22, 2009
Banat wa Bas is the first audio blogging station for girls, photo from alarabiya.net

Banat wa Bas is the first audio blogging station for girls, photo from alarabiya.net

Another post about Egypt!  This time about a women-only audio blogging station where women can talk about street harassment. Via Al Arabiya News Channel:

“A women-only audio blogging station has become one of Egypt’s most popular censorship-free forums for women intent on tackling taboo issues of gender inequality and street harassment…

Launched nine months ago by Amani Tunsi, 25-year-old computer science graduate, the blog offers young Egyptian women public space to tell their stories, share pictures and vent about daily frustrations without risking their identity.

It also offers a show called Mosh Kol al-Teir (Not all the Birds) that probes the different harassment methods and tricks guys use to pick up girls.

Bloggers have been at the forefront of the movement against sexual harassment, pioneering coverage of sexual aggression against women and leading campaigns like Kulna Laila (We are all Laila) to raise awareness and create solidarity among women bloggers.”

Ah, here is another example of the power of the Internet to help women share their stories and work for their rights.  Use your Internet access to share your street harassment stories on this blog &  raise awareness of the problem globally. Submit to: stopstreetharassmentATyahooDOTcom.


Learning Self Defense in Egypt

March 18, 2009
Photo from BBC News

Photo from BBC News

The BBC reports that the attendance of Egyptian girls and women in martial arts training classes is on the rise.

“Instructor Redo Fathy says it is now incumbent on every woman to protect herself from the unwelcome advances of Egyptian men. ‘The girls face a lot of problems,’ he said. ‘Especially the teenagers that attend high school. Some of them have long distances to travel.’ …

‘I was on my way home from school and I was attacked – I didn’t know what to do,’ Shaza Saeed, 14, said. ‘But now I have learnt how to defend myself so I am not afraid any more. I think every girl should go to self-defense classes like this.’”

The startling survey results of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights and a high profile sexual harassment case last year has raised awareness about the issue. There’s even legislation under consideration in parliament that would make sexual harassment a crime and make it easier for women to report it.

“But the women in the karate class say it will require a more concerted effort from Egyptian society, and a backlash from men themselves, if they are to win on the street the honour and respect they are afforded in the dojo.”

Ditto that here in the U.S.

If you’re interested in taking a self defense class, check out the links on the right under “Self Defense Resources” or contact your local community center or YMCA/YWCA to see if they host any.  I’m excited to attend my first self defense class through Defend Yourself on April 18 in Washington, DC. The focus is dealing with street harassers.