HollaBack at Street Harassment

8 06 2010

In 2006, I heard Debbie Elliot of National Public Radio introduce a news item with these words:

Imagine you’re a young woman walking down the street, and a man calls out rude comments about your body or even exposes himself. It happens all the time. But some women and a few men have decided they’re not going to put up with it anymore. They’re using their cell phone cameras and sending pictures of their harassers to the Web.”

I was stunned by Margot Adler’s report on street harrassment—and the burgeoning movement that harnessed technology to respond to this form of violence.  The movement called itself HollaBack.

I lived in New York City for over a decade.  Self defense instructors understand that street harassment is part of a continuum of gender and identity based violence.  But beyond my small feminist community I experienced little conversation about the relentlessness of verbal street attacks on women.   Women knew it was happening, but it seemed to be just a part of the cityscape, like smog and heavy traffic.  By and large, they believed there was nothing they could do about it.

In cities all over the country, HollaBack changed that. 

Which is why it is my great pleasure to welcome Chaitra Shenoy and Shannon Lynberg of HollaBack DC to SDIC ’10.

Chaitra Shenoy is the co-founder of Holla Back DC!, an online, community-based organization whose aim is to educate and address public sexual harassment and assault.  Started in April 2009, Holla Back DC! has collected over hundreds of experiences from DC metro residents addressing street harassment.  The organization has been featured in online magazines such as Huffington Post and Mother Jones, along with several blogs including Prince of Petworth and Wonkabout: the DC guide.

In addition to Holla Back DC!, Chai is Policy & Technical Assistance Attorney at Break the Cycle.  In this capacity, Chai oversees policy initiatives that relate to how schools address dating violence and sexual violence.  Currently, she is working with the District of Columbia Public Schools and rural pilot sites to implement model policies in all high schools and middle schools.  Chai also trains organizations, government agencies, law enforcement, and citizens who provide services to youth and young adults on the theories and dynamics of dating violence, while providing them practical skills to work with their constituents.  

Chai is originally from the Bay Area, California, and received her B.A. at UCLA and her J.D. at American University, Washington College of Law.

Shannon Lynberg is the National Director of the Younger Women’s Task Force and the co-founder of Holla Back DC!, an organization that works to raise awareness and track public sexual harassment in Washington, DC. Shannon has worked with various organizations to improve the lives of women and girls. In November 2008, Shannon spent time in Guatemala researching femicide. While in college, Shannon worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tailoring sexual assault prevention programs for schools and at the Dekalb County Board of Health designing cardiovascular health outreach initiatives for Latina’s in Atlanta. In 2007, she worked with a local DC school to write prevention program for high risk, elementary school girls.  In her spare time, Shannon volunteers for Yoga Activist and provides yoga to youth boys and girls at a local detention center. Shannon holds a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and a concentration in Community Psychology.  In November 2008, Shannon was featured as one of “Tomorrow’s Leaders” in “O, The Oprah Magazine” and she has spoken at numerous conferences in regards to younger women’s issues.




One response

9 06 2010
Emily May

So happy that you guys are covering this! HollabackDC is doing incredible work.

We’re ending street harassment, one hollaback at a time.

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