This year, you can spread awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month without ever having to leave your keyboard. Ever since the word “hashtag” made its way into Merriam-Webster dictionary, it seems we can no longer ignore the power behind the little symbol, once known as the “pound sign.” Online activism is trending now and what better way to spread awareness about sexual violence than through the power of the internet. In a world where social media is so pervasive, we invite you to participate in SAAM and use your hashtags to advocate for the end of sexual violence.
Using the #SAAM or #SAAM2015 hashtags not only increases awareness to those who follow you, but also connects you with other activists in the movement. Take to Twitter to share the news and inspirational tweets of fellow advocates. See below for details on an Anti-Street Harassment Tweetathon on April 14, where you can be a part of a global event, 140 characters at a time.
Another way to stay involved is through our Facebook page. There you can find links to events, related articles, photos, and news from the Center during #SAAM2015. Invite your friends to like our page. Be sure to RSVP to the different events we’re hosting this month and invite your friends to those events as well.
Hollaback! Durham & Chapel Hill organizers are excited to announce the launch of our new local chapter. Hollaback! is an international organization dedicated to ending street harassment and harassment in public spaces.
Organizers from the teen-led Youth Against Rape Culture (YARC) activist collective have a lot to say about how street harassment affects the lives of young people in the area. “I was harassed by a guy on Franklin Street when I was 11 years old,” says organizer and Chapel Hill High School senior Hannah Hodge. “It’s messed up that some creep on the corner catcalling is what made me feel like a woman.”
Hannah’s experience of harassment is not unique. Street harassment is an often misunderstood phenomenon that affects all types of communities, whether suburban, urban, or rural. According to a 2000 survey, 87 percent of American women had been harassed by a male stranger; nearly half had experienced “extreme harassment” such as groping, following, or assault. Harassment is experienced even more often by LGBTQ-identified individuals, who are commonly left out of mainstream discussions of harassment.
Youth organizers have enjoyed both moral and logistical support from mentors at the Center. Executive Director Shamecca Bryant explains the Center’s interest in supporting this campaign: “We recognize the role that street harassment plays in creating a culture of violence against women and violence against marginalized individuals. We see our work as complementary to Hollaback and their mission to shine a light on the seriousness of street harassment.” YARC team mentor and Center staff Rachel Valentine echoes that sentiment: “Harassment – whether it’s sexist, racist or homophobic – gets its power from the threat of violence that lingers behind it.”