Last week Korea launched its own Hollaback! website. Hollaback! is an organization and online platform that delivers resources, research, and initiatives aimed at ending street harassment. Most importantly, Hollaback! is a portal for individuals to share personal stories about being harassed or having witnessed someone else being harassed, and for others to show their support for those individuals.
According to Hollaback!, “Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. It reinforces sexual objectification of these groups.”
A Hollaback! initiative called “I’ve Got Your Back” encourages bystanders to get involved when they witness street harassment, as a way to let harassers know it will not be tolerated. Because it can be dangerous to intervene, find out how you can safely prevent an instance of street harassment.
The real motive of street harassment is intimidation. To make its target scared or uncomfortable, and to make the harasser feel powerful.
Hollaback! creates a simple way to take that power away by exposing it. Hollaback! utilizes the technology of smart phones to allow individuals to post occurrences and photos of street harassment in real time, and get immediate support. Hollaback! also maps where street harassment occurred (pink dot) and where bystanders have intervened (green dot) as a way to inform individuals, lawmakers, or police, where harassment may be occurring more often.
Hollaback! emphasizes the importance of reassuring those who are harassed that they are supported, not guilty of bringing a situation upon themselves, and to be empowered to stand up to harassment.
Hollaback! began after Thao Nguyen was sexually harassed on a New York subway and did not find support from the police. Her harasser, Dan Hoyt, a well known NYC restaurant owner, “locked his eyes on a young woman (Thao), opened his pants and began to masturbate”. Because Thao did not find assistance from the police, she posted a photo of the man masturbating onto her Flickr page. After a social media uproar, she gained the support she deserved, and Hoyt was swiftly charged with public lewdness.
Since Hollaback!’s inception, a new awareness of street harassment in New York has occurred and an international fight against its occurrence is underway. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority joined with the NYPD in a campaign to encourage victims of sexual harassment to report, and Hollaback! websites have been launched in 25 countries and 14 languages.
I found out that there are distinctions among all Hollaback! sites, and each site creates its own goals. Despite the fact that street harassment happens everywhere, the way people respond to it can be influenced by culture and norms. Hollaback! provides resources for individuals regarding how to respond effectively to street harassment. Hollaback! Korea emphasizes the intersectionality of street harassment in Korea. One of their goals is to remain conscious of the fact that anyone can face street harassment regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity, and that their service is responding appropriately to all victims.
One distinction of Hollaback! Korea is that it does not allow photos to be posted to the site because Korean law prevents it. A local police officer participated in the Hollaback! launch Discussion, and provided her insight on effective ways to intervene and report cases of street harassment legally in South Korea. She suggested that it is still important to gather evidence such as taking a photo and contacting the authorities immediately. Her involvement is a sign that there is police support for this issue as well.
A study of street harassment in 143 countries from 2010 found that 43% of people surveyed in one Korean city experienced street harassment, and 79% of those individuals were women. About 72% of the incidents occurred on subway cars, 27.3% on buses, and 1.1% in taxis. Eighteen percent “strongly protested against their assailants” and 6.3% shouted. To see how your country compares, view the data here.
Although Hollaback! Korea was only launched last week, the site has already gathered several stories in both Korean and English, and has hosted four public awareness events around the country!
Hollaback! Korea wants to invite any interested party living in Korea to contact them if they would like to participate in the site’s development, especially those who have experience working on websites, translating from English to Korean, and event planning.
For those of us living in Korea, attend the Hollaback! Launch Party this Saturday in Seoul to show your support!
If you live in a country or city that does not yet have a Hollaback! site, you can start one—check out how here!
Don’t forget to post when you see street harassment occur wherever you are. You can use the free Hollaback! App to do so in real time, and be a part of helping people everywhere feel safer.