Sexual harassment is a term that has been in the news a lot in the past couple years. It was just last year that men in the media like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and even our current president Donald Trump were accused of sexual harassment. A lot of scandalous sexual harassment stories are reported in the news, but it happens on a personal level everyday all around the world. In the United States alone, 65% of women said they have experienced harassment on the street.
I reached out to Sophie Sandberg, the owner of the Instagram account @catcallsofnyc. She encourages women around New York City to take chalk and write out how they were catcalled or a short description of one of their experiences with street harassment. She uses her Instagram account as a place to post these photos and talk openly about politics and sexual harassment. She started the account in 2016 as part of a school project where she was asked to immerse herself into something and document it on social media.
“I decided to draw attention to them [catcallers] in a public way to raise awareness about the problem and give people a community of support to talk about catcalling” Sandberg said. With 31.8k followers, she has definitely brought awareness to the cause. She believes the account is impactful “for people who haven't dealt with street harassment, my account allows them to understand its impact and help become allies and fight back against it.” She can also prove that she has changed the lives of others, as she said “there are also many girls and women who thank me for running the account because it gives them a space to share their story and allows them to feel supported.”
Sandberg also goes through her direct messages frequently and talks with women about their experiences and encounters with catcallers.
“The messages I receive show how impactful these comments are -- many people who message me say that street harassment has ruined their day, or made them cry, or made them feel unsafe. I hate that we live in a world in which some people are made to feel this way simply by walking outside” Sandberg responded when I asked her how the messages made her feel. Since she started the account, she claims that her life has changed because “it's given me a way to speak back against something I have dealt with my whole life in a creative way. It makes me feel empowered that I took my own negative experience with catcalling to start something that can help people feel better about harassment.”
I encouraged everyone to check out her page and become more aware of different types of sexual harassment. Become more aware of what is going on in our surroundings and speak up if something looks suspicious. Take the time to learn what sexual harassment is, what it looks like, and how to fight it.