You stand in line with your friends while waiting for a concert, and a passerby catches your eye and drunkenly tells you to smile. You walk to your friend's apartment, and a man leans out the window of a car driving by, yelling at you, trying to get your attention. You're leaving downtown after a night with your friends and a man begins to trail you home, calling to you from half a block away.
And each time you replay the situation in your head afterward, thinking where you could have gone wrong, while simultaneously telling yourself it's not your fault.
Now, a new resource from Stop Street Harassment (SSH), a non-profit dedicated to documenting and ending gender-based street harassment, allows victims to immediately talk with someone about their experience, including the silent shame, disgust, or fear many of us feel after getting harassed.
On Tuesday, July 19, the organization announced the launch of the first-ever national 24-hour street harassment hotline. People impacted by street harassment can receive emotional support, advice on if and how to respond to their harasser, and information on their legal rights from the the confidential, toll-free hotline.
A secure, instant messaging chat hotline will also become available on August 10.
Best of all is that the hotline is accessible for both English and Spanish speakers.
"Street harassment can be really upsetting, and it can be even more so if you do not feel like you can talk to anyone about it and get support," Holly Kearl, the founder and executive director of Stop Street Harassment, told Revelist in an interview.
"Sadly, because so many people still view street harassment as a minor annoyance, compliment or the fault of the harassed person, plenty of harassed persons don't feel like they can talk about it. I hope the hotline can be a place for those people to feel heard and supported."
The hotline is a collaboration between SSH, Defend Yourself, an organization that teaches defense and healing mechanisms against abuse in the Washington D.C. area, and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States.
While RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, SHH and Defend Yourself trained the RAINN team on how to assist people calling about street harassment.
"I am also really pleased that the hotline staff are already expert at assisting sexual assault survivors on RAINN's main hotline because persons who are survivors of sexual abuse are among those who are most negatively affected by street harassment," Kearl said. "If they call the hotline, they will be able to find support not only regarding street harassment but also regarding the sexual abuse the harassment may be triggering."
Kearl said while she used to respond to each person who contacted SSH about dealing with harassers or their legal rights, the inquiry volumed increased to the point where she wasn't able to respond personally anymore.
Over three years Kearl would periodically explore options for a hotline or virtual support group, but nothing seemed feasible until January of this year, when she contacted someone she knew at RAINN.
"She told me that in a few months, they'd be launching hotline options for orgs like mine where the RAINN staff would run the line, but the org would pay for the staff time and train the staff on the specific issue the hotline would cover," Kearl said. "I was so, so, so excited about this and we made plans to make it happen!"
According to a 2,000-person national survey commissioned by SSH in 2014, 65% of women have experienced street harassment, with 23% being touched sexually. Twenty-five percent of men have been street harassed, which 9% having been harassed with homophobic or transphobic slurs.
While Revelist reported that there's no one way to respond to a catcall, having a number to vent to afterward is definitely a nice option to have.
Dial 855-897-5910 to call the street harassment hotline, or access the online chat hotline from this page on or after August 10.