Month: April 2014

Sexual Assault as told by Whisper

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, there is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year. Dealing with sexual harassment and assault is challenging because rarely do people open up and talk about it and/or report it to the authorities. In fact, the National Crime Victimization Survey shows that 60% of sexual assault crimes are unreported.

Apps such as Whisper give people a platform and anonymity so they can freely tell their secrets. Here are some of the Whispers that we found about sexual harassment and assault and the facts behind them.

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The National Crime Victimization Survey also showed  that approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim and 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.

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In 2013, there were 7,256 complaints of sexual harassment made to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: 82 percent filed by women and 18 percent filed by men.

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According to a study by HuffPost and YouGov, 70 percent of people who had been sexually harassed in the workplace say they didn’t report it.

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If a person sends you an unwanted picture of his genitals, you can press charges on the individual. However, earlier this year a Georgia court ruling dismissed an obscenity case because the 1970 law did not include electronic obscenities– just tangible. Read the full article by the BBC here.

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A poll by AAUW Educational Foundation shows that 62 percent of college students reported to be sexually harassed and 66 percent reported to know someone who had been sexually harassed.

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According to an AP report,the majority of military sexual assault cases (as many as 22,000 in 2012) go unreported  by the victim.

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In the article, “The Mental Health Impact of Rape” Dean G. Kilpatrick, Ph.D writes that almost one-third (31%) of all rape victims developed PTSD sometime during their lifetime; and more than one in ten rape victims (11%) still has PTSD today.

The best way to stop sexual harassment and assault is by talking about it. Want to be part of the conversation? Share your stories with us!  Also, make sure to read what people have been telling us so far.


Sexual Harassment in the Public Space – Unfit for Legislation?

The issue of sexual harassment in public places has been given relatively little attention in the media and in research, although some experts say interest in the issue is now increasing. In most parts of the world, it’s still a somewhat murky area to address though, lacking clear definitions and legislation to govern it. Definitions and legislations, which some say are crucial to fully understand the scope of the issue, and combat it.

Many countries have no legislation in place dealing with sexual harassment in the public space. Of course, the reasons behind this are many and vary from country to country – in some, sexual harassment may not be considered wrongdoing, while in others, the problem may not be profound. But common for most of them is the lack of attention and awareness about the issue, which has generated little attention and serious research compared to sexual harassment in the workplace, according to Margaret Crouch, Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Michigan University. In an article in the journal Social Philosophy Today, she writes that there has so far been greater focus on harassment in the workplace because, for many countries, there are laws in place, which govern the issue and make research possible. The conundrum is of course, that part of the reason why there’s legislation is the fact that there’s research to inform it.

Research and legislation about harassment in the workplace has been possible due to a number of factors, which the issue of harassment in the public space lacks: the workplace is a concrete and clearly defined physical place, in which very specific rules for behavior and interaction applies, rules which can be examined and modified. There is a clearly defined hierarchy in place, where some individuals are vulnerable to others, which makes it easy to equip the former with rights, while the hierarchy also means that there are people at the top, who are responsible and can be held accountable for what happens at the workplace . The public space has none of those features. In most countries, there are no clear social rules for how people can act and interact, save for threatening or violent behavior, and there is no hierarchy between members of the public, who can address each other however they like. Mostly, this is a good thing, of course – how we engage with each other in public spaces is and should be largely unrestrained and free. But it also makes it a lot trickier to legislate about harassment and may be part of the reason why so few countries do. Some areas are trickier than others – a clear definition for cat calling may be difficult to agree upon, when different individuals will feel offended by different things, while uninvited, physical groping is a much more concrete offense. Margaret Crouch, in her article, argues that the distinction between the work place and the public space should be completely dissolved to allow for a clear definition of what is acceptable and what isn’t, and make the latter punishable.

In the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, lawyer Olatokunbo Olukemi Laniya writes that the issue of sexual harassment in the public space needs to be “named, blamed and claimed,” meaning the issue must be defined, the perpetrators identified, while its victims must push back against it by openly addressing their experiences. While sexual harassment in the workplace was completely unrecognized just fifty year ago, we have since come a long way in recognizing and addressing the issue and regulating it through legislation. But, writes Laniya, the conversation on sexual harassment has largely been limited to that area since, while any experiences of harassment in the public, which fall short of physical assault and rape, are taken less seriously. Laniya writes that there is a clear tendency to think of sexual harassment as harmless, reflected in the lack of legislation. In reality, sexual harassment and sexual violence are much more closely linked than most people tend to think, she writes, and refers to studies about the escalation of sexual harassment into sexual violence at public events in New York City. Harassment and violence both are motivated by the same perception of female subjugation and male entitlement, and when only some of these acts are seen as serious, it enforces the belief that men can act upon women. Laniya adds: “When social and legal rules allow some injuries to women to go unregulated, there is much more potential to slide down a slippery slope.”

However, exactly because the issue is harassment in the public, which belongs to us all and, in most democratic societies, is governed by the right to free speech, any possible proposals to legislate the issue are bound to be met by resistance. In the US, attempts to illegalize sexual harassment would undoubtedly meet constitutional challenges. Whether such legislation is feasible or not, advocates, who are pushing for the law to recognize the negative effects of street harassment, are at least shaping a conversation, which might in itself have an impact.


We are four months into 2014 and New York City has reported 22 cases of rape and 44 cases of other kinds of sex crimes that are recorded by the New York City Police Department.

Click HERE for the interactive chart by Priyanka Gupta.

Number of cases of Rape in NYC

Number of cases of miscellaneous sex crimes



When trying to uncover how prevalent street harassment is in New York City’s five boroughs, we stumbled across a roadblock.

There is currently no data specifically on street harassment, according to Sophia Mason, New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner of public information.

“There’s no separation between sexual harassment and regular harassment,” Mason said in a telephone conversation early April. “Whether you’re yelling at someone on the street or saying something sexual, it’s not broken down. It’s all under one umbrella.”

Regular harassment is defined as any type of imposed intimidation, which can be following, texting or calling nonstop, or bullying, for example, according to the DCPI. With sexual harassment, the main difference is the sexual part. It’s any gender-based harassment such as sexually explicit comments or any unwanted sexually inappropriate touching.

If you look at the NYPD’s crime statistics, or CompStat as officers refer to it, you will see a week to date and year to date number of reported incidents, ranging from murder, rape and robbery to petty larceny, misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor sex crimes. A catcall, a grope, or public masturbation are all acts of sexual harassment, and would be classified under misdemeanor sex crimes.

Local not for profit groups have taken the initiative to develop their own data-gathering tools to find out how many incidents of street harassment occur in the Big Apple.

Hollaback, a movement to end street harassment, acquired its facts through launching multiple sites around the globe, and the sharing of stories have helped map out where street harassment incidents take place. The organization also created and unveiled an app that victims can utilize to report various forms of street harassment, which can be forwarded to their respective city council districts.

Similar to Hollaback, Stop Street Harassment, also based in the New York City, has dedicated itself to documenting and ending street harassment nationally and internationally since 2008. The organization is currently accepting donations to help fund the first-ever countrywide study on street harassment. Its plan is to survey 2,000 people, half men and half women between the ages 18 and 30.

New York State does have statutes in place that address harassment, but the problem is growing rapidly.

Reported forcible rapes per 100,000 people, listed on CNN, from the  FBI Crime Statistics.

1. New Jersey – 11.7

2. New York – 14.6

3. Virginia – 17.7

4. Vermont – 19.3

5. North Carolina – 20.3

6. Hawaii – 20.5

7. California – 20.6

8. Maryland – 21

9. Wisconsin – 21.3

10. Georgia – 21.4

11. West Virginia – 22.7

12. Massachusetts – 24.7

13. Missouri – 25.1

14. Louisiana – 25.2

15. Indiana – 25.5

16. Connecticut – 25.6

17. Pennsylvania – 26.1

18. Delaware – 26.5

19. Wyoming – 26.7

20. Alabama – 26.9

21. Florida – 27.2

22. Rhode Island – 27.4

23. Mississippi – 27.5

24. Illinois – 27.7

25. Maine – 28

26. Iowa – 28.3

27. Kentucky – 29

28. Oregon – 29.2

29. Texas – 29.6

30. Idaho – 30

31. Minnesota – 30.5

32. Tennessee – 31.5

33. Ohio – 31.7

34. Washington – 31.8

35. Utah – 33

36. Nevada – 33.7

37. New Hampshire – 34

38. Arizona – 34.7

39. South Carolina – 35.5

40. Kansas – 36.5

41. District of Columbia – 37.3

42. Montana – 37.7

43. Nebraska – 38.3

44. North Dakota 38.9

45. Colorado – 40.7

46. Oklahoma – 41.6

47. Arkansas – 42.3

48. New Mexico – 45.9

49. Michigan – 46.4

50. South Dakota – 70.2

51. Alaska – 79.7

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every two women and one in every five men have experienced sexual violence at one point in their lives. So far this year, New York City has had 22 rape incidents reported with Bronx’s seven at the top of the list and Staten Island’s zero at the bottom.  Sex crimes totaled 44, with parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx totaling 10 incidents each.

While sexual violence is usually associated with rapes, unwanted sexual contact or verbal harassment also falls under that category.

Though a large number of street harassment cases go underreported, Mason said she’s not really sure why that is. She could not confirm if it’s the process of reporting the incident or the way in which the case is handled by a precinct afterwards had anything to do with the low percentage.

“I would have to manually go through every single complaint report on harassment to see what was said,” Mason said. “It’s there, but it would be difficult to find.”

With an eight and a half million populace, it could take months for an officer to go through all sexual harassment reports and find out specifics on gender, location, and type of harassment, she said.

The more information given, the higher the chances are of a perpetrator being caught and prosecuted, Mason said.

Until lawmakers pass legislation requiring the police to make street harassment its own category in NYPD crime statistics, people will have to rely on the nonprofit organizations like Hollaback, Stop Street Harassment, and others for their main source of information.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of street harassment and would like to seek professional counseling, the Feminist Majority Foundation has a list of national hotlines and resources by state.


Street sexual harassment can happen anywhere, anytime. Three weeks ago we asked you to share your experience of harassment on the streets

From Paris to Kolkata, you shared your stories that showed how widespread and underreported this problem is. Here’s what some of you wrote that shows the vicious nature of the attacks irrespective of time, location and gender:

“It was summer, so I wore a dress, and on my way up the stairs, I felt a hand go up the back of my dress, grab my butt and flip my dress up. I turned quickly to yell at the perpetrator, only to see a man at the bottom of the stairs holding a cell phone camera up at me with a hat low over his face.”


“One morning I got off the light rail (a train service) and was walking down the street and a man was walking towards me. When he passed by me, I heard him stop and turn around. I kept walking and he started following close behind me. He didn’t say a word but he kept following me for a few blocks… I know it doesn’t sound particularly bad but the while situation was terrifying.”


“Other than the usual catcalling, I’ve also been experienced homophobic sexual harassed.
Once, I was pretty scared because it was late at night and I was alone and there were three guys harassing me. I don’t know what I would have said because I feel no reason gets through to those kind of people. But I wish I had said SOMETHING.”

“I currently work in a high school, and there has been a problem with lock on the front gate. I found a janitorial staff member in our school’s cafeteria and went to talk to him to help remediate the problem. As I described the problem to him, I could not help but notice he was staring down my dress. I tried moving about to distract him, but despite my efforts continued to blatantly stare at my chest. When I had finished describing the problem, anticipating an appropriate response, he bit his lip and said, “Say, how about I take you out for a drink sometime…Love the way this dress looks on your body by the way.”’

South of France

“It happened thrice and always in a train (Sealdah Rajdhani going to or coming from Delhi). Thrice I made a ruckus and the culprits were tongue tied. In the first case, the passengers roughed him up and then the police came and took him away. He was trying to grope me in the middle of the night. No case was registered.”

Kolkata, India

“Catcalls, insults such as “faggot” and other pejorative words, refusal to serve me in restaurants, bad service or lack of service in stores, disdainful attitude.”

San Juan

Keep sharing your stories and help us report, you can also tweet at us.

Mayor de Blasio Signs legislation protecting New York’s Unpaid Interns From Sexual Harassment


Photo Credit: Newsweek

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the third piece of legislation since his 100 days of office — a bill protecting unpaid interns against sexual harassment.

De Blasio put the pen to the paper on April 15, officially making sexual harassment on interns in the workplace against the law.

Under this new legislation, interns whether paid or not, will be fully protected under the human rights law, which means they will be treated like the average employee on company payroll.

“New York City is fortunate to have one of the most expansive human rights laws in the nation,” the mayor said as he prepared to sign the legislation in the Blue Room. “More work, nevertheless, is needed to ensure that New Yorkers are fully protected from discrimination. This legislation will clarify that interns, paid or unpaid, are guaranteed the full protections guaranteed to employees under the human rights law.”



Employee fired for turning down his boss’ proposition


Joseph Earl Jackson Photo: Facebook

The $35,000-a-year account coordinator claims the company’s chief strategist, Sally O’Dowd, told him “how she loved young black and Hispanic men” and “that she loved how sexy his chest and deltoids were in his white button-down shirt,” according to the Manhattan civil suit.

O’Dowd even allegedly commented on Jackson’s penis size after a client pitched a new product — a case with a condom inside.

She said the condom “probably wouldn’t fit Joseph,” the suit claims.




Courtesy: IRIN Films

this powerful documentary from IRIN on sexual violence in Congo.

Earlier this month the United Nations asked the government of Democratic Republic of the Congo to act on the incidents of rape and sexual assault on women and punish the perpetrators.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said “Despite an increase in the number of prosecutions of State agents for sexual violence in recent years, there is still a long way to go in the fight against impunity for sexual violence in the DRC.”

A new UNJHRO report says that there are over 3,600 victims of rape and sexual assault between 2010-2013 in the country.