Most women that live in an urban area can recall an instance in which a glance or call from an unsuspecting stranger on the street made them feel threatened. Holly Kearl, a GW alum, said it was time to end the act that is known as street harassment at a reading of her new book on the subject in the Marvin Center on Thursday.
“[It’s time to] end the silence,” said Kearl, while discussing her book, “Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women.”
Kearl said that women around the world are subject to harassment on a daily basis, including in the form of catcalls or explicit comments, especially in large metropolitan cities like D.C. The author, who works at the Washington feminist organization, the AAUW, said that harassment often leads to violence and can be emotionally detrimental.
Former Miss D.C. Jen Corey attended the event as a guest speaker and recalled her personal experiences with street aggravation. Corey, who was also a finalist at Miss America, lived on Massachusetts Avenue during her undergraduate education at American University and would deal with street harassment on her daily walk to class.
“I really didn’t realize that it changed what I did on a daily basis until I came to college here,” Corey said. “During my junior year, I had to walk one block to school and would [regularly] get yelled at seven different times on just that one block.”
Joseph Vess, the director of the organization Men Can Stop Rape, spoke to the mostly female students and GW community members in attendance about the abilities of men to put an end to the crime.
“This is a man’s issue,” Vess said. “Men are the ones who are committing almost all violence against women.”
Vess added that instead of becoming perpetrators of the act, men should collaborate with women on putting an end to harassment and sexual violence.
Some members of the University’s women’s studies program attended the reading and said that it was an opportunity to enlighten others about the common, yet destructive, harassment that happens often in Foggy Bottom.
“It’s fantastic that GW is having this event,” said Paul Seltzer, a major in the department and one of the few men to attend the reading. “It’s good to see both men and women getting involved.”
Kearl, who wrote her thesis on the subject while receiving her Master’s at the University, said that while there is no easy way to counter harassment, women need to make sure that they protect themselves from unwanted advancements that can turn violent.
“I don’t really want women to change their lives-I really want the solution to be with changing the behavior of men,” said Kearl. “But the reality is right now you do have to try to be safe.”