Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Street Harassment: Hollaback

Here's an email I attempted to send to the Rangers of my local reservoir;

To whom it may concern,

I would like to report an incidence of harassment on the part of council volunteers.  Yesterday, July 6th, between 2pm and 2:45pm, I was at the Edgbaston Reservoir, singing.  I was standing in the little graffitied hut which is located by the little hill as you walk from the Rotten Park Road entrance towards the car park.  As far as I am aware, it does not disturb anyone to have me practice here, and I am happy to find another location if I am told that it does.

A group of men wearing fluorescent jackets with 'council volunteers' walked past, at approximately 2:30pm.  One of them (the one who is waving in the attached image) decided to howl like a dog as I was singing, then offered to "fix [my] vocal chords".  I tried to remain polite, but the comments did not stop until the group had passed me.

Attached Image
I hope it is obvious why this behaviour is upsetting and inappropriate.  As a young girl alone, I also hope it is obvious why I found the behaviour even more threatening and unpleasant.

I would appreciate a reply, concerning either how this is dealt with, or contact details for a more appropriate person to speak to about the matter.

Thank you.
Kali Ravel

...unfortunately, this got bounced back to me, as the email inbox was no longer active.  So, I googled up the council offices covering parks, and called them.  The person I spoke to told me that the group were probably on probation, and suggested I try googling "Ministry of Justice Probation Department", since they had no contact details.

I did this, and tried the first number, which turned out to be the wrong one (it was the court probation service, which I guess I should have gathered from the heading).  After speaking to someone who suggested I call the police, though "it's not really an offence, is it?", I scrolled down a bit, and found the right office, the Probation Administration Office.  The people I spoke to there were wonderful; they took me absolutely seriously, apologised profusely, and promised to make sure that everyone involved knew that this behaviour was not appropriate.  Which is all I wanted; to be taken seriously, and for the person responsible to get a bollocking, to get some indication that this behaviour was not appropriate.

I did film myself singing, but I haven't linked to it here because the quality of my voice is completely irrelevant. 

If you're harassed by someone whose organisation is not immediately recognisable, (or even if it is!) have a look for your local Hollaback.  Hollaback is a grass roots movement, started in New York, to end street harassment by naming and shaming the people involved.  Many cities have their own Hollaback websites where victims can submit stories and images.  Birmingham will be getting one in August; until then, they have a facebook page. Hollaback ladies - lets get some justice up in here.

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