iPhone App Gives Voice to Victims of Street Harassment

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November 7, 2010; Source: New York Times | Men who think they’re just having a little harmless fun making unwanted sexual advances to women on the subway or shouting suggestive comments as they pass by on the sidewalk may soon find descriptions of their harassing incidents detailed on a special website. Hollaback!, a New York City-based nonprofit has just launched an iPhone application that enables women to send the group a message within seconds after being harassed.

Emily May, executive director of Hollaback!, says information posted to ihollaback.org is used to map the location of the incident. Hollaback! also sends a follow-up email asking victims for more details. The iPhone application, which enables women to speak up and not just “walk on,” is one of the ways the group is fighting unwanted sexual advances and other kinds of harassment. “Street harassment teaches us to be silent,” May said. “That is the very last thing we want to be teaching women and girls.”

May who founded Hollaback! five years ago, is the organization’s sole staff member. Working out of her home, she coordinates 20 volunteers. The new iPhone application, which cost $15,000 to develop and sells for $.99, was financed with donations made online for $10 or less. As a pro bono project, Jill P. Dimond, a doctoral candidate at Georgia Tech who is researching how technology can help combat domestic violence, has developed a forthcoming version of the application for Android phones.

May says the group intends to share information from its web database with law enforcement. By identifying hot spots, police will know where to locate and catch offenders.—Bruce Trachtenberg