Street harassment reporting app now available for iPhone and Android

Last time we talked about Hollaback, the organization to fight street harassment, they were raising money to fund development of an mobile phone app to make reporting street harassment fast and easy. Well, it’s ready! Hollaback just released its street harassment reporting app for iPhone and Android, called “Hollaback.” Several news media outlets have picked up the story; you can read The New York Times story here:

Phone Apps Aim to Fight Harassment

Yes, that’s right, now when some creep starts muttering about your ass on the bus, you can whip out your phone, take a photo of him and get it published on a web site along with your story – and it only takes seconds. The photo is optional, of course. Instructions on how to download the app, text message your report, or report by web form are here.

Reporting street harassment this way is less about identifying and prosecuting individual men than raising awareness and giving women a feeling of power and the confidence to fight back. Before the Hollaback app was available, I started taking photos of my harassers in San Francisco (and noting the time and place and even interviewing them). I never even bothered sending them to Hollaback because simply taking the photos made me feel so powerful and in-control that I didn’t need to do more.

Comments of the “What about the poor mens?” variety that don’t add anything new to the discussion won’t be approved (problem-solving ideas welcome, of course!). Please feel free to share your street harassment story here but consider also submitting it to the Hollaback web site too.

14 thoughts on “Street harassment reporting app now available for iPhone and Android

  1. Vid

    Some years ago, I had blogged about an application tool that would alert a woman’s loved ones about her where-abouts if she happens to get stuck in a dangerous situation.

    http://svaksha.com/post/2009/cellf-help

    The above application would be useful in situations involving children getting lost or/and probably older citizens who may suddenly get sick if they are travelling alone, etc..

    In India, everyone knows street harassment, kidnapping, assaults, etc…occur frequently and it hardly evokes any public outrage, rather accepted as a part of daily life. So we do have a very different problem at hand and hence public shaming (by uploading an attackers picture) would hardly solve the problem. OTOH, it may have the opposite effect — making a hero out of an unknown attacker.

      1. vaurora Post author

        While not taking away anything from J’aime Ohm’s accomplishment, one thing I don’t like about this approach is that it puts the onus back on women to prevent attacks. Perhaps part of the enthusiastic reception of this app is because it doesn’t require men to change their behavior.

        1. Mary

          Mmm, there’s quite a lot of troublesome language at the press link: choose not to share safety-related information when they should, properly sharing information (all emphasis mine).

          This may be particularly stark for me because I think my cultural background/milieu has those messages less in general: women in major US cities seem to have internalised “you must have an escort home”, “you must check your car for someone lying in wait”, “you mustn’t walk alone after dark” more than women here (in Sydney).

        2. J'aime Ohm of WiseDame

          Hello Vaurora, J’aime here. Lovely review — I am a big fan of iHollaback and have started becoming more vocal and opinionated about street interactions because of it.

          I am having some difficulty understanding what you don’t like about WiseDame. Whose behavior are you referring to changing: perpetrators, men (not) concerned about their own safety,… ? I don’t view it as putting an “onus” on women because I believe I am streamlining a common practice. I think you’re onto something though, and I would like to find out what.

          Help me hear you.

        3. vaurora Post author

          Hi J’aime,

          I started to compose a reply and found that it was all in my original comment. But here’s one restatement.

          Hollaback makes men really angry, and WiseDame seems to make men really happy. Why is that? I can’t know for certain, but I guess it has to do with one application being about catching and identifying specific men doing things that many men think are “natural” or right, and the other being about women policing themselves and putting in a lot of effort to notify someone in the case of violent assault by a stranger, a relatively uncommon occurrence. The majority of violence against women is by partners or acquaintances – exactly the people you are “checking in” with.

      2. J'aime Ohm of WiseDame

        Ah, sweet dissidence! Thank you for inviting me to rethink my approach.

        Mary, you encouraged me to change my tone. Thank you for making me aware of the need. The press link is now rephrased at http://www.wisedameapp.com/press.php.

        For the curious, Mary was referring to the second paragraph and the original phrasing went thusly,
        “Sometimes people choose not to share safety-related information when they should. Sometimes they forget. Sometimes they are shy or don’t want to be a bother. Sometimes properly sharing information just takes too much time and effort. WiseDame is studying these cases (please, email me about your practices) and working to make personal security as effortless as it can be.”

        I changed it slightly to go thusly,
        “Sometimes people want to share safety information and don’t. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we are shy or don’t want to be a bother. Sometimes the sharing of information just takes too much time and effort. Sometimes we fear others’ judgement, actively or subconsciously. WiseDame aims to lower these barriers and make personal security as effortless as it can be.”

        If anyone wishes to step up and suggest other phrasing for my press page, go for it! I’m all ears. That would shape my mentality around where the app should go.

      1. jon

        Apologies for the belated response. Great discussion. The revised wording seems an improvement to me. Excellent points all around and agreed on the importance of getting beyond smartphone-only solutions

        Hollaback makes men really angry, and WiseDame seems to make men really happy.

        From my own personal perspective they both make me happy. Hollaback is an incredible power equalizer, and their use of Kickstarter is an important success story. WiseDame is great for people who have a network of trusted friends or relatives and as J’aime says want to share safety information, and J’aime’s video is fantastic from a software engineering perspective. I see them both as on the leading edge of a larger trend of technology tools opening us up for diversity. And I see them as very complementary. Two thumbs up.

        More generally, I totally agree that many guys who have a very visceral reaction to Hollaback that comes down to having to change their behavior in a way that WiseDame doesn’t. Also I think there are a lot of guys who just don’t get it about street harassment, and they are going to have problems with Hollaback too. By contrast a lot of guys have people they know who sometimes do risky things and he likes it if they call when they get home. So yes, I also see a difference in reaction and thinks it comes down to Hollaback threatening male privilege in a way that WiseDame does not.

        All that being said, not sure whether WiseDame has gotten more attention and praise from guys. MG Siegler’s post on TechCrunch is on the top of Google, but the interview there (also great) is by Evelyn Rusli. The article on CMU’s site is on the front page as well, and my post, and one by Advancing Women; that’s about it. I’ve proposed it it to several male tech journalists and nobody’s followed up on it but then again neither have the women I’ve talked about it with. Everybody says ‘yeah but where’s the story’ which makes no sense to me. Oh well. I wonder if Hollaback has the same problem — my impression is that they got relatively little coverage until their launch.

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