Street harassment affects everyone

GRASSROOTS street justice organisation It’s Not A Compliment (INAC), shines a light on the intersectionality of street harassment in their new campaign Our Public Spaces.

Launched on October 21 and running until October 27, 2021, Our Public Spaces invites the public to share experiences of street harassment by utilizing the hashtag #ourpublicspaces. 

The opportunity to story-tell aligns with the campaign objective to catalogue diverse experiences of personal public nuisance and create meaningful solutions in response. 

It’s Not A Compliment is a Melbourne-based organisation fighting for the rights of individuals to enjoy public spaces free from fear and harassment. 

INAC defines street harassment as any unwanted behaviour directed at an individual by a stranger in a public space.

The street justice organization has dotted posters with QR codes around the City of Melbourne to encourage the public to voice their experiences and enter the conversation.

Our Public Spaces campaign leader Anya Saravanan hopes the movement will broaden public understanding of street harassment as a non-linear and interchanging experience. 

“We know that people from different backgrounds experience street harassment differently,” Ms Saravanan said. 

“This is our attempt at trying to understand those experiences and think about crafting support material that is relevant to those people.” 

Anya Saravan is a volunteer campaigner at INAC PHOTO: It’s Not A Compliment website

The project was inspired by research findings from A Snapshot Of Street Harassment Experiences in Victoria, a report published by INAC in April 2021. 

The report’s outcomes highlight the intersectionality of street harassment across ethnicity, sexuality, ability, and gender.

According to the report, 58.8 percent of ethnically diverse respondents had experienced street harassment due to their racial identity while 68.8 percent of respondents with a physical disability or visible mobility issues, reported being harassed due to their differently-abled status. 

Copywriter Caitlin James, a volunteer at INAC, is hopeful that the campaign will create new street harassment narratives.  

Caitlin James is also leading the campaign PHOTO: It’s Not A Compliment website

“It is about expanding knowledge of street harassment and the range of identities that it affects,” Ms James said. 

“To the media, this issue seems to be considered as one that only affects women and girls. 

“Drawing upon the experiences of our diverse team and the data collected from the INAC report, this is not the case.” 

Ms Saravanan said representing diverse experiences of street harassment is the only way effective solutions can be generated. 

“We cannot solve this problem unless we have built solidarity among the communities, she said.

Yesterday INAC held a virtual open mic event that invited a range of performers to discuss themes of power, intersectionality, community, and respect. 

The open mic event took place online amongst a community of street justice advocates exercising solidarity and community. PHOTO: Instragam @itsnotacomplimentmelb

Through a myriad of art forms, including song and poetry, performers had the opportunity to explore the meaning of public spaces and street harassment. 

The event highlighted the capacity for topics of injustice to be explored in a meaningful way and invited members of the public to dynamically address street harassment. 

“Most of our work comes from people opening their hearts and trusting us with their stories,” Ms Saravanan said. 

“We want people who don’t often fit the mould of societal expectations to come out and tell us their stories.” 

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Tia Haralabakos

Tia Haralabakos is a Media Communications student at Monash University specialising in Journalism and human rights. She is interested in the multi-faceted landscape of digital media, particularly addressing challenges to online reporting like diversity and content moderation. Tia’s journalistic interests include human rights and social affairs.

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