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Stop Sexual Street Harassment in Austin

This petition had 471 supporters

"Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault, and rape.

Of course, people are also harassed because of factors like their race, nationality, religion, disability, or class. Some people are harassed for multiple reasons within a single harassment incident. Harassment is about power and control and it is often a manifestation of societal discrimination like sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, classism, ableism and racism. No form of harassment is ever okay; everyone should be treated with respect, dignity, and empathy."

Holly Kearl, Founder - Stop Street Harassment

I am an avid runner in Austin, Texas and no longer feel that I can safely leave my home, even in broad daylight because of the constant sexual street harassment I encounter. As an active member of the running community, I know that my experience is not isolated. I am asking for your support in making sexual street harassment a crime in Austin through legislation drafted by the Austin City Council.

I have personally had several encounters with sexual street harassment, some including unwanted touching, being followed, and threatened. Many of you who have signed the petition shared with me the other frightening experiences you have had.  Although the majority of harassment I tend to encounter is while running and there is a large community of runners in Austin, this is not an issue exclusive to athletes.  Many are harassed while walking down the street or just simply going about their daily tasks.  It's not always women who are the victims, but also ethnic groups and members of the LGBT community.            

As a homeowner, business owner, and taxpayer in the City of Austin, I refuse to accept this behavior any longer. My tax dollars pay to maintain the streets in this city and I deserve to use them without being sexually objectified or reduced to my biology. I deserve to be protected by the police force when I feel that I am in danger of sexual assault. In 2015 when the confederate flag in down and same-sex marriage is legal nation-wide, it is asinine that a progressive city like Austin, Texas still allows women to be treated like objects of sexual entertainment in their own communities. It is not complimentary and claiming that it is, is excusing and reinforcing the behavior. “Boys will be boys” is not a suitable excuse.

I am proposing a few reasonable options to the City Council that I feel will begin to decrease the occurrence of street harassment incidences in Austin:

Street harassment should be made an offense worthy of a ticket or fine. If the harasser has a criminal history of sexual abuse or assault, it should be worthy of arrest. Most people carry a smartphone with them and can easily access their camera to record and report incidents. I understand this may be incredibly difficult to enforce, but it's at least a place to start. Of course, not all instances can or will be captured on camera, but the idea that there are consequences to these actions may lessen their occurance. The revenue collected from these fines will help to increase the city budget and fund programs to help our community in positive ways.

Businesses in Austin whose employees are caught harassing citizens on the street should be fined and forced to go through a city mandated sexual harassment training course at an additional cost. As a business owner myself, I know that nothing speaks louder than dollars and cents. Firing an employee who is caught harassing will not help the issue. They will just find another position and continue their behavior.

Austin City Police Officers need to be more educated on the subject of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I understand the dictionary defines sexual harassment as one-on-one, unwanted sexual advances in the traditional workplace setting. However, the unwanted sexual comments coming from motorists and other individuals on the street are very real and very dangerous even though they do not fall under this specific definition.

I hope you will sign the petition and share your own personal experiences with street harassment in Austin with the City Council. If you have any ideas about how to make this situation better, please make them heard. It is time to work together to stop this criminal sexual harassment and make our streets safe for all people to use. 

*If you disagree, you also have every right to make your opinions known to the City Council.  Voicing negative opinions on this forum will not help. 

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