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New Mobile App “Not Your Baby” Calls Out Sexual Harassment

Users share experiences and responses to harassment at work, school, and in the streets.

Protestors at the recent anti-violence rally at Christie Pits.

As Torontonians continue to speak out against widely reported sexual assaults in public places, a local charity has created a mobile app designed to support and empower people targeted by sexual harassment. On Monday, the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) released “Not Your Baby,” a free iPhone app that allows users to discuss and share instances of sexual harassment, as well as possible interventions and responses to unwanted sexual attention.

METRAC communications director Andrea Gunraj told us that the application’s bold title was inspired by responses from over 200 survey participants, whose feedback informed the app’s initial content. “A lot of people said they had a hard time thinking of responses [to harassment] in the moment,” said Gunraj. The app allows users to input details about a situation of harassment, including the place it occurs and the identity of the aggressor. It then generates a list of possible remedies, many of them informed by real experiences from those survey respondents (the survey was conducted by METRAC and other local advocacy groups). New subscribers can also add and share their own experiences and solutions with fellow users.

“When people are harassed,” Gunraj told us, “it’s not just a one-time thing, especially if it’s happening at work or at school.” She hopes that periodic use of the app, which METRAC has developed over the past two years, will initiate conversations about sexual harassment “before they happen, but also during and after they happen.” The app also includes legal definitions of sexual harassment and community resources users can access for more support. METRAC says the initiative is meant to reach “women, young women, LGBTTIQQ2S, and other groups most at risk of sexual and gender-based harassment.”

Stephanie Guthrie, who is organizing this Saturday’s Take Back The Block parties in response to recent sexual assaults, applauds METRAC for creating an online resource to address harassment. “That’s where so much of our social interaction is shifting now,” Guthrie says. She pointed out that, in addition to addressing situations involving strangers, “a lot of the sources of harassment are friends of friends, people who know you through somebody, but don’t know you very well.” (The app’s initial features, however, do not list friends or acquaintances as possible perpetrators of harassment.)

Guthrie herself called the police after being anonymously harassed and threatened on Twitter in July for speaking out against misogyny online. She noted that while police are becoming more savvy about online provocation, investigators and lawmakers “are still ill-equipped to deal with harassment that happens online.”

Police media relations officer Constable Wendy Drummond, who spoke with us by phone, says that online tools are useful in spreading discussions about harassment and other crimes. “The qualifiers for a criminal charge stay the same, regardless of how the offense is committed,” Drummond said. She added that the Toronto police’s increased presence online, particularly using social media, represents “a shift in the way we do policing,” and is allowing the force to “communicate and talk with people we wouldn’t normally reach.”

Gunraj described the app as “another tool that people can use to feel empowered,” rather than a cure-all for sexual harassment. She pointed to work by groups including the White Ribbon Campaign, for encouraging men, who are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual harassment, to talk about the behaviour and its impact. She sees a need for more resources for men, including those “who want to diffuse harassment, who want to say something and don’t know how.”

According to Gunraj, it’s up to communities to initiate the uncomfortable social conversations that can lead to reflection and change. She noted that “the biggest barrier is speaking about it and seeing it as a problem. Too often we accept harassment as a fact of life.”

Comments

  • Pk

    Collecting a database of alleged harasser’s identities? Sounds like a dangerous precedent. While this app seems to be an empowering tool, it remind me of the ‘bad boyfriend’ websites.

    • Anonymous

      Calling someone a “bad boyfriend” is one thing, but these users risk defamation suits if they can’t prove someone so-named sexually harassed them.

      • Pk

        agreed. Posting an alleged offender’s name on an App isn’t a wise strategy.

        • Anonymous

          Guessing you are both men..?

          • Anonymous

            Is that relevant somehow?

          • spinflux

            It is for me. I happen to not care at all what men think about how I conduct myself when it comes to my safety.

          • Anonymous

            So you’re a sexist.

          • spinflux

            Nope. It’s simply not efficient to have input from men since this is not their area of expertise. I wouldn’t learn how to fight fires from a cake decorator.

            I listen to those wiser and more experienced. Men have fewer experiences with being sexually harassed by strange men. Women of all kinds including trans women have more skill handling it due to their long histories of dealing with inappropriate sexual intrusions. From what I’ve seen, a lot of us have been getting street harassment since we were old enough to go anywhere alone. I do not care a bit to take advice given from the male-centric perspective because my perspective is female-centric. It’s not sexist to acknowledge that I need to learn skills from the people whose experiences most authentically reflect my own. Those people are women, not men.

            Put in simpler terms: The prey wishing to survive does not turn to its predator for advice.

          • Anonymous

            are you a separatist?

          • Anonymous

            No, you’re a sexist. You’ve dismissed something based on the gender of the person saying it. You disagree with what was said – which is fine – but you used our gender as the reason, rather than finding fault in the claim (which had, in case you missed it, nothing to do with self-defence or protection).

            If you’d asked if we were black, nobody would hesitate to identify you as a racist.

            And now you’ve declared all men “predators” who prey on women.

          • spinflux

            Nope. Wrong again. I never said all men were predators. I have a boyfriend, I like my male friends, I am a fangirl of many inspirational men.

            If men whine about me being wary of them when I am walking down the street, I would dismiss that based on their gender for the reasons I explained above. Their opinions simply do not matter when it comes to the difference between coddling their feelings or keeping myself on the ball so I get home safe.

            Gender and race in this case are not analogous. See: http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist/2012/01/16/shuffling-feet-a-black-mans-view-on-schroedingers-rapist/

          • Anonymous

            Actually you did say that all men prey on women. That’s your rationale for rejecting the advice of men on this matter.

            Re: the link and the pitiful excuses therein – I’m a 6’3″ bearded (white) man usually in a hoodie or leather jacket, so I also get the are-you-a-rapist? glances and sidewalk dodging from solo women. The assumption is offensive and I won’t apologize for my size or change anything else to accommodate your irrational self-declared-victim-in-waiting privilege.

          • spinflux

            Yeah, men say women are in perpetual victimhood a lot don’t they? Weird how they go batshit over far siller things than women do. Rebuking a man is practically a crime against humanity.

            I didn’t ask to be accommodated, thanks. I’m aware of the reality that men have little to no consideration for any woman, be they strangers or lovers. I also don’t sideways dodge. It’s a big sidewalk, and I feel little for the dudebros who don’t expect that I protect my personal space.

            Have a day, I am done with you. :)

          • Anonymous

            By virtue of your your link above, you did say I – and all men – should accommodate your assumptions about being a potential rapist. Black men doubly so. You think you should get a pass for sexist behaviour, and men should walk on egg shells and apologize for their gender, size, et cetera.

            Have fun being “done”.

          • Spinflux’s Dad

            “Men have no consideration for any woman, be they strangers or lovers”??

            Wear your victimhood badge with pride, kiddo.

          • spinflux

            You too, tyke.

          • Spinflux’s Dad

            annnd she’s back for more.

          • Pk

            *yawn*

      • Eric S. Smith

        It’s not like this app presents novel risks. There are already plenty
        of ways to make defamatory allegations about people on the
        Internet, and a harasser determined to make someone miserable with a
        lawsuit can cause plenty of trouble with a completely baseless small
        claims action.

        Maybe there’s a way to pseudononymize the harassers so that users can compare notes without attracting the attention of the people who’re already giving them trouble? Obviously, the users can be pseudononymous as well.

        • Anonymous

          If the app is promoted or described in terms of being a safe place to share the names of (alleged) sexual harassers, it may be leading users into a false sense of security.

  • ExcuseMe_amIyourBaby?

    @PK @tyrannosaurus_rek:disqus @Eric_S_Smith:disqus : Yes, gone are the days where you could happily nudge your privates against someone in a packed subway or hurl a “nice ass, I’d tap that” at a passerby while cowardly speeding off in your truck! Women will stop you now, ask for you name in the midst of your act and you’ll happily give your real name so that it can be saved on an apple app. What a calamity for you all!

    • Anonymous

      Did you just call me a sexual harasser?

      • Guest

        Don’t like your gender being generalized or boiled down to stereotypes, do we?

        • Anonymous

          No, I don’t. Odd that you’d think it’s appropriate to do it to men, but inappropriate for men to do it to women.

          (I also don’t appreciate my sexuality being assumed based on my gender.)

      • Eric S. Smith

        The intent of that message is kind of obscured by the clouds of scorn surrounding it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1805083303 Natália Viana

    :)