This piece talks about sexual assault and harassment. If you need someone to talk to, contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or via live chat on their website.
I’ve always been passionate about social justice and advocating change in the community. Like many women, and also people in the trans and non-binary spaces, I’ve had personal experiences with gender-based violence and sexual harassment, which has led me to wanting to make real change.
It’s why I started She’s a Crowd, an anonymous story-telling platform where anyone can share their experiences of sexual assault, harassment, gender violence, or everyday sexism. We make sure your story gets to the people who need to hear it: those who design our cities, policymakers and others in decision-making positions.
How the site works
It’s up to the user how much they want to share – every field on the website is optional, but users can share qualitatively what happened in their own words. If a woman is verbally harassed while she’s holding her girlfriend’s hand, she can tell us she experienced a combination of sexism and homophobia, or racism and transphobia. We allow people to make that assessment of why they’ve experienced this abuse for themselves, if they can. Often it’s not as simple as ‘only’ sexism.
She’s a Crowd removes the barrier to reporting that so many women and non-binary people face; in Australia, it’s estimated that only 15% of sexual assaults are reported. The site allows us to collect data in a way that’s safe and empowering for the user, analyse it, and then provide insights to decision makers in government – this is a really powerful way to create change. We’re able to gather information from people who have experienced a vast number of different types of gender inequalities, from assaults to catcalling, and map where they’re occurring; that sort of data isn’t being collected by anyone else.
Soon the site will have a dashboard that will allow people in government to access live insights; they’ll be able to see what’s occurred in the area they’re working in, and access high-level statistics about what people are experiencing.
Sharing your story, whether it happened last week or last year, can be an important step in processing your experience, or finding closure. Stories shared on She’s a Crowd will help us compile important data on gendered violence that, we hope, will lead to a safer society.
A constant sense of vigilance
Women, trans and non-binary people experience gender-based violence and inequality in ways that many men probably wouldn’t even notice. One of the biggest, particularly for trans and non-binary people, is always being aware of who’s around them and who might be walking behind them, especially after dark. More than one in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault; these numbers are even higher for trans women and trans people of colour.
We’re constantly thinking up ways to stay safe and protect ourselves – wearing headphones with no music so you can hear what’s going on around you, carrying your keys, sharing your location with a friend or partner… It’s a huge piece of mental labour to take on, constantly assessing and managing risk.
Cities weren’t designed with women in mind – women were always meant to stay at home and look after the children. Now we’re expected to use the city in a very similar way to men, but our experiences are so different. How we navigate the city and the challenges we face are completely different, and not that well understood. Almost all of the street names and building names are named after men. The only statue of a woman in Melbourne CBD is the Queen, and she’s not even Australian.
There are also a number of ways men can be better allies and help make our cities safer, and women feel more comfortable in them. Simple things like crossing the road if you’re walking towards or behind a woman, particularly at night, and being aware of how much physical space you take up on public transport, at work, or in cafes and restaurants.
One of the best things men can do to help is to educate themselves on women’s experiences. Follow Instagram accounts like She’s a Crowd and Equality Institute. Read books and listen to podcasts made by women – these are a few of my favourites:
- Data Feminism by Catherine D'Ignazio and Lauren Klein
- Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
- Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed
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