Sex-Harassment App Helps Victims Voice Their Disgust
"Not Your Baby" generates comebacks for catcalls
Being sexually harassed? There's an app for that.
Because catcalling can more often than not be categorized as creepy instead of complimentary, a new iPhone-friendly app, "Not Your Baby," suggests quick comebacks for victims of sexual harassment who may find themselves at a loss for words while facing their tormenters. The user first selects who is doing the harassing—family member, stranger, co-worker?—then the scenario in which it occurs—street, school, subway?—and then the app recommends a response: "Would you speak to your sister that way?"
Developed by the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children, a Toronto-based nonprofit, the mobile app's creation was inspired by feedback from more than 200 participants of a survey conducted by METRAC and other local advocacy groups.
"A lot of people said they had a hard time thinking of responses [to harassment] in the moment,” METRAC communications director Andrea Gunraj told the Torontoist.
And studies show sexual harassment is a big problem. A 2008 survey by the nonprofit Stop Street Harassment found that 95 percent of 811 female respondents said they had been the target of excessive staring; more than 80 percent said they had been subjected to a vulgar gesture or sexually explicit comment; 75 percent said they had been followed by a stranger; and 57 percent reported being touched or grabbed in a sexual manner by a stranger in public.
The "Not Your Baby" app may help women regain control in situations of unwanted circumstance and attention, said Tracy Cox, communications director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
"It can be very empowering for some women to reclaim that space and say, 'Hold on, this is not okay and he cannot talk to me that way,'" Cox said. "Women often think, 'Oh, I wish I would've said this at the time,' so this is a very smart, user-friendly tool that provides them with legitimate scenarios and possible responses."
Some experts said women would be better served by putting distance between themselves and any harassers, rather than prolonging unsavory encounters with snappy comebacks.
"I wouldn't advise women engage in conversation with their harasser," said Tina B. Tessina, an author and psychotherapist who specializes in self-help and relationship issues. "Give him an 'adult time-out'—retreat to politeness and a strictly necessary conversation. And do not respond to the harassment. The best way to let a man know his remarks are inappropriate is to be silent and go on about your business."
But the makers of "Not Your Baby" said the app is an empowering tool for women and they hope it is used as often as necessary.
"When people are harassed, it’s not just a one-time thing—especially if it’s happening at work or at school,” Gunraj said.
The app generates quick quips and rapid retorts for users after they submit the type and location of the harassment they are experiencing. In addition, the app provides users with facts on sexual harassment, legal definitions, personal stories and solutions provided by fellow users, as well as information on nearby community resources and organizations, and how people can support someone they know who is dealing with harassment.
While she appreciates the app, Cox said she hopes that sexual-harassment awareness moves beyond the world of mobile apps.
"It's really important to engage bystanders in preventing sexual violence," she said. "It's a very effective approach because if you're on a bus and don't feel comfortable engaging your harasser, there are other people witnessing the exchange that may think 'I need to do the right thing' and speak up. We always put the responsibility on the victim to do or say something, but everybody plays a role in preventing sexual violence. If this stuff never existed, we wouldn't need apps to address it."