Seventy to 90 percent of women will be subject to street harassment in their lifetimes.
That’s why Rape Victim Advocacy Program volunteers took to the Pentacrest on Thursday afternoon to bring attention to a form of sexual assault. Roughly 15 people participated in the demonstration.
Many people may think that street harassment isn’t a large issue, but chances are those people are not the ones subject to the harassment, said Haley Croney, a Rape Victim Advocacy Program volunteer.
“It’s important that people are aware that street harassment happens. It’s more important that they do something about it,” she said. “That’s how we can make a difference and get rid of this social stigma that is street harassment.”
Croney noted several ways to take action when someone witnesses street harassment.
“You can confront the harasser if you feel safe doing so or distract them to bring their attention away from the victim,” Croney said. “Stand up to your friends if they’re doing the harassing, but the No. 1 thing should be to make sure that the victim is OK.”
Susan Junis, the prevention education coordinator for RVAP, said college campuses nationwide are hotbeds for street harassment.
“It happens all of the time, especially on campus,” she said.
Organizers encouraged people to write on a Post-It note about a time they have been harassed and put it on a map of Iowa City at the event.
The Pentacrest and downtown contained the most Post-Its, but they are not the only places in Iowa City in which street harassment happens, Junis said.
“Street harassment is the last socially accepted form of sexual assault,” she said. “We’re out here today to raise awareness about that fact.”
The University of Iowa Student Government, though not a part of the demonstration, plans to raise awareness about sexual assault in the future, UISG President-elect Liz Mills said.
“RVAP is a phenomenal organization,” Mills said. “UISG has a lot planned to raise awareness about sexual assault, and I think that what RVAP is doing this month is definitely going to as well.”
RVAP’s presence on the Pentacrest was a positive one, said David Ambrisco, the human resources director for the UI Information Technology Services, who walked by and spoke to volunteers at the demonstration.
“As you can probably guess, I’ve never experienced street harassment,” Ambrisco said jokingly. “It’s something that needs to be addressed, though, and I think its really great what RVAP is out here doing today.”
Thursday’s event was not just to raise awareness about street harassment but also to provide strategies to confront it, Junis said.
“Street harassment is not OK. It is unwanted sexual contact,” Junis said. “People need to speak up and intervene if they see this happening because when people are silent, those doing the harassing think there is nothing wrong with it.”