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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 13, 2010

Author to address stopping street harassment at UI lecture Oct. 21

Somewhere in the world, every second, a woman experiences gender-based street harassment.

To address this issue, Holly Kearl (photo, left), author and national street harassment expert, will visit the University of Iowa campus to deliver a lecture titled “Stop Street Harassment” at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, in Room 100 of Phillips Hall.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the UI Women’s Resource and Action Center, the UI Men’s Anti-Violence Council, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance.

Kearl is the author of “Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women.” During her lecture, she will help educate the audience about the definition of street harassment and share how it affects everyone in the community -- not just women.

“Gender-based street harassment isn’t defined in a dictionary, but it’s essentially sexually charged behavior demonstrated by actions or comments making women feel intimidated, sexualized and disrespected,” Kearl said. “It affects everyone, even men indirectly because women are less likely to trust men they encounter in public.”

Also known as public sexual harassment, Kearl said more people need to understand the issue and be empowered about ways to stop it.

Iowa City became one of Kearl’s stops on her national speaking tour thanks to Hannah Kane (photo, right), a UI student who follows Kearl's posts on Twitter. After discovering Kearl’s street harassment work on Twitter, Kane decided to start keeping a record of instances when she experienced street harassment.

Data in hand, Kane used Goggle maps to pinpoint the locations in Iowa City where she experienced harassment. Along with the markings, she provided brief descriptors of the time of day, what clothing she wore and descriptions of the male harassers.

Kane’s initiative caught Kearl’s eye, and after receiving Kane’s permission, Kearl featured this information on her blog.

The two remained in touch and eventually Kane asked if Kearl would share her street harassment insights with the Iowa City community. Kearl agreed and the event’s creation transpired with the help of Jerrod Koon (photo, left), Men's Anti-Violence Council coordinator at the Women's Resource and Action Center and a graduate student in counseling psychology in the College of Education.

“After she contacted me informing me that an event had been lined up for her to come speak to the UI community, I was pretty excited,” said Kane, a senior cinema major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from Manchester, Iowa. “Unfortunately, so many people think this harassment is almost a fact of life. Kearl’s words will help spread the important idea that this is not okay.”

With news outlets and organizations such as CNN, ABC News and the United Nations seeking Kearl’s expertise, there is growing awareness of the existence of street harassment.

Kearl said street harassment takes many forms including rude comments towards women, touching, groping, fondling and even instances of exposure.

“This is a large problem occurring in the community streets,” Kearl said. “These occurrences can make women feel smaller on the social sphere. Hopefully my lecture here in Iowa City as well as other locations around the nation will continue to raise awareness.”

Kane, as well as several other UI students, will speak as part of a panel prior to Kearl’s lecture, sharing their experiences of street harassment.

“I’m talking about my personal experiences with street harassment in Iowa City because it may hit home more,” Kane said. “Hearing about street harassment occurring in College Green Park, on Gilbert Street and in the pedestrian mall will be a lot more personal for people.”

Koon said he helped organize this event because there is a lack of knowledge in the local community about the problem.

“We’ve spent a lot of time raising awareness about domestic violence, sexual harassment and stalking, but street harassment is rarely discussed,” Koon said. “I think this lecture will provide valuable steps in informing the public of this problem -- hopefully leading to prevention in the future.”

For more information or special accommodations to attend this lecture, call Koon at 319-335-1486.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jerrod Koon, Men's Anti-Violence Council, 319-335-1486,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,; Writer, Travis Varner