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Turning the Table on Video Game Rapists?

August 4, 2010

Violence against women in video games is a sadly popular trend, the most repulsive example being the Japanese “game” Rape Lay, in which the player can simulate groping, then raping schoolgirls until they’re in so much pain they weep, “I want to die.” Once the girl has been completely degraded and violated, you can choose to snap a trophy pic or keep virtually raping her until she shuts up.

Rape Lay is the most grotesque example, but even mainstream games like Grand Theft Auto feature characters who have sex with, then brutally rob and murder, sex workers. Charming. Who wouldn’t want Santa to slip that under their nephew’s Christmas tree?

So in a way, Hey Baby, a new video game where the main character is a woman gunning down the men who pop up and harass her on the street, seems like fair play. Anyone who’s ever had her ass grabbed or “nice titties” whispered in her ear during her morning commute or walk to the store, has fantasized about—if not murdering—certainly smacking her tormentor upside the head.

Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of such unwanted attentions will attest that not only is the initial fear, disgust and revulsion extremely visceral, but that the resulting effects—jumpiness, mistrust, and anxiety—stick around long after the incident. In fact, Project Envision’s research showed that verbal street harassment was cited by Williamsburg Brooklyn residents as the #1 form of sexual violence they encounter.

While most of us don’t believe in an eye for an eye (or an eye for a “hey baby, let’s fuck”), the game is an interesting social experiment—but only if the right people watch it. In reviewing the game for the New York Times, Seth Schiesel writes, “I doubt any noninteractive art form could have given me as visceral an appreciation for what many women go through as part of their day-to-day lives. Just as I have never been sexually harassed, I have never accosted a strange woman on the street. After playing Hey Baby, I’m certainly not about to start.”

-Guest Contributor Judy


Rape Culture Excuses Itself

June 28, 2010

In Saturday’s International Herald Tribune, Lisa Shannon has a great piece on why excusing mass rape in Congo as part of “their culture” is ridiculous and dangerous. It is hard article to read, for me because I do not like feeling complicit in another person’s suffering, and that is what my culture is doing to another culture.

I believe in looking inward when I look outward. Meaning, when I look at the problems of another country, I challenge myself to examine my own. Notice the log in your own eye if you want to discuss the sawdust in another’s.*

How do we dismiss sexual assault? In white America, one way is the teeth-grinding, rage-inducing excuse, “Boys will be boys.” Those four words have such power: they release the offender from being responsible for his actions, and they completely disempower and silence the abused girl or woman. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card and duct tape over the mouth in four words, one of which is used twice!

If a boy grabs my ass, “Boys will be boys.”
If a boy grabs my tits, “Boys will be boys.”
If a boy catcalls me, “Boys will be boys.”

Within the anti-sexual violence movement (and any discussion around healthy sexuality), the idea of consent is very central. Speaking from my experience growing up in the American South (specifically Texas), starting at consent is starting a few steps ahead of myself. I have been silenced; I have had my voice taken away; I have lost my ability to consent. The culture of dismissal of girls and women’s accusations of harassment sexual violence, whether my own or another person’s, are part of that silencing. I have had to take many years and many more to come to rediscover my voice and my consent. I know I am not alone.

On the other side of this phrase are the boys. Boys will not always be boys. Boys will be men. What kind of men are we creating when teach them that they are excused from the responsibility of their own actions? When we don’t take the time to talk to them or model for them what behaviors are “okay”? When we show them that women’s voices mean nothing?

We can do better. To change our human culture, we cannot be complicit. Sexual violence is inexcusable, from the playground to the warground. And we are all part of (re)creating our culture, one of respect, equality and joy.

* To help in the campaign against the atrocities committed against Congolese women, please donate to or get involved with Stop Rape in DRC at

Crossposted at creatingcarrie,

Prevention Does Not Equal Policing

June 2, 2010

Preventing and ending sexual violence is not about increasing safety. Safety, in terms of action steps, usually includes risk reduction (self-policing) and/or increased police involvement (societal policing). It is not that easy.

First, risk reduction as a panacea is merely preemptive victim blaming. It is born out of our rape culture (See this post from Melissa McEwan for more). It says, “If you follow steps a, b, c, d, e, f, … z raised to the 1,000,000th power, you should be fine. Pay no attention to the contradictions within the rules!” It is disempowering to everyone. Those of us categorized into the victim circle of the Venn Diagram are unable to follow all of the safety rules by design and are left to live in fear of attack and be blamed if an attack occurs. Those categorized into the attacker circle are denied their own empathy and humanity and seen as irrational, hormonal beings unable to control their animal drives and looking for instant gratification. What this means is that if you don’t have control over an attack, you must control your behavior. If do have control over an attack, you can’t control your behavior. Everyone loses. Self-policing as prevention does not work.

Second is increasing police involvement, which is a trickier subject for me to navigate, but I am going to stumble through this.

I started writing this post because of this article (I was going to write a totally different post, but this is the one that came out). The police force is part of the rape culture (as we all are). How can they be counted on as a safety/prevention strategy when they are enmeshed in the problem? The police are agents of the kyriarchy and not of the people. As a middle-class, white, cisgendered, passing woman with a cop for an uncle, I’ve been raised to seek out the authorities. As a gay woman, I learned to fear them. As someone working to prevent sexual violence in a racially mixed community, I do not count them as an asset because of their historic bigotry in how they do their jobs.

Yet, I don’t want to discount them. I think they could be assets if and when their racism is acknowledged followed by work to change. But even then they are not agents of prevention. What would a preventative police force beholden to community members look like? How would their job descriptions be different?

My first thought is that they wouldn’t have guns. Power would not equal force, and so those forceful displays of power would be gone. They would be community members, definitely. After that, I don’t know. What I can imagine are regular community meetings with the local police force. Moving accountability back into the neighborhood. A conversation where both sides discuss their concerns/grievances/issues/successes. Through these discussions, the police can become part of the goal of preventing and ending sexual violence and making the neighborhood a safe place for everyone to live.

Hollaback to end sexual violence

April 23, 2010

Street harassment is violent. It does not leave visual bruises; it leaves emotional ones, creates unsafe communities, and denigrates women. When I imagine what Williamsburg would look like without sexual violence, I feel instantly safer. I see sunshine and smiles. I see respectful, equal interactions between community members. I am not tense walking down the street; I am not waiting and preparing for the next comment to be thrown my way. I am not hesitant to be kind or helpful or grateful. Kindness is merely kindness; I do not wonder about anyone’s motivations. This world is the one in which I want to live.

Hollaback has been working on the grassroots level to end street harassment. Women and LGBTQ people send in their stories with pictures of the harassers. The personal is political, and these stories are powerful. Currently, they are fundraising to upgrade their work. They need to raise $12,500 by May 28th in order to fund the creation of an iPhone app. Hollabacking will then be possible through 3 portals: the site (which is being revamped), the app and the text form. From the campaign page:

The Hollaback! 2.0 platform transforms girls, women and LGBTQ individuals into open-source activists with the touch of a button. Participants can submit photos and experiences of harassment through three easy portals: a) the Hollaback! mobile app, b) a text form, and c) directly to the Hollaback! website, which will also be accessible to other smartphone users through their mobile browsers, and will link to our dynamic mapping system. We’ll track street harassment through data points to quantify and communicate its impact to legislators. The Hollaback! app creates a safe, action-oriented response to street harassment, and with powerful reporting features, it will finally put a face on everyday harassment and assault. By using data to establish the case against street harassment, Hollaback!’s social change efforts will ultimately result in significant improvements in policy and a reduction in crimes against girls, women and LGBTQ individuals.

So get over to Kickstarter, make a donation, and start hollabacking. The deadline is May 28th, and that date will arrive faster than you think. Together we can end sexual violence.

Donation page:

Envision Williamsburg’s McCarren Park Report Back Event was a Huge Success!

October 15, 2009

Thanks to everyone who came out to the event on Saturday, September 26 in McCarren Park. We had over 20 volunteers from the community, and hundreds of people stopped by to check out our research and fill out feedback surveys on the data we collected while doing research for the past year. The results of the research are attached to this post – just click on the link and it will take you to a site where you can download the whole report. Let us know if you have any questions or comments – we love feedback!

Our next steps are to examine the feedback data and begin programming to prevent sexual violence in Williamsburg, all while raising awareness about the group and recruiting new members. If you have any ideas for us, or want to get involved, please contact us. Thanks!

Project ENVISION Williamsburg Research Report

Community to Address Sexual Violence Prevention

September 2, 2009



For Immediate Release

Contact: Project Envision

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-Forty-eight percent of the residents surveyed had experienced sexual violence after the age of 15


September 1, 2009 (Brooklyn, NY) – On September 26th, 2009, from 11a.m.-3p.m., Project Envision Williamsburg will host an event at McCarren Park’s Field House in Brooklyn, NY to report back on a study conducted on sexual violence within the community and to gather more feedback regarding what the community would like to see addressed. 


Thus far, the Williamsburg group has conducted 13 focus groups and 119 street surveys to solicit information from residents regarding their thoughts and ideas about the root causes and main types of sexual violence in their neighborhood. Ultimately, Envision Williamsburg will move to develop and implement prevention programs administered by the community, based off feedback from the focus groups, surveys and resident’s ongoing response. 


Forty-eight percent of the residents surveyed had experienced sexual violence after the age of 15 and initial findings state that the majority of people surveyed thought that the first aspects of sexual violence that needed to be addressed were verbal harassment and alcohol/drug related sexual assault. Beyond providing a forum to report the details of these findings back to the community and to gather more information, the September 26th event will feature speakers, food, raffles and other forms of entertainment. 


Project Envision is the brainchild of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault and is a six-year, citywide program, working with 11 of NYC’s rape crisis programs, to prevent sexual violence. The goal of Project Envision is to change the social norms that promote and permit sexual violence in NYC so that we ultimately see a reduction in perpetration of sexual violence. Project Envision, in year three of six, is currently developing programs in Williamsburg Brooklyn, the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and the South Bronx. The success of  Envision hinges on bringing together various segments or sectors of each of the communities involved in the demonstration project. If you are interested in getting involved in any of these groups, please visit: 


Project Envision Williamsburg

Imagine a World Without Sexual Violence

September 26, 2009, 11a.m.-3p.m.

McCarren Park Field House Brooklyn NY, 11222

Take the L train to Bedford Ave. or the G train to Nassau


Tweet this!: Help prevent sexual violence! Free food, speakers, community feedback at McCarren Park, Brooklyn Sept 26!

September 26th! McCarren Park!

September 2, 2009