Project aims to give voice to small injustices

Street harassment and cat calls from cars now have a place to be reported other than to the police department. University of Minnesota students and community members involved with Twin Cites Avengers , a tolerance group, launched the UnBash TC Map project in September with the goal of giving citizens a place to document street harassment that happens every day in the city, continuing education student Megan Lipke said. An idea stemming from an incident of street harassment she experienced herself, Lipke said the website is intended to be a place where people can report situations that made them feel uncomfortable, but arenâÄôt something that would necessarily be reported to the police. âÄúThe site is a map that is an open resource for people to share their experiences in the Twin Cities from anything from gender injustices to queer bashing,âÄù she said. Powered by Google maps, the website lists the location and incident that occurred there. Reports of harassment are e-mailed to the Twin Cities Avengers, who then post them online. âÄúAll we do is complain about this kind of stuff,âÄù Lipke said. âÄúWe figured if we could bring all of the experiences into one central location it could be a resource for the entire community.âÄù But Harriett Haynes , a senior psychologist at University Counseling and Consulting Services , said although giving a voice to an incident can make a person feel empowered, it does little to help deal with the larger issue. âÄúThe person who sends out [the comment] might feel momentary relief, but the powerful impact isnâÄôt as great if it is all negative,âÄù Haynes said. Venting frustration is one of the main purposes of the map, Lipke said. She said she thinks people often yell comments out of cars or make comments to people because they believe there is no consequence, whereas the map project gives people a place to post a license plate number or cell phone photo of the perpetrator, taking away the anonymity. Rebecca Listermann , a former continuing education student and a member of the Twin City Avengers, said the idea is similar to a New York City based website called Holla Back New York intended to expose street harassment. âÄúItâÄôs important because a lot of times people have incidences of street harassment that arenâÄôt the sorts of things you are going to report to police,âÄù she said, âÄúbut itâÄôs important to give voice to experiences that have happened in the public sphere.âÄù Haynes said she thinks the website may be more effective if it offers victims suggestions on how to deal with future situations or counters the negative incidences with reports of kindness in the same areas. âÄúThe whole idea of the website is to empower people,âÄù she said. âÄúI like the idea of empowerment, but IâÄôd also like to find out a way to address something that bothered me.âÄù The site receives a new post only about once a week, but Lipke said she attributes that to lack of awareness in the community that the website exists. However, she said she hopes eventually the website will be irrelevant because incidents are no longer reported. Haynes said although it may be idealistic, she too, hopes eventually there will be no need for a website like this. âÄúHopefully the day will come when we donâÄôt feel like thereâÄôs so many of these things happening that we want to map them out,âÄù she said.