Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Alessia, I am 19 years old and I am a student. I live in Rome, which is a really big city and so catcalling was always a part of my life, since when I started going out at 12 years old. I could never stand it but it was so normalized that I thought I was in the wrong for having such a problem.
When did you start your account?
Why were you inspired to start an account?
I started my account a little more over two months ago, on the 23rd of March. It took me a long time to realize that I could be capable of chalking, if I really wanted to. At the beginning I did not want to start an account: I was scared. I wanted someone else in Rome to take this responsibility, and so I was checking Instagram everyday hoping to find a page for my city. I had a lot of stories and I could not keep them to myself anymore, as they were hurting me so much. Everyone around me had at least one story of verbal abuse and it was appalling to know I couldn’t do anything for them. When I got catcalled again I finally realized I could’ve been the change that I wanted to see. I created a page not to speak up for other victims, but to help them raise their own voice and overcome their fear of being silenced.
Why do you think “chalking back” is a good method to raise awareness?
Because “chalking back” means going out and stop in a crowded place to kneel down and write. Because it forces people that would otherwise not care for these problems to acknowledge them and to reconsider their own opinion on the issue. This way of protesting is peaceful and has a great impact because it brings new attention to the topic while giving back to victims their voice.
Why do you think ending street harassment is important?
Because it’s harassment. Because it makes people feel objectified and used, as if they were created for the pleasure of others. It needs to end for the well-being of everyone and in order to create a new generation of young women and men that won’t be scared of going out. Catcalling is just another way for somebody to assert themselves on someone they believe to be weaker: it’s not a compliment, it’s a demonstration of power.
What’s your favorite thing about your city?
The people. There is always someone ready to help here in Rome. That’s why I have faith in their kindness: the vast majority of people don’t know what street harassment is and need to be educated on the topic, in order to be able to stop harassment and to help the victims when they see it happening. Of course not everybody will agree on this movement, but if enough people start considering catcalling as abuse, the ones who don’t will have to at least have the decency to leave others alone.
How can your city better address street harassment?
I think most of all we need education. Young boys and girls need to learn mutual respect and this could surely be achieved by teachers in schools. Talking about street harassment and harassment in general is the first step to recognize it for what it is and stop it.
What do you hope is the outcome of your account?
I created this account really hoping to delete it soon. Not because I don’t like chalking and helping victims, but because that would mean there’s no need for such a movement anymore.
What’s the most difficult street harassment situation you’ve experienced?
It wasn’t really the worst street harassment situation I had ever experienced, but it’s the one that finally conviced me to start chalking, because it hurt me that bad. I was walking to my car in broad daylight and six men surrounded me, telling me to go with them and trying to force me into dark doorway.
I ran to my car, drove away and cried the whole day.
What does being a part of this campaign mean to you?
To me it means that I’m actively doing something to improve the lives of those around me. I never thought about me as someone that would have been able to take action and help others, but thanks to Sophie and all the strong people in this movement I finally realized I could be whoever I wanted to be.
Being part of Chalk Back means being able to raise your voice and that of others and always feeling supported and in place.