Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Brenda, I live in Harderwijk in the Netherlands. I’m 29 years old and I’m a mom of a 5 year old daughter.
When did you start your account?
I started my accounts (@catcallsofharderwijk and @catcallsofermelo) in May 2021.
Why were you inspired to start an account?
Even in a small city like Harderwijk or a little town like Ermelo catcalling is something what happens everyday. I always wanted to do something about it, to make a change and I think starting this account is a good start to make more people aware about the catcalling in our city.
Why do you think “chalking back” is a good method to raise awareness?
When you’re getting catcalled or harassed on the street, you can tell 100 people your story, but still nothing happens. When people walk on the street and see our messages and when they can read themselves what a person experienced, it leaves a mark. They’ll remember it forever when they walk on the location of the chalk, even when the chalk itself isn’t there anymore.
Why do you think ending street harassment is important?
I think it’s really messed up what we teach our kids in our city. We tell them from a young age to always be careful, don’t walk alone, make a fake phone call, hold your keys in your hand, text me when you’re leaving and text me when you’re home, if someone is following you look for someone you know or pretend you know someone, etc. When I’m walking home alone at night I’m scared, tensed, I don’t feel safe, I always keep in mind that this could be the night that I won’t arrive home safely.
If I have that feeling, more people have that feeling. We shouldn’t be scared to be outside, people should be more aware of the fact that they’re making us feel unsafe, it’s not a compliment to creep someone out because of how they look, what gender they have or for just being in the wrong place on the wrong time. This should’ve ended a long time ago already.
What’s your favorite thing about your city?
Harderwijk is a beautiful city, we have a lot of nature and water. It’s a city with young people and with people from many different cultures.
How can your city better address street harassment?
Acknowledge that it’s still happening would be a good start. Ignorance is dangerous.
What do you hope is the outcome of your account?
If I could give one person a better feeling, because he or she will see that they’re not alone in this, I’m more than happy. I want our city to pay more attention for street harassment, we need to talk about it, we should stop victim blaming and start the change by ourselves. I hope I can make people more aware, keep the conversation going about harassment and I hope that people will step up.
What’s the most difficult street harassment situation you’ve experienced?
I’ve never told this out loud, part of me because I was ashamed but the biggest thing for me was that it was so normalised, it happens to everybody, it’s really messed up how we are already raised in fear. But here we go; one time, after I went out in the city, I was walking home alone at night. I took the main road, because I was always taught to do that at night, especially when I was walking alone. When I walked down the road towards a corner I heard a lot of voices, a group of men and women were standing there, listening to music. They were very loud, so I already got my phone out of my pocket and pretended I was calling with someone. One of the man yelled at me “nice boobs”, I ignored it but he didn’t leave me alone. He got of his bike and walked next to me, yelling at his friends that they also should take a look at my boobs. In a few seconds I was surrounded by 6 men, who didn’t let me walk, they closed me in. I was really scared and did not know what to do. After a few minutes of explaining what they wanted to do with me, two guys grabbed my arms and pulled me closer. In that moment a car was driving by and I yelled for help, the moment the car stopped they were all gone in seconds. I don’t want to think about what could’ve happened if the car didn’t drive by in that exact moment.
What does being a part of this campaign mean to you?
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” - Ghandi
If no one steps up, if no one starts with sharing experiences, sharing story’s than there will be no change. I’m really glad that I joined this campaign, being part of a change this big, to be in a community with so many people who want the same and are fighting for it, it’s amazing and special to be part of this. So many people are united, we all have the same big picture set as goal, we empower each other, it shows how strong we all are to speak up, I’m really proud of all the people who are a part of this campaign and I couldn’t be more happy about the fact that I can be part of this.