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Meet Zoya

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hey! My name is Zoya and I’m a student at the University of Florida. I’m a biology major with the hopes of one day becoming a doctor. I love photography, reading, and playing volleyball.

Why were you inspired to start an account?

I joined Catcalls at the beginning of December. I was inspired to join when I found the Chalkback Insta page, and really admired the significant impact such a simple act like chalking can have.

Why do you think “chalking back” is a good method to raise awareness?

I think chalking back is an incredible way to increase awareness of street sexual harassment because so many people will see our message. Chalking back calls out people who participate in or choose to turn a blind eye to catcalling, and serves as a direct challenge to harassment, as well as ignorance and inaction.

Why do you think ending street harassment is important?

Ending street harassment is important because it has become normalized due to its common occurrence. Harassers aren’t as scared of the repercussions of their actions as they ought to be in an ideal world. There are people don’t see catcalling as sexual harassment, which contributes to harassers thinking that what they’re doing is harmless.

What’s your favorite thing about your city?

My favorite thing about Gainesville is definitely the food scene. I’m a foodie and am always pleasantly surprised at how awesome so many of the restaurants are here.

How can your city better address street harassment?

I think an effective way Gainesville and many other college towns can better address street harassment is by supporting initiatives to mobilize bystanders and witnesses to street harassment. We should help witnesses learn how to gauge the situation and effectively shut down the harasser. People will begin to realize that catcalls are threatening and are not something that should be allowed to go unpunished.

What do you hope is the outcome of your account?

I hope that Catcalls of Gainesville is able to raise awareness about the severity of catcalling, as well as empower people who have been harassed. I hope we can help them gain closure and some form of justice as well.

What’s the most difficult street harassment situation you’ve experienced?

The most difficult street harassment situation I experienced was on campus. Me and two other friends were walking back to our dorms around 9pm. We were waiting to cross the street when these boys in a pickup truck stopped next to us at the traffic light. They kept aggressively yelling vulgar things at me along the lines of “Damn you are so sexy” and screaming their snapchat usernames. When I ignored them, they threatened one of my friends. “Is that your boyfriend? If he is, we’re going to kill him.” Looking back, I wish I had said something but I was scared that they would get out of their truck- especially after making a death threat. If something happened, there was nobody else around to help us.

What does being a part of this campaign mean to you?

What I love about this campaign is that whether we’re chalking out anonymous DM submissions or mental and sexual health resources, this movement lets me reach out to somebody and let them know there are people out there who care and understand their story.


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