Area organizations band together to curb street harassment in Iowa City

Members of the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, Rape Victim Advocacy Program and Women's Resource and Action Center will be on-hand for the training session.  -- photo by Alan Light
Members of the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, Rape Victim Advocacy Program and Women’s Resource and Action Center will be on-hand for the training session. — photo by Alan Light

Representatives from several Johnson County human service organizations invite those of all ages, genders and backgrounds to attend a free bystander intervention training session this Thursday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church (500 N Clinton St.) in Iowa City.

“The goal of the event will be to empower community members to respond to street harassment when it happens to them and actively intervene when they observe it happening to others,” said Stella Hart, event organizer and the Shelter Services Coordinator at the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP).

Street harassment ranges from yelling, catcalling, threats and physical contact. While this sort of behavior is problematic across the country, it is especially prevalent in college towns.

“Nearly every person I have met since I moved to Iowa City in 2012 has shared with me a story of public intimidation or street harassment. When a person or a group of people feel entitled to verbally, physically or sexually abuse you just because you are accessing public spaces, it erodes your sense of independence and self-worth,” said Hart, who says she was motivated to organize the event because of incidents involving friends, neighbors and colleagues.

The bystander intervention training will begin with opening remarks from DVIP Executive Director Kristie Doser, followed by training led by Susan Junis from the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) and Meagan Schorr from the UI’s Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC).

Through 12 specific and interactive scenarios, participants will learn how to identify potentially harmful precursors, apply appropriate intervention skills and techniques to prevent escalation, provide effective support to others and become more confident in these situations.

Hart noted that the “notoriously rowdy” crowds on football game days play a big part in Iowa City’s high rate of street harassment. In response, Hart and others are organizing a demonstration in downtown Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 22 (before the Iowa vs. Wisconsin home game, details TBA) to spread awareness and respond to incidents of street harassment using the skills learned in the bystander intervention training session.

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