The League of Young Voters Education Fund


Location: Portland, ME

Project Team: Cara Courchesne, Laura Plotkin, Carlin Whitehouse, Paige Wojcukiewiez, and Meg Woods


Hollaback Portland, ME is a part of a movement dedicated to ending street harrassment in empowering ways. Street harrassment is a form of gender-based violence- it happens most often to women, girls and LGBTQI folks. If we live in a culture where street harassment is OK, other forms of gender-based violence are OK. Our goal is to work toward an environment where everyone can feel safe and confident in who he or she is in public places.







How are you making Maine a better place for young people?

Hollaback! Portland, Maine is part of a movement dedicated to ending street harassment using mobile technology. Street harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against. Comments from “You’d look good on me” to groping, flashing, and assault are a daily, global reality for women and LGBTQ individuals. But it is rarely reported, and it’s culturally accepted as ‘the price you pay’ for being a woman or LGBTQ.

We believe that everyone has a right to feel safe and confident without being objectified. Sexual harassment is a gateway crime that creates a cultural environment that makes gender-based violence okay. There exists a clear legal framework to reproach sexual harassment and abuse in the home and at work, but when it comes to the streets, it’s a different story. This gap isn’t because street harassment hurts any less, it’s because there hasn’t been a solution. Hollaback! is the solution. Mobile technology has given us an unprecedented opportunity to end street harassment—and with it, the opportunity to take on one of the final new frontiers for women’s rights around the world.

This works to make Maine a better place for young people because Hollaback! Portland, Maine is working to create a culture in Maine where street harassment is not acceptable. The more we work toward this goal, the safer streets are for everyone. Hollaback! is an organization where people of all ages – and especially young people – can be involved as much or as little as they want and significantly impact their community in positive ways.

What challenges in your community are you addressing?

We are addressing challenges linked to gender-based violence, engaging bystanders, and breaking the silence. Street harassment exists on a spectrum of gender-based violence; it creates a cultural environment that makes gender-based violence okay. The challenges are to engage bystanders and end silence around experiences of street harassment. We seek to engage bystanders so we work toward a culture where people speak up when they hear or see street harassment happening. There has never been a viable response to street harassment and the impact of street harassment has been essentially silencing to victims who experience it. With Hollaback! there is a response.

Who will benefit from your idea? How will people access and learn about the work you are doing?

As mentioned above, everyone benefits from the work of Hollaback! Studies have demonstrated that street harassment is pervasive[1] and we know that sexual harassment has negative emotional and societal impacts.[2] Street harassment is sexual harassment that occurs in public spaces. When we lessen the impacts of traumatic experiences on individuals and on communities, everyone benefits. People can access our work in multiple ways: we have a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and there are apps developed for iPhones and Android mobile devices. We are working to create non-technologically based spaces for people to interact with us so that people do not need to be technically savvy or access to certain technologies to participate in Hollaback! This grant would help us toward that goal.

What major success would you like to see at the end or apex of your project?

Of course, we want to end street harassment! Over the course of working toward the end of street harassment, we hope to engage our community/communities, bring people together regarding issues of safety and the right to be on the streets, and let people know that engaging in one’s community about serious issues can be fun, exciting, empowering, and rewarding. We want people to know we are a safe place to talk about issues of street harassment, and that we have street harassment victims’ backs.

Find Hollaback! Portland, Maine on Facebook:

And on Twitter:!/portlandmeholla


[1] Black, M.C., et al. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[2] Houle, J. et al (2011). The Impact of Sexual Harassment on Depressive Symptoms during the Early Occupational Career. Society and Mental Health, 1(2) 89-105. American Sociological Association.