‘Chalk the Walk’ attempts to curb street harassment, sexism


On April 13, Susquehanna showed support and awareness at the fourth annual Chalk The Walk event, which is dedicated to ending street harassment.

“Words have an incredible power over the way that we see ourselves and the world around us, even if their effects are subconscious,” junior Megan Rodriguez said. Rodriguez was the primary organizer for the event this year.

Rodriguez continued: “Hopefully, Chalk the Walk will remind the members of the Susquehanna community that their words have power, power to hurt people or to build them up, and that we must be conscious of that.”

Support for Chalk the Walk came from the Women’s Studies program and the Women’s Resource Center, Rodriguez said. The event was organized by an introduction to women’s studies class in 2013 after learning that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to Rodriguez, the class wanted to help raise awareness on campus and help start a tradition of chalking Kurtz Lane with messages of respect and anti-harassment.

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The Crusader / Rebecca Hall

“I think this is a great way to raise awareness,” senior Catherine Tomkiel said.

“Having this out in the open makes it hard for people to ignore the issue.”
The event ran from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., gaining attention from many students and faculty.

“We have had a lot of people stopping by and asking questions: what the event is, why we’re having it,” said Rodriguez. “This is what we were hoping for.”
Street harassment is a common problem, “even in a small community like Susquehanna and Selinsgrove,” Rodriguez said.

“Street Harassment is not just something that happens in cities—it happens in the suburbs, in rural areas, pretty much anywhere people live. This event reminds people about the power of words,” she added.

“When I was younger, there were never events like this. You just assumed that the harassment was normal,” said non-matriculant psychology student Jackie Lambert. “It’s great to see this kind of awareness is put out there now. It takes a lot of courage to do something like this.”

“Street harassment should be treated as a real problem, something that should be stopped, not just endured,” Rodriguez said.

Chalk The Walk was one of several events hosted by the Women’s Resource Center to participate in the fifth annual International Anti-Street Harassment Week. The international week of activism began in 2011 and was originally a single day, explained Rodriguez. At first, only 13 countries participated, but this year the week has featured the participation of over 30 different nations.

“I’ve never suffered street harassment,” Lambert said. “But as a woman, I know this happens. You come across videos on the Internet of things like this happening. I hate seeing the complete lack of respect.”

Rodriguez emphasized that street harassment and sexual assault can and do overlap. While sexual assault is usually defined as having some form of unwanted physical contact, it can include things such as groping in public spaces, which also falls under the term of street harassment.

“Street harassment is a problem, that there is a person on the receiving end of street harassment, a person being hurt,” Rodriguez said. “People deserve to be able to walk down the street without hearing comments about their appearance, or sexual comments, or being followed.”