In an effort to stop street harassment in and around CTA trains and buses, the Courage Campaign: CTA has launched a fundraiser to create and post ads on CTA trains and buses to address this issue. The campaign is working with CTA's ad agency, Titan Worldwide, to produce the ads and has also teamed up with local artists to create the ads.
The group's founder, Kara Crutcher ( straight ally ), began this campaign because she's experienced street harassment for the past 11 years and wants it to stop so others don't experience what she's experienced. Her first experience with street harassment occurred when she was 14 years old. Crutcher explained that when she was walking home from Francis W. Parker School a 20-year-old man began following her and when he tried to ask her out and she rebuffed his advances he got on the same CTA bus as her.
"Last summer, I was on my way home from work and a woman who was with a group of men street harassed me on the CTA," said Crutcher. "I had never had anyone say something as vulgar and disrespectful to me and on top of that I was so livid that it was another woman. That incident was the catalyst for this campaign and from there I quickly got a group together to work on this issue."
Formed in September 2014 by Crutcher and a group of Chicagoans who are passionate about the security of CTA's ridership, the Courage Campaign: CTA's mission is "to advocate safety on the CTA by discouraging street harassment and inspiring courage in commuters."
Crutcher's friend Leslie Olive came aboard right away and from there the campaign has grown to include about 25 volunteers from all walks of life, including members of the LGB community. Crutcher said she would love to see members of the trans community get involved with the campaign.
"The basis behind the campaign is to give people the courage to walk down the street with their head up, the courage to stand up and speak out when you see someone who's being harassed on CTA trains and buses and the courage to approach a woman respectfully instead of saying 'hey baby nice ass'," said Crutcher. "Those are all forms of courage so that's what we are promoting with the ads."
The campaign has launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for the ads with a goal of raising $10,000. Currently, they've raised about $2,000 of that total.
Since launching the campaign; Crutcher has had organizations across the country reaching out to her including Stop Street Harassment, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, A Long Walk Home and Hollaback! Chicago. They are also working with Girl World, which is a part of Alternatives Inc., on the campaign.
Crutcher noted that this issue transcends race, class, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity because people cat call and street harass for many different reasons.
"There's so much homophobia in the African-American community so not only would a gay black man experience street harassment because he's gay there's also the racial bias that people have and that's what I mean about this campaign being intersectional because there are so many different layers to why people street harass," said Crutcher. "When I was 16, I was in Wrigleyville attending a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and when I was leaving the venue a guy came up to me and grabbed my butt. So not only was a straight man putting his hands on a heterosexual women's body ( me ), there was also another dynamic where a white adult man was putting his hands on my 16-year-old African-American butt."
Crutcher explained that according to a national survey conducted by SSH earlier this year, 65 percent of women and 25 percent of men ( with a higher percentage of LGBT-identified men than heterosexual men reported being harassed among the 25 percent totals ) have experienced street harassment including verbal harassment, sexual touching and forced sexual acts.
"The fact of the matter is there needs to be a cultural shift in terms of respect for people in public spaces including people of different races, ethnicities, genders and sexualities so people feel safe when they walk out of their houses because right now I don't feel safe leaving my house," said Crutcher.
See www.facebook.com/CourageCTA for more information. To donate to the campaign visit www.gofundme.com/couragecta or to get involved with the campaign contact Crutcher at email@example.com .