The Red Line serves as a lifeline to Chicago native Kara Crutcher and among the Windy City's noise, she aims to silence street harassment with the Courage Campaign: CTA.
"The basis of the campaign is to raise money to create, produce and print advertisements that will go on the CTA in the train stations, on the busses and on the trains," Crutcher said. "We're promoting awareness, we're providing a safe space for people to come and share their opinions and build off each other."
Crutcher grew up in Rogers Park, off the el's Howard stop. For her safety and by her mother's instruction, her daily commute was lengthened as she traveled on a red line train and bus, with a walk, to her alma mater, Francis W. Parker High School in Lincoln Park, and back home. As a child, Crutcher remembers riding public transportation with her sister 10 years her senior and people saying things. Then riding solo beginning at the age of 14, Crutcher experienced her first and most haunting incident of street harassment. A man followed her off the rails and onto a No. 147 bus on her way home from school.
"That was the first instance that really stands out because it was really scary," said Crutcher.
Crutcher still relies on the el and now her home stop is at Argyle. The Courage Campaign: CTA, she explained, sparked from two things: a rant to her best friend after a woman among a group of men said something vulgar to her on the street and seeing a picture her college roommate posted on Instagram of an advertisement on a train somewhere other than Chicago encouraging respect for female commuters. As a result, Crutcher was driven to have her hometown depict solidarity and respect in order to create a safer daily commute for everyone.
"It's an issue of feeling humiliated and ashamed and helpless and that's what links all of these things under street harassment," said Crutcher.
The campaign is Chicago-based with a national ideal. The group's mission is "to raise funds for advertisements that advocate respect for all while using public transit."
The campaign, Crutcher said, is small in the bigger issue of everyday street harassment. Calling the group's work a discussion and art with a message; she emphasized the main message is "to be courageous."
"It's very easy to be anti-harassment, but nobody is anti-courage and with the name of the campaign, it fundamentally resonates with people and in a way they're more receptive to it," said Crutcher. "We're here to make everyone feel safe, encourage you to stand up for yourself, and encourage communal effort for everyone to stand up for everyone."
When walking and being courageous, she remembers her dad's advice "keep your head up, kid."
"In my opinion, what's most intriguing is the amount of people who have similar experiences on public transit and/or have witnessed them, but still feel uncomfortable standing up for others in those bad situations," said Crutcher's best friend Leslie Olive, who has been part of the Courage Campaign: CTA since its inception and has also experienced multiple instances of street harassment.
Currently, the team behind the effort is made up of about 20 people of various ages, ethnicities, genders and backgrounds. The group projects themselves through word of mouth and social media platforms among other sources. Donations are collected through GoFundMe.
"I like being a part of the Courage Campaign and I hope we grow into a large organization that helps people from all communities, especially women and the LGBT community," said Olive, who identifies as bisexual. "It's great to meet so many people who believe in us and want to support us in any way possible."
Aside from helping generate the project's name, Olive helps in facilitating meetings, taking minutes, social media, answering emails and most other general operations. Crutcher said the Courage Campaign: CTA continues to grow and is still recruiting people to help fundraise, create advertisements, send out initiative information and maintain the social media sites.
"There's definitely a for-us-by-us component to all of this," Crutcher said.
The supporting groups and organizations that have reached out thus far include: Holly Kearl with Stop Street Harassment based in Washington, D.C., Hollaback!'s national and local branch, Scheherazade Tillet with A Long Walk Home, Francis W. Parker School, Awakenings Foundation Center and Gallery and Julia Strange with Collective Action for Safe Spaces out of Washington D.C.
Crutcher reported the group has been in contact with the CTA's advertising company Titan Worldwide and has submitted ads to be reviewed, while more ad content is brainstormed.
"I believe this campaign has a great opportunity for outreach and to go to different avenues [such as] bullying, LGBT and other forms of social justice, but all of them will take courage and using courage as the backbone for our campaign will open so many doors," Olive said. "With all the hard work we have been doing, I am excited to see what opens up next!"
To get involved and for more information, email email@example.com, or find them on Facebook or follow on Twitter @couragecta. Donations can be made through: www.gofundme.com/couragecta .
violence report out
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs ( NCAVP ) has released the report "Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer ( LGBTQ ), and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2013."
NCAVP's 2013 report do