Local lawmakers held a round table discussion Wednesday at Philadelphia City Hall to start the conversation on strategies to prevent and eventually end street harassment.
Senator Lawrence Farnese of Philadelphia and the State Senate Democratic Policy Committee held the discussion, calling street harassment—including catcalling and unwanted comments—a major public health issue on Philadelphia streets.
“We have a dysfunctional problem in our society that has allowed this type of behavior where it’s become not only acceptable, but normalized,” Senator Farnese said.
The committee was chaired by Northampton Senator Lisa Boscola and co-chaired by Senator Farnese and Senator Judy Schwank. Participants at Wednesday's round table included Amber Hikes, Philly's executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, and Dr. Nina Ahmad, Philly's Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement.
“I’ve actually gotten into screaming altercations where I felt like my safety was in jeopardy,” Hikes said.
In a national poll, 65% of women reported experiencing some sort of street harassment in their lifetime.
“There’s hardly a place I can go where I won’t be harassed by anyone,” said Temple University student Kayla Watkins, one of the round table participants.
The group focused on how to change the attitudes and behaviors towards street harassment through education, outreach and policy changes.
The participants of Wednesday's event said that ending street harassment is still a work in progress. They plan on having similar discussions across the state.