I’ve Got Your Back: A New Frontier Against Street Harassment

By Emily May, Founder and Executive Director, iHollaback

Since we began to map street harassment in 2010, we’ve seen a flood of little pink dots popping up all over the world. People are holla’ing back everywhere, and our collective voices grow louder with each one.

But over time the map also became a constant reminder that, despite our best efforts, street harassment is at epidemic proportions. It seems more common across cultures than access to drinking water. And with each dot, and each moment of resistance, comes another incident of violence.

“The stories are amazing, but our map is a bit depressing,” I said to our volunteer, Esty. “We need to map something happy, too.  We need to show people they can end this.”

We brainstormed about what kinds of happiness could come from being street harassed. Not much, is the truth. But after throwing out a bunch of ideas for ways to get people involved, Esty said, “What about when people stand up for you? You know, when people have your back?”

And so it was born.

In most of the stories on our site where bystanders are present, they either fail to act or do something that further traumatizes the victim (i.e. “you shouldn’t have worn that”, “where is your boyfriend?”, type stuff). We wanted to build a platform where people didn’t feel like they had to strap on superhero spandex and swoop down and beat everyone up when they saw street harassment happen. We knew that the only good way to provide real-time relief to people who are harassed is to get bystanders engaged, but we also knew that bystanders wouldn’t act unless we showed them how.

Our concept was this: we’d develop resources, trainings, and we’d start mapping bystander stories in green dots. Then, we’d build an ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ button which users can click to show support. At the end of each day, the person who submitted their story will get an email telling them how many people have their backs.

We thought we’d map these stories in green dots, because you know, green looks good with pink (these things are important!). And then we found out there was a whole organization called Green Dot (www.livethegreendot.com) that trained people how to intervene, but didn’t do the mapping part.  We called them, attended their training, and fell in love with them.

Thanks to Green Dot, 268 donors, and our pro-bono team of developers  we’ve revamped Hollaback!’s website with bystander resources and are working to train Hollaback!’s   leaders in 44 cities and 16 countries on how to do bystander workshops in their communities. Successful bystander stories are now collected through ihollaback.org and Hollaback!’s newly mobile apps, and the ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ button is awesome.

This campaign is still in its infancy, but we’re pretty confident: the ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ campaign is going to put a serious dent into street harassment by shifting the culture that’s made it OK for way too long.  Everyone has a role in this movement — so start intervening and share your story today at ihollaback.org.


sme r.

I am really excited about this new movement. The more people standing up to those who harass others, and the more men in particular tell other men that its not ok to stress harass someone, the success rate will be higher and the harassment will begin to decrease.

I'm almost certain it will take off and become a huge success :D

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Arild Warud

Hope it works.

Chad A.
Chad Anderson5 years ago

The first step in solving a problem is in tracking and measuring it. This is a much bigger problem than most men realize.

J C Bro
J C Brou5 years ago


Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

Ernest R. that is a good question, i guess record it on your phone and email it to every major news station in the area and file a complaint at the police station. but that is a damn good point

Christine Stewart

"I've got your back" - wonderful! If we could all help each other instead of just looking out for ourselves....

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

Karen and Ed O.....

Street harassment, is when a person says or acts rude toward you. Says sexual connotations to you. Touch's you like pushing or sexual touching. Most all rude ways people have toward another person.
Cops stopping occupiers could be considered street harassment.

Marianne C. has a good idea. Capture on phone/camera what is happening.
'the whole world is watching' can make a difference in some peoples actions.

Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez5 years ago

thnx for sharing

robin d.
robin d5 years ago

great idea! we need to be less afraid of becoming involved.