Austin runner starts petition to end catcalling

One woman said honking horns, whistles and catcalls are a daily occurrence in Austin and she's hoping to put an end to it.

Runner Anna Aldridge has started an online petition at stopstreetharassmentatx.org.

She's wants to bring the petition to Austin City Council and address harassing sexual verbal advances to women on Austin's streets.

"I get a lot of horn honks, a lot of, 'hey baby.' It's always sexual in nature. It's gender bias, unwanted sexual attention and it's not complimentary," said Aldridge.

 "It's not just the catcalling, it's the looking up and down and eyes following me as I'm walking. It makes me feel really uncomfortable, like I'm not safe," said biker Jaquelyn Merryfield.

Women in Austin are no longer surprised when they hear a honking horn, a whistle or the occasional catcall.

 "I think it's something that we've gotten used to, but I think it's getting worse and it makes me not want to go places by myself," said Merryfield.

The unwanted sexual attention is taking a toll on some women.

 "It's always when I'm by myself and it makes me feel really uncomfortable," said runner Bek Chee. 

 "I feel really angry and I feel sick. I've experienced unwanted sexual attention and sexual abuse in my life and the people who have been raped or molested or had sexual abuse as a child, when they hear that attention, it brings all those memories back. And you may say it's your freedom of speech to say whatever you want, but you wrecked them," said Aldridge. 

After returning from a run plagued with lots of verbal sexual advances, Aldridge had run out of patience.

"We're getting this unwanted sexual attention from strange men who are saying, 'Hey I want to have sex with you and I want you to know about it,' and it's disgusting and it's become a cultural norm and it has to stop," Aldridge said. 

In the long run Aldridge hopes to create a law making street harassment a ticketable offense.

"I think if you can get a ticket for using your cell phone in your car, why can't you get a ticket for sexually harassing a person on the street?" Aldridge asked. 

Several Austin runners, bikers and walkers of both sexes said they are on board.

"I absolutely think it's a good idea. I don't know if men or other people would abide by that, but I definitely think it's a good idea and a step in the right direction," said Merryfield.

"I think it would help. I think it would be challenging, I mean, I don't know how you would police that," said Chee.

"Certainly if this is what we're talking about, catcalls and treating people sexist, remarks things like that, we need to look at something. I'm not sure how to enforce or police that, but you know maybe just raising public awareness might solve some of the problem," said runner Chris Porter.

Aldridge said she also hopes Austin police will be educated about the issue and businesses owners will punish workers who participate in street harassment. She's hoping by taking several small steps to end the problem now, Austin can knock out harassment down the road.

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