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ML’s story

On Thursday, 4 Sep 14, at about 6:15pm, I was walking West on the South side of Brinkerhoff St., heading home.

As I was passing the brick building that houses Boule/Spear Dentistry (on the corner of Brinkerhoff St. & Wells St.) I noticed two young men, approximately in their 20’s, (who were most likely college students) standing on the steps of the Dentist’s Office. As soon as they saw me, they began shouting at me. They shouted, “Hey, old guy!”; and, “Hey, wave at me!”; and, “Hey, old guy, why won’t you wave at us?!”; etc.

I am a man in my 40’s, I have grey hair, and I wear a beard. None of this justifies anyone, in their 20’s or otherwise, shouting things at me (especially when they are strangers to me). And especially not ageist comments like those mentioned above.

This is not the first time I have been shouted at in the neighborhoods near the college; I’ve never become used to it, it is annoying, but since most of the incidents have been due to female college students, I have never before felt any real threat.

This time was different. There was a certain tone of menace in the young men’s voices. I didn’t know if they were drunk, or if they were on drugs. I didn’t know if they were looking for trouble, some excuse to start a fight. However, they made no move to leave the steps of the building. I made no sign that I had heard them, and I just kept walking, because I knew that if they did start trouble, no-one in the other student apartment buildings nearby would be of any help to me.

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Kaitlyn’s story

Two nights ago I was walking my dog downtown, which I do quite frequently.
My dog loves all people, especially men, so I normally try to avoid walking on certain sides of the street where she’s more likely to jump on someone. On this night I was distracted and it didn’t occur to me that I was about to walk past Chef’s Bar.
I have never been to Chefy’s Bar and I can’t say anything about them as a business but what I can say is that I was harassed at this bar when it was Maggie’s, Red’s didn’t seem particularly feminist and now it’s Chefy’s and there’s always a crowd of drunks out on the side walk.
As I approached I heard one guy say to another “Oh yeah? Why don’t you say that to the girl with the pit bull!” I don’t know what they were saying, I don’t care, but for that minute trying to get past them I felt like everyone in that bar was yelling at me.
Why does Chefy’s need that big door open and their tables pulled up all the way to the side walk anyway? If you want to have a good time at Chefy’s go ahead, but don’t bring your party outside because I am not drunk or on my way to being drunk and I don’t have any interest in you or your comments.

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Smile Bitch Training Camp

Via Huffington Post:
For every woman who has ever been told to smile on the street, this is the video for you. Written and produced by Janelle James and directed by Laura Prangley, “Smile Bitch Training Camp” is the street harassment parody we all needed.

Remember, ladies, life is hard but your face doesn’t have to be. Let the SBTC teach you how to smile like a lunatic at ALL times.

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An update on our letter to the editor…

We submitted a letter to the editor of the Press Republican after they printed a column by Gene Lyons titled, “Professors can’t be rape police”. In order for a letter to the editor to be printed, it must be under 300 words. Our letter was just over 700 words, so we edited it down (you can still read the full version over here). This is the version of our letter that went to print:

TO THE EDITOR: In “Professors can’t be rape police,” columnist Gene Lyons argued that colleges cannot properly investigate and prosecute sexual assaults on campus.

While I agree, I take issue with this quote: “Based upon the dubious claim that one in five college women is a victim of sexual assault — if people really believed that, even ‘highly-selective’ schools couldn’t keep their dorms filled.”

Dubious means “not to be relied upon; suspect.”

These “dubious” claims are from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control study; 5,000 students at over 100 colleges were asked, “in your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?” 20 percent of women and 4 percent of men replied “yes”.

Another quote: “Swarthmore — its 1,500-member student body filled with Honor Society grads —experienced a sharp upsurge in sexual-assault reports, from 11 in 2012 to 91 in 2013. It’s unlikely that student behavior changed so dramatically over one year. Clearly something else did.”

Lyons suggests the increase in reports isn’t related to actual occurrences of sexual assault. Survivors can experience intense trauma, shame, fear and anxiety. Repeatedly recounting the experience to press charges, letting others know that you’ve been raped and the possibility of regularly encountering your rapist after outing them (a common occurrence on campuses) can all be daunting tasks.

I argue that an increasingly strong support network for survivors and cultural shifts in attitudes toward sexual assault are responsible for the increased reports.

A U.S. Department of Justice survey reported an average of 237,868 sexual victims annually. Printing Lyons’s column validates his outright denial of how sexual assault occurs.

Site leader
Hollaback! Plattsburgh

We also received this note from editor Lois Clermont:

You letter was still over the limit, so I cut the last graph. The reason is that Gene Lyons writes a syndicated column over which we have no control. It is his opinion entirely. Sometimes we agree with him; sometimes not.
He is an award-winning columnist and author, but that doesn’t mean he is always right. He is the liberal columnist that we use; the conservative columnist is Byron York, whose columns appear on Saturday.
I also took issue with some of Lyons’s conclusions in this column, but it is just his opinion. No one needs to agree.
His email is at the end each week in case you want to contact him.

– Lois

Our response:

Thank you for working with me through this.
I know that Lyons’ column is syndicated, and you have no control over the content, but you do have control over whether or not to print the column. It is not unprecedented for newspapers to decline an installment of a syndicated column, comic strip, or other articles. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, it transcends “liberal” and “conservative” politics, it isn’t really up for debate.

Pulitzer Price winner George Will’s syndicated column was recently discontinued from several papers after he wrote a similar piece that called out sexual assault as an alleged problem rather than a reality.

While we can debate how to respond to sexual assault, debating whether or not it is actually happening is an insult to all survivors.

Saying that you have “no control” over the column is a bit problematic to me, because as an editor you are a gatekeeper and you allow certain ideas to flow into the public consciousness and effect our culture. People hold news outlets to a high regard, and what they read in the paper will help to inform their perception of reality. When someone reads something like what Lyons’ wrote in this column and takes it to heart, it does more damage than good to our community. You are correct in saying that no one has to agree with Lyons, but it is equally true that the Press Republican does not need to give him a platform to spread harmful and outdated perceptions of rape in our culture.
– Matt Hall

To which Lois wrote:

I firmly believe in sharing viewpoints of all kinds, which is why I work so hard to get a good variety of columnists and why I welcome letters even from people whose views aren’t popular. It is all about stimulating community discussion…as this column obviously did.

– Lois

And our conclusion:

I agree, hopefully the discussion goes beyond these emails and into the community.
Thanks again for staying in touch on this topic.

– Matt Hall

This leaves us to ask, will the discussion expand into the community? How do you feel about media coverage of sexual assault? How do you feel about George Lyons’ column? Do you think that views like the ones held by Lyons’ have a place our local media? There are plenty of other popular and unpopular views that are never represented by newspapers, so how do we decide which ones get a spotlight and which ones don’t? Let’s talk about this!

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Letter to the editor of Press Republican…

In response to their printing of Gene Lyons’ “Professors can’t be rape police” column:

To the editor,
I was appalled by Gene Lyons’ syndicated column that was printed in the Sunday, July 20th edition of the Press Republican, titled “Professors can’t be rape police”. In the column, he argues that the responsibility of proving instances of rape on college campuses and subsequently punishing rapists cannot fall solely on campuses and their staff. I agree with that point, and while I feel that colleges can always be doing more to prevent rape and to support survivors of sexual assault, they are definitely not equipped to properly investigate such cases on their own.

However, that is not the part of the column that I have a problem with. My issue with the article can be summed up in this one quote: “Based upon the dubious claim that one in five college women is a victim of sexual assault—if people really believed that, even ‘highly-selective’ schools couldn’t keep their dorms filled”. Just to clarify, the dictionary defines the word dubious as meaning “not to be relied upon; suspect”.

Another quote: “Meanwhile, Philadelphia magazine reports, little Swarthmore—its 1500-member student body filled with Honor Society grads—experienced a sharp upsurge in sexual assault reports, from 11 in 2012 to 91 in 2013. It’s unlikely that student behavior changed so dramatically over one year. Clearly something else did.” In his column, Lyons not only denies the amount of sexual assault happening in our country, but suggests that an increase in reports of sexual assault is the result of something other than actual occurrences of sexual assault. Lyons is clearly out of touch, and doesn’t seem to realize that there is a growing number of people in our country who are feeling empowered to speak out and stop allowing rape to be swept under the rug. It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward. There are immense amounts of trauma, shame, fear, and anxiety that one may experience. Overcoming that to speak about what happened, to recount the experience over and over while pressing charges, to let your community know that you have been raped, and to possibly have to face your rapist after outing them (something that happens all too often on college campuses), are all daunting tasks for many people. Thankfully, a cultural shift and network of support have been steadily developing, and I would argue that these progressive changes in our culture are responsible for an increase in the number of sexual assaults being reported, rather than this vague “something” that Lyons alludes to.

The “dubious” claims that Lyons is talking about are from a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in which 5,000 college students at over 100 colleges were asked the question, “in your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?”, and 20% of women said replied “yes”. Thus, one in five college women has been raped at some point in her lifetime. In that same study, 4% of men answered “yes” to that same question. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)–there is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year. And while reports of sexual assault have decreased by more than half since 1993, it doesn’t make our current statistics any less horrifying.

I know that Gene Lyons does not live in Plattsburgh, and that his views do not necessarily represent those of the Press Republican and its entire staff. However, somewhere down the line, someone read that column, and they deemed it worthy to print, thus giving validity to Lyons’ outright denial of sexual assault and how often it occurs in our country. I am asking that Lyons’ column be removed from further editions of the Press Republican. If the editors do not wish to remove the column, then I am asking for a full explanation of how and why they can support claims like the ones made by Lyons in this column. Even if the the column is removed, I would still ask that the editors explain their justification for printing something so ignorant. I await your response.

– Matt Hall
Site leader, Hollaback! Plattsburgh

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THOUGHTCRIME to play acoustic show to benefit Hollaback! Plattsburgh!

Local band Thoughtcrime approached Hollaback! Plattsburgh about doing a fundraiser show, and it’s happening on Saturday, August 2nd! We’re raising money to print some educational materials, as well as some shirts that will feature some awesome designs by Shawna Armstrong! Spread the word! Click the flyer to see the Facebook event page and RSVP!

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