Chicago native and founder of CTA Courage Campaign Kara Crutcher and I met in a busy downtown cafe to talk about her group and its work to bring awareness to the pervasiveness of verbal and physical harassment on CTA busses and trains. [March 11]
The first time Crutcher experienced street harassment, she said, was at 14-years-old on her way home from school. Crutcher, now 24, still rides the CTA and often experiences harassment from men but, a few months ago, a woman as well.
Crutcher said, while she was walking home from the train stop a couple blocks from her home a woman verbally harassed her.
“Her and her group of male friends were dying laughing,” Crutcher said, “and I was just like, I’ll be damned if I have to deal with women talking to me like this too. I already get it from men all the time.”
“Not that one is better than the other,” she added, “that it’s excusable. However, that is the last thing I need coming from another woman because I know that [she] has had that happen to [her] and [she] didn’t like it.”
That incident motivated Crutcher to act on an idea that she had been contemplating for a while: Creating ads for CTA busses and trains discouraging harassment.
An Instagram photo of an ad on public transportation asking riders to respect female passengers by not touching or staring and a Red Eye story about a Northwestern University student’s success with getting joke ads placed on the CTA also encouraged Crutcher to move forward with her idea.
CTA Courage Campaign, officially established last fall, is aiming to raise $10,000 to create ads with advertising company Titan. So far, the group has raised about $1,485 on the group’s crowdfunding site GoFundMe. With other donations, Crutcher said, the total amount raised is closer to $2,000.
CTA Courage Campaign also aims to create dialogue around the subject of harassment through group meetings and events, Crutcher said.
The last sexual harassment awareness campaign to run on the CTA was in 2009.
“We are not currently planning an information campaign because we believe that customers are aware of the multiple channels [through which they can report problems, including sexual harassment],” Steele said.
By June 2014, nine cases of sexual harassment had been reported; 18 cases were reported in 2013; 21 cases in 2012.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and April 12-18 marks International Anti-Street Harassment Week where groups around the world will participate in awareness events. Hollaback Chicago was reached for a comment [March 13], but has not yet responded.
Crutcher kept the CTA Courage Campaign’s April plans hush, hush but encourages people to visit the group’s Facebook page regularly for updates.