AZ DAILY STAR: Tucson effort aims to track harassment

2 Aug

Tucson effort aims to track harassment

Fernanda Echavarri Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 12:00 am

A new website encourages the public to report harassment incidents in Tucson, especially as they pertain to gay and lesbian youth.

From inappropriate comments, whistles and catcalls, to groping, stalking and threats, public harassment is not likely to be reported to local law enforcement, officials say.

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This online project hopes to give a voice to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people ages 13 to 23 in metro Tucson “who are more vulnerable to harassment, based on their perceived gender and sexuality,” said Stephanie Arendt, a spokeswoman from the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, or SACASA. Although the project is focused on these particular groups, Arendt said, anyone experiencing harassment can contact her agency.

The project, “Safe Streets Arizona,” was put together by the agency to encourage teens and young adults to post the time and place where they were publicly harassed, with the option of remaining anonymous.

“This is our community, and it’s definitely an issue here from what focus groups are telling us,” Arendt said. “Right now we need to know how big it is here because what we have is anecdotal, and it hadn’t been collected before.”

The website has about a dozen cases that have been documented.

As time goes by and more reports are tracked, SACASA representatives plan to meet with law enforcement to identify problem areas and solutions, Arendt said.

Officials from the Tucson Police and the Pima County Sheriff’s departments said the project could be useful for an overall look at harassment.

“This is a great idea because people who otherwise might not feel comfortable reporting this behavior can go to a website hosted by a reputable organization and report it there,” said Deputy Dawn Barkman, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.

Barkman said the tool could help increase communication between community organizations and local law enforcement.

In most schools and workplaces, there are policies and procedures against sexual harassment, as well as avenues to report it, Arendt said. “But when harassment happens in a public place, the resources are limited, so we want to have a way to track those incidents.”

The online project – funded by the Alliance Fund’s Queer Youth Initiative – will be a tool for teens and young adults, in addition to SACASA’s outreach programs at schools and community centers. It also provides resources and support highlighting designated “safe sites” where youths can seek refuge or help in emergencies, she said.

SACASA is partnering with Wingspan, Southern Arizona’s LGBT Community Center, to reach out to local businesses and organizations to identify more “safe sites.”

To make a report:

• Telephone: 477-SAFE.

• Text 477-SAFE

• Email

• Website:


Contact reporter Fernanda Echavarri at, or 573-4224


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