“I don’t walk alone on the streets in the evening because it doesn’t feel safe. During the day it’s also an issue, but then there are always other people around” says Naomi Kroese (15) in conversation with the Leeuwarder Courant. She describes encountering harassment at least once a week, with men whistling, screaming, or otherwise making sexual comments towards her.
The Leeuwarden city council has commented on the intimidation, stating the best way for young people to combat street harassment is to report the incident as soon as possible after it happens.
According to Kroese, however, victims of street harassment are unsure where to turn or who to talk to. She suggests that a hotline might help as a means of providing victims with an outlet to report harassment.
Carlijn Niesink, a member of the ChristenUnie party in Leeuwarden, proposed that an app may also provide an alternative solution to the growing problem. Speaking with Omrop Fryslan, she mentions that a similar app is already in use in Rotterdam, where victims are able to immediately report incidents of harassment or intimidation.
In Groningen, initiatives such as the Instagram account “catcallsofgrunn” are also fighting back against street harassment. The page posts stories of street intimidation from around the city in the hopes of spreading awareness about the issue.
However, hotlines and apps alone are not enough to provide a permanent solution to the problem. According to Kroese and her friend Perrien Bottema, the most impactful way to address the core issue is through education. They feel that, in addition to a hotline, schools need to be informed about street harassment, especially given the many misconceptions associated with the issue.
“The problem is that people immediately think of physical violence when they think of street harassment. But it is much broader,” Bottema says.
How the Leeuwarden city council will enact measures against street harassment remains to be seen.