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Chalk Back uses street graffiti to highlight sexual harassment

Words have serious power, that’s why one global organisation is chalking out catcalls on major walkways to raise awareness about them.

By the time girls reach the age of seventeen, 84 percent have been subjected to catcalling while in public. Even worse, 13 percent have experienced it by the age of ten.

Although catcalling is something womxn are susceptible to anytime we leave our homes, the frequency at which it occurs doesn’t mean it is acceptable behaviour.

Rather than complimentary, being catcalled by a man can evoke feelings of being unsafe and preyed upon – if not just feeling completely gross afterward.

Perhaps men should read out the words they’re saying. Maybe then they’d realise how truly creepy it comes across, eh? Well, one youth-led organisation called Chalk Back has started a global initiative to do just that.


‘Chalking back’ is taking place across 6 continents, 49 countries, and 150 cities. Womxn are sharing their stories of sexual harassment to raise awareness by writing quotes in chalk on public walkways.

Chalk Back is a completely youth-led initiative carried out by activists under the age of 25, motivated by the desire to spark a stronger dialogue around womxn’s experiences that are often left unaddressed.

A number of cities have their own Instagram pages which womxn can submit their personal accounts to.

Activists running the account then take to the city streets to chalk out their submissions in bold, colourful lettering and then post a photo of it online.


Colleges and universities have adopted the initiative, too.

Preventing Sexual Assault, a student-run organisation at the University of Maryland that aims to support survivors and change rape culture on campus has organised protests against date rape and other forms of assault.

However, the issue of catcalling has been harder to pin down, as it usually between two strangers and occurs in a fleeting moment. Etching quotes and anecdotes in popular spots on campus is a way for victims to feel heard while spotlighting the issue.

In the first round of the initiative, over 50 respondents came forward with stories.


Clearly, street harassment is a social epidemic that knows no borders, and it’s astonishing (if not saddening) to visualise the common language men use to intimidate womxn everywhere.

The fact that the chalk inevitably is washed away or faded over a couple of days is effectively symbolic of catcalling. The experience of being verbally harassed is momentary, but it’s something that can stick in the mind forever.

Shout out to the amazing and creative initiative Chalk Back – let’s hope we see more affiliated accounts continue to pop up, shedding light on this issue in more cities around the world.