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    Posted November 11, 2014 by
    New York, New York
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    An open letter to catcallers

    More from Dushyanthi

    If You Want to Call Me Baby...


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Dushyanthi Satchi, who has been working with rape and abuse victims for about 15 years, had a “visceral reaction” to the YouTube video of a woman being catcalled in New York. “It amazes me that catcallers would get so much attention, and yet sexual violence and harassment is still such a silenced topic,” she said. “The video skirts the issue of sexual harassment and points the finger in the wrong direction, in my opinion.”

    One in four women and one in seven men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2009.

    “These are the cries I want to hear documented, discussed, acknowledged, made into a viral YouTube video with over 35 million views,” Satchi wrote in her essay on CNN iReport. “But for now, I don’t pay much attention to the catcallers. If you want to call me Baby every once in a while, I don’t really care.”
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    *Response to viral YouTube video of woman walking down NYC street


    This video does not offend me.


    I am a feminist. I have been working to combat rape and other forms of Gender-based violence for over 10 years, as a consultant to the United Nations in Policy and Media, and as a social worker and psychotherapist with an M.S. from Columbia University in social work and international policy. I have worked extensively with survivors of rape, domestic violence and sex trafficking.


    So is it bad that I like it when I walk down a bustling New York City street, and a guy notices me in the crowd and says, “Hey beautiful.”


    Of course, I hate when the catcalls turn into sexual harassment, which can happen quickly. Lewd comments about wanting to perform sexual acts, inappropriate public masturbation, or if a man invades my physical space, or in any way makes me feel unsafe through a verbal or physical assault.


    But, “Hey Baby, Lookin' Good!” On some days, I like it. On others not so much. But on most, I am not offended.


    It’s more of a mating call than misogyny. Attraction exists. I liken it to that aggressive and familiar bellow of a frog looking for some summer action, or the cuckoo of a bird on the prowl on a fresh spring day.


    But I think we are paying attention to the wrong calls.


    It amazes me that a YouTube video documenting 10 hours of a woman walking down New York City streets to the sounds of constant catcalls would garner such attention that it would reach over 35 million views, while the real stories of sexual violence and harassment in America go unheard.


    Maybe catcallers offend some women, maybe they don’t bother others at all, maybe sometimes they cross the line, such as in the video when the man walked silently beside the woman for 5 minutes straight.


    But this issue is far removed from the essence of the problems surrounding sexual violence and harassment.


    The danger of this video is when people feel this is the extent of sexual harassment women face in New York City, or in America for that matter.


    When articles such as “India, the Story You Never Wanted to Hear” pen India as “dangerous for women” and leave not-so-silent messages that America is the home of the great and that women are always safe here.


    Here in the US, catcallers are not the primary concern, and in my opinion do not deserve the attention of a viral YouTube video.


    Secrecy is our weapon of attack against women here in the United States. The heavily shrouded cloud that covers stories of sexual violence is dense, with a barometric pressure so intense that the political implications and financial loss that would rain down if unleashed would drench our streets with far more than a few catcalls.


    Oh, you didn’t hear about these cries?


    I’m talking about the prevalence of rape and sexual violence on college campuses across America and the stories that are never told.


    Recently, one was told.


    Emma Sulkowicz, the student at Columbia University who carried her mattress to class with her in protest when the university would not take action against the perpetrator in her rape case, even though two other students had filed complaints against the same man that year.


    Her voice was heard, but the majority of such cases are buried deep within the political walls of such hallowed and esteemed places.


    Having served as an on-campus rape crisis counselor while I was in university, and later as a court advocate against domestic and sexual violence, I understand the layers.


    One, it is very difficult to win such a case, particularly without forensic evidence or witnesses. The victim says yes. The perpetrator says no. Who do you believe?


    But more importantly, the financial and political implications to report and take disciplinary action for a rape case are ones too dire than what the majority of universities and institutions in America are willing to face.


    A university rape trial? What parent would send their child to such a place with rape on-campus?


    Admissions applications decline=Financial loss=Schools stay silent on rape.


    The same principle applies for sexual harassment and sexual violence cases in many businesses across our beautiful and fair land. The prevalence of sexual violence is high, but the cries are unheard.


    As a psychotherapist that specializes in processing sexual trauma with survivors, I’ve worked as a social worker in non-profits with secret locations in Manhattan to protect the safety of the victims from their abusers, and also as a psychotherapist in an upscale private practice on the Upper East Side. Across ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and gender, the cries I hear sound the same.


    I worked with a survivor who had been raped and sexually assaulted 4 times at a private university in New York, but the school refused to take disciplinary action against her perpetrator. Five years later when she walked into my office, she still suffered from severe PTSD, nightmares, and a daily replaying of the incidents in her mind.


    Sometimes with sexual trauma, the reaction to the trauma is integral to the healing. It is an extremely different experience to an 18 year old girl if a University says it will do everything in its power to see that there are repercussions for the incident versus saying that there is nothing they can do and she should remain silent.


    She remains silent, on the outside. Until the screaming in her head becomes so deafening that she faces severe debilitating depression and suicidality.


    These are the screams and cries that dishearten me, not the catcallers on the streets of New York City.


    I also work with many men who have been victimized by sexual violence since childhood. They present differently, also experiencing self-hatred, but often turning to addictions, particularly sexual addictions.


    In the US, as in many parts of the world, men feel a great shame from having “lost their power.” They feel they somehow should have been able to control the situation, they are embarrassed to have been victimized.


    While I was in University, a male student was anally raped with a beer bottle on spring break. It is his cry I want to hear, his voice of indignation. I want his story to be heard, so the societal pressures of shame he carries on his back will be lifted, so he does not suffer in silence for the rest of his life.


    Perhaps if these voices are heard, then there would also be a different tone to the catcalls on the streets of New York. One that held a sensitivity to the prevalence of the true nature of the trauma both men and women face after enduring sexual violence from very early ages.


    And once these stories are unleashed, there will be a downpour of understanding of the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment in America.


    It will be understood that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. It will be crystallized in the sky that institutional chains of politics and finance bind the voices of sexual assault survivors and perpetuate cycles of trauma for generations to come.


    These are the cries I want to hear documented, discussed, acknowledged-made into a viral YouTube video with over 35 million views.


    But for now, I don’t pay much attention to the catcallers.


    If you want to call me Baby every once in awhile, I don’t really care.



    --Dushyanthi Satchi

    Dushyanthi is a South Asian, American born woman who is passionate about preventing Gender Based Violence.  She holds her M.S. from Columbia University, and resides in New York City


    Photo credit: Matthew Jordan Smith

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