As sexual harassment and assault allegations upend industry after industry across the country, sexual harassment on Queen City streets appears to be on the rise.
Burlington’s deputy police chief says he’s hearing about increased catcalling in Burlington.
“I just see it more often in places like Church Street as well as down at the waterfront and that sort of thing,” said Gretchen Schimelpfenig, who works in downtown Burlington.
Schimelpfenig says she has been harassed on the street. Her friends have been cussed at after not acknowledging a catcall.
“Just because you said something that you think is nice to me, doesn’t mean that I have to be receptive to it,” she said.
“I’ve been witness to it,” said Deputy Chief Shawn Burke.
Deputy Chief Burke says he knows anecdotally that women are being harassed more and more.
“The speech is not criminal but a lot of times, what’s fueling that, at least the courage to make those remarks, is public drinking and we’re taking steps in order to try to deal with that in a little more meaningful way,” he said. “We don’t want it to escalate either. Does the courage of getting away with a lewd and lascivious remark, then result in someone having the courage to then touch a woman? That’s a logical next step.”
He says the department is looking at ways to make repeat open container law violators at least face a judge.
“Our ordinance is written in this fashion and they’re kind of taking it apart to see if it’s congruent with state law,” said Deputy Chief Burke. “The lewd and lascivious remarks that these guys were making were just sickening. It does make the police feel a little powerless because we want to help.”
“Even if it’s a nice thing, it’s still disarming and women in general don’t feel safe in public so when you’re calling attention to them, telling them that you have feelings about their appearance, it makes them feel unsafe,” explained Schimelpfenig.
Deputy Chief Burke said he directs harassment victims to resources laid out on this website: http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/