It's this effect of street harassment, that self-blame that women also experience when they are the victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and the like, that May said she hopes the blog helps women avoid.
"When women go, 'I shouldn't have been walking there,' or 'if I do this, I won't get harassed,' it's their way of wanting to control a situation that you can't control," she said. "It has nothing to do with it at all."
Rather, street harassment transcends class, race, socioeconomic status and ethnicity, May said, and it's "about power" more than it is about a man's physical attraction to a woman he sees on the street.
May also said that the common misconception that men of certain race or ethnicity engage more in street harassment is not true. A third-party Web site performed an independent analysis of the street harassment reported on HollaBackNYC, she said. The results showed that races and ethnicities of the men alleged to have harassed women mirrored demographic information for the racial and ethnic makeup of New York.
Though it's hard to quantify the positive effect HollaBackNYC has had on women, May said that studies have shown that women who are victims of rape and other sexual assault experience less depression or post-traumatic stress disorder afterward if they fought back against their perpetrator, even if they were unsuccessful in preventing the crime. She said that she hopes the blog gives victims of street harassment a similar way to vent their frustrations so they feel less guilty or maligned later.
Women can submit photos and reports of harassment to HollaBackNYC not only from their PCs, but also directly from their mobile phones. The site also takes video submissions.
The popularity of the New York City HollaBack blog has inspired spinoffs in other cities and states. Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, Washington, Boston and Charleston, South Carolina, all now have HollaBack blogs, as well as states such as Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Colorado.
HollaBackNYC also has had an indirect effect on law-enforcement activities against men engaging in public lewdness, one of the chief complaints of women posting on the blog, May said.
Two years ago, after a spate of press coverage about the blog, the New York Police Department embarked on a campaign called Operation Exposure that sent female police officers onto New York subways to arrest men who exposed themselves to women on the subway. They arrested 13 in a two-week period, May said.