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Signs in Berkshire County fight sexual harassment using words of women who have been harassed

The Elizabeth Freeman Center is using posters displayed outside this month in Pittsfield and Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to call attention to the impact of sexual harassment in public spaces.

The drawings of women who have been harassed can be seen in Park Square in downtown Pittsfield and in front of Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington.

The women depicted on the posters were asked by the New York-based artist, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, what they would have liked to have said to their harassers.

"I should not feel unsafe when I go outside," one poster reads.

Another says, "Women are not outside for your entertainment."

A few are in French and Spanish, including one that says "No me llamo mamacita, chiquita, preciosa, cht cht," referencing common catcalls in Spanish.

Susan Birns, member of the Elizabeth Freeman Center board of directors, said harassment can be threatening.

"Comments on women's looks, how they present, how much they weigh, what their ethnicity is, the size of their chests —none of that is invited and most of it is not welcome," she said. "People often don't understand that. They think if they're saying something nice, that it's a compliment."

The displays also include blue flags to call attention to the 373 people who contacted the center for help last year and who identified as survivors of sexual assault.

Birns says the goal is to build a community where harassment and gender-based violence isn't tolerated.

The Elizabeth Freeman Center is also holding rallies in North Adams and in Pittsfield this month to protest sexual assault. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Previously she served as the editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub, a collaborative of public radio stations. Earlier in her career she was the Midwest editor for NPR in Washington, D.C. Before working in radio, she recorded sound as part of a camera crew for network television news, with assignments in Russia, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba and in Sarajevo during the war in 1992.
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