"With street harassment, fear of escalation is always a very real thing," said Shawna Potter, site leader of the Baltimore chapter of HollaBack!, an international non-profit organization working to end street harassment.
Potter said her response to lewd comments, honking cars and vulgar gestures was often to flip the bird at her aggressors. But that got her followed by truck drivers while biking and one time left her in tears when a man got out of his car at a 4-way intersection to hurl aggressive insults at her.
Now, she can use her middle finger on her smartphone instead. With HollaBack!'s free HOLLA ON THE GO app, she can snap a photo of an aggressor on her phone, upload the photo via the app, describe the incident and map her location either with GPS or by entering an address.
"It helps me get the moment over with," Potter said. "Without this outlet, I would keep holding on to the fear, shame and frustration."
Aside from fostering a sense of strength in numbers, the app's maps from select cities have also been put in front of local legislators. This data is helping to bring more attention to an issue activists call a form of sexual violence that plagues the vast majority of American women and LGBTQ individuals.