Oakland business owners say “No More” to sexual harassment


Oakland Says No More, a campaign which hopes to end workplace sexual harassment and violence, encouraged supporters to sign their petition at an event hosted on Oakland Avenue Tuesday evening. (Photo by Samuel Weber | Staff Writer)

By Sam Weber | Staff Writer

Along Oakland Avenue from Sennott Street to Forbes Avenue, local businesses and organizations came out Tuesday afternoon to celebrate a new partnership between the Southwestern PA Says No More initiative and Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.

The program is called Oakland Says No More and is a campaign designed to end workplace sexual harassment and violence. As upbeat, bass-heavy music blared, supporters’ faces were shown on flat-screen TVs while different groups set up stalls to hand out information on the event. The faces of the local leaders who are fronting the new campaign were plastered to the walls of Sushi Fuku, Stack’d and other restaurants.

One of the representatives at the event was Carlow University’s Director of Media Communications Andrew Wilson. When asked by the organizing groups, he jumped at the opportunity to support the community and stand up for what he believes in. A father of two girls, Wilson said that he wants to show everyone that domestic violence can be stopped and to prevent his daughters from experiencing harassment in their lifetimes.

“We need to make sure people know it happens. It isn’t a secret,” Wilson said. “We need people to know what they can do to help fight this.”

The event kicked off with messages from the event’s organizer and executive director of Oakland Business Improvement District, Georgia Petropolous, and led into a discussion on the rates of assault and harassment in the workplace. A study cited in the presentation showed that one out of every three women will face some form of harassment in the workplace. At the end of the presentation, passersby were urged to sign the Father’s Day Pledge, a commitment to intervention in the face of sexual harassment and violence.

One guest at the event was UPMC-Presbyterian President John Innocenti. Innocenti sees the joint efforts between Oakland Says No More, the local organizations and companies and PAAR as a very ambitious and well thought-out plan to fight sexual harassment throughout the area. A member of the school board, Innocenti said that he knows how sexual harassment can affect a family, including the children of a victim of harassment or assault.

“I’ve seen how children behave in a family where there’s been harassment and assault,” Innocenti said. “If you see something, please report it or talk about it so people can help.”

Along with how children in families affected by harassment interact, the event also focused on sharing how the new program will affect Pitt’s campus.

Title IX Coordinator Katie Pope and a selection of officers from the University of Pittsburgh Police had a table set up with information about the campus-based security services available to students in Oakland, including Pitt police phone numbers and Title IX information. Pope said that she was extremely excited to hear about the step toward a safer Oakland and how many other groups had taken initiative in fighting sexual harassment.

“With PAAR’s project Last Call and the Oakland community, we’re more ready to fight sexual harassment than ever before,” Pope said.

Pope said that she knows many students work in service settings where this kind of harassment often occurs, and was immediately in support of the project.

“With so many students working in or around Oakland, we need to make sure that businesses are safe for them,” Pope said.

One such business is Primanti Brothers on Forbes Avenue. Manager Mike Mitchum said he sees his business as a hope for anyone. Primanti makes sure to hire anyone, regardless of their past as long as they are willing to be both good workers and good people in the restaurant.

Mitchum, the father of a young boy, said that he wants to combat sexual harassment from the other side, rather than from informing female workers of what to do.

“We need to take a step back from ‘manly,’” Mitchum said. “We need to reevaluate and reteach our children what it means to be men in society.”