ST. CLOUD – A new St. Cloud-based organization is harnessing the power of the internet with the goal of ending public harassment and promoting kindness.

The Call Out Project launched on November 1. The group’s goal is to give St. Cloud area residents of all ages and backgrounds a public platform for sharing their personal experiences with either harassment or acts of kindness.

“A bunch of us in the nonprofit community have been talking about this for a while,” said Sara Fromm, nonprofit consultant and one of Call Out Project’s organizers. “Organizations will have people call them and say, ‘this thing happened to me, but it’s not really reportable and I don’t know what to do about it.’ There’s really nowhere to put that data.”

“I guess the ultimate goal here is creating community accountability,” Fromm added.

The Call Out Project’s website features a form for users to fill out. In it, they are prompted to describe their personal experience with public harassment, kindness, or something that might not fit into either category. Contributors are asked for the date and location of the incident, and identified by their first name and last initial.

“You can also note if this is something that happened to you, or if it’s something that happened to somebody else,” Fromm added.

The form gives contributors the option to be contacted by Fromm if they’d like to discuss the incident in greater detail, or if they want help reporting their experience to law enforcement.

“So, it’s a really simple process, and that story then gets posted on the home page,” Fromm said. “Basically, we’re creating a data file and to keep track of all these situations that happen.”

While only a week old, the Call Out Project has already received a handful of submissions.

“A super typical (story) would be street harassment,” Fromm said. “So, someone screams at you out of the window of their car while you’re walking down the street. That’s not something that a person is going to call a police officer about, and say, ‘hey, someone just yelled some crappy thing at me.’ I suppose they could call. For the most part they don’t, but they still end up sitting with it, and feeling rattled by it, and don’t know what to do with it.”

Right now, the Call Out Project is a pilot program for St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids, Sartell, Waite Park, and St. Joseph. By asking users to share where the incident happened, Fromm says the group can track “troubled spots” in the St. Cloud area, and report the information to community leaders.

“Ultimately, we want to end harassment and raise up acts of kindness,” Fromm said. “And we’re doing that by providing this process that gives voice to the experience, and also creates connections. One of the things you can do when you’re reading the stories is show support for the person – there’s a little heart you can click on. It’s a way for a person to feel seen.”

Fromm says the Call Out Project has already received quite a bit of positive feedback.

“We’ve heard, ‘wow, I didn’t even realize this was a thing we needed, but now that you’re talking about it, it’s awesome,” she said. “And we need to get this out there. We need to reach all corners of central Minnesota, across the five cities, and especially the people who aren’t ‘at the table.’ The whole point is to give voice to those who typically feel like they don’t have one.”

To learn more, visit the Call Out Project’s website.

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