Street harassment is defined as, “unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation,” (Stop Street Harassment, 2015). It is almost always a manifestation of discrimination based on sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other “-ism”.
Street harassment is typically perpetrated by men to gain a sense of power and control. Some individuals believe these unsolicited actions are a compliment, and find fault with the victim for not having a positive response. They feel that the victim is rude and offensive – not that the aggressor’s actions were rude and offensive. These beliefs highlight the patriarchal nature of our society.
In the United States and around the world, virtually all women have been a victim of street harassment (Chatterjee, 2018). Experiences can range from being whistled at to being physically assaulted. Women and girls experience higher rates of street harassment, but people of all genders can be victims (Santhanam, 2014).
Street harassment is a human rights issue as it impacts someone’s sense of dignity, value, and worth. People deserve to feel safe in their home, school, workplace, or walking down the street. The implications of street harassment can be serious – with victims experiencing negative changes to their physical and mental health. There can also be financial implications from people changing their routes to and from destinations and needing to pay to do so (RAINN, 2020).
Things you can do to stop street harassment:
- Address friends and family about their actions
- Share your story of street harassment to bring awareness to the issue (only if you feel safe to do so)
- Be an active bystander and intervene when you see street harassment (again, only if it is safe to do so), or check in with the victim afterwards to make sure they are safe
- Report it to someone you trust (RAINN, 2020)
- A 2019 report of sexual harassment and assault conducted a study Measuring #MeToo showing the prevalence and impact of sexual harassment and assault following #MeToo
- BBC News published the article, Street harassment ‘relentless’ for women and girls, highlighting the prevalence of street harassment
- BBC News shares a video on YouTube, Why we need to talk about street harassment, to raise awareness to the global impact of street harassment
- Hollaback provides definitions, examples, resources, and how to respond to street harassment should you experience it
- Huffpost published the article, Street Harassment Isn’t Just Annoying, It’s Psychologically Damaging, to highlight the emotional impact that street harassment carries
- NPR published an article, A New Survey Finds 81 Percent Of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment, showing the incredibly high prevelance of street harassment
- RAINN provides definitions, examples, and resources to address street harassment
- Stop Street Harassment provides definitions, examples, and resources to address street harassment
- Why street harassment happens, and why most people just ignore it by Laura Santhanam published on PBS NewsHour
Chatterjee, R. (2018, February 21). A New Survey Finds 81 Percent Of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment. NPR. https://choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment
Santhanam, L. (2014, October 31). Why street harassment happens, and why most people just ignore it. PBS NewsHour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/compels-people-engage-street-harassment-combat
Stop Street Harassment. (2015, October 23). Stop Street Harassment. http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/
Street Harassment | RAINN. (2020). RAINN. https://www.rainn.org/articles/street-harassment