What is Street Harassment?

Street Harassment is a crime for someone to say unwanted comments, gestures, and acts to you in public without your consent.

Street Harassment involves any unwanted comments, gestures, or acts in a public space without consent. Street Harassment is always about power and intimidation.

Below is a list of common forms of Street Harassment, but this is by no means a complete list:

  • Comments
  • “Cat Calls”
  • Whistling
  • Invading a person’s space
  • Blocking a person’s path or movement
  • Commenting on a person’s physical appearance
  • Continuing to talk to someone after they have asked to be left alone
  • Flashing
  • Following or stalking
  • Groping
  • Public masturbation or touching
  • Showing pornographic without consent
  • Staring at people
  • Taking a photo of someone without their consent
  • Telling people they should smile more

Important Things to Know About Street Harassment

The most important thing to know about Street Harassment is that it is not your fault. Street Harassment is about intimidation and power. Every person has the right to go out in public spaces without experiencing unwanted comments, looks, advances, having your personal space invaded, or being touched without consent.

Nobody has the right to comment on your appearance, whistle at you, block your path, or touch you without your consent. This behavior is not acceptable, and you do not have to tolerate such acts. You should never feel that you “have done something” to cause these behaviors. Remember, Street Harassment is about power and intimidation.

What Can You Do About Street Harassment?

The most important thing to remember is to be safe. Street Harassment is about power and intimidation, and perpetrators could escalate if provoked. That said, this does not mean you need to put up with Street Violence.

Know Yourself and Do What is Right for You

Ultimately, what you decide to do or not do is completely dependent on you and your choices. You do not need to be a hero and risk your personal safety – or maybe you do. Only you can decide what actions or inactions are best for you personally.

What Can I Do?

If you see street harassment in progress, and you have a desire to take action, here are some things you may be able to do:

  • When in doubt, assume you should help. Ask the person if they need help. Often just having another person get involved is enough to stop street harassment. Ask the person questions like: “Are you all right?” “Are they bothering you?”
  • Step in. If you feel comfortable doing so you can practice Bystander Intervention by calling the person out on their behavior. You can say something like, “Hey, I saw you touch that person. That is harassment and it is not all right. You need to stop it.”
  • Report. “If you see something, say something” – You can report what you’ve seen or experienced to public transportation personnel, law enforcement, or employers. If you are in school or college, you can report to teachers or the dean’s office. If you are in the military, you can report to leadership.

How Can I Help End Street Harassment

There is a lot you can do to help end Street Harassment – and you should. If Street Harassment is left unchecked for too long, it can become an integrated part of the culture at home, on your street, at school, at the workplace, in a community of people, in a town or city, and eventually maybe an entire country.

There are places around the world where it is commonplace for people to grab, grope, catcall, whistle, follow, stare, and make comments to people out in public. This is what happens if Street Harassment is allowed to continue for too long – it becomes a cultural issue and is then very difficult to remove.

Some Important Things to Do and Know

  • Never blame the victim. Nobody – absolutely nobody DESERVES to be a victim of Street Harassment. It is never the person’s fault. Street Harassment is about power and intimidation, not “the way the person looked or dressed.” Listen to the person and let them know that they didn’t deserve what happened to them. Never invalidate another person’s experience by assuring them, “it only happened because they are so beautiful.” Never ask them, “what were you wearing?” Instead, validate their experience by telling them that they did not deserve to have that happen to them, that it was not their fault, and ask if they would like any help from you (and be good with whatever they say).
  • Call out your friends. If you see your friend harassing someone on the street by cat-calling them, whistling, making sexual comments, or insulting someone, call them out on it and tell them to stop it. Explain what Street Harassment is, why it happens, and how damaging it can be to individuals and communities. Remember, if they are your friend, they are far more likely to listen to you than to anyone outside of their circle. You are in a position as a friend to help them avoid making mistakes that can have serious personal and professional consequences. So help them, and help put an end to Street Harassment.

If you have experienced Street Harassment and want to talk to someone, never hesitate to contact WOAR – 215-985-3333.