What is Street Harassment?
Stop Street Harassment, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending gender-based street harassment internationally, defines street harassment as “unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.” Street harassment can take many forms from whistling to groping. Because it limits the harassed person’s ability to feel safe in public, street harassment is ultimately a human rights issue.
By The Numbers
iHollaback, a “global, people powered movement to end harassment” teamed up with Cornell University to conduct a study on underage harassment. According to the study conducted between iHollaback and Cornell University, 85% of females have been catcalled before age 17 and 67% have experienced harassment before age 14. Even more frightening? 13% of females have been exposed to street harassment by age 10. Only 1 out of 10 women will not encounter harassment before leaving their teenage years. It is time to put an end to these actions. Street harassment is no longer nor has it ever been a “minor inconvenience,” it is a problem rooted deeply in our society.
Street harassment is not something to be taken lightly. It is not just “annoying” or “bothersome.” It is psychologically damaging. Findings from a survey conducted by Cornell University are nothing but alarming:
“57% of women under age 40 felt distracted at school or work due to street harassment.”
“More than half of the women surveyed changed their clothing, refused a social event, chose a different transportation option or felt distracted at school or work due to harassment.”
“More than a third of the women surveyed said they were late for school or work due to street harassment.”
Putting An End to Street Harassment
Realizing the extent to which street harassment is damaging is the first step in instituting effective change to stop it. The solution is simple: do not harass others. However, until society fully understands this, these are some ways to deal with harassment.
Respond: If you feel safe enough to respond, address the harasser assertively. Let them know their actions are wrong and not welcome.
Step In: Do not simply be a bystander especially if you are a man. If you see someone is being harassed, respond to the harasser assertively. Then, ask the victim if they need anything.
Report the Situation: If you are harassed, report the situation to the harasser’s workplace or the police.
No one should have to feel unsafe whether it is on the walk to school or the workplace. Use your voice to speak up when something is wrong. Let others know that their behavior will no longer be tolerated. With enough education, awareness, and advocacy, it is possible to #StopStreetHarassment.
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Author: Melanie Rodriguez
Melanie Rodriguez from Miami, Florida is a rising college freshman at Florida International University majoring in Journalism. In addition to her love for the written word, Melanie is also an avid performer and producer. She combines her passions with her dedication to political activism to approach these topics in a creative manner; she hopes to create a non-profit organization in the near future to address these issues through youth interaction. Melanie is eager to work with Make Muse to enact social change through creative means.