Street harassment – a form of sexual harassment that occurs in public spaces – is one of the more troubling facets of daily life for women (and some men) all over the world. It’s so important that conversations about street harassment are being sparked by organizations such as Hollaback! and Stop Street Harassment, particularly because addressing this endemic social issue is the first step towards eradicating it.
Street harassment can range from catcalls, whistles and comments about one’s body from an offender, to public groping and aggressive, sexually charged threats. Some women have even reported being followed by harassers in cars and on foot. Many women, myself included, have stored away a mental arsenal of responses for instances in which we are targeted by street harassers. Here are 10 assertive responses to street harassment:
“I’m not an animal, do not whistle at me.”
“If you don’t stop harassing me, I’m going to call the police.”
“What you are doing is harassment, and it is not OK.”
“Do not call me that.”
“Degrading women is unacceptable. If you don’t leave me alone I am going to report you to the police.”
“Stop touching me, you are standing too close.”
“Sexual harassment is a crime. Leave me alone or I will report you.”
“How would you feel if someone harassed your mother or sister the way you are harassing me?”
“I do not owe you my time or conversation. If you do not stop harassing me I will report you.”
“That’s so interesting – can you explain to me why you think you can touch me/talk to me that way?”
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel compelled to address your harasser, it is important to remain unapologetically assertive, calm, and above all else, safe while doing so. Safety means never reacting to a street harasser if you feel unsafe doing so. It is vital to keep the situation from escalating. If there are no other bystanders around to seek help from, consider ignoring the offender entirely as a way to strip them of their power.
Maintaining a calm, even tone when you address a street harasser is also crucial. If they can pick up on your nerves, anger, or fear, they may continue to sexually harass you. Being unapologetic and assertive are also important when confronting a street harasser. Most of the time, these individuals are never confronted, so your assertiveness and ability to advocate for yourself will likely catch them off guard.
How do you react to street harassment, and what advice can you give to other women who want to defend themselves against harassers?
Featured Image: Michael via Flickr CC