RESPONDING WHEN YOU’RE HARASSED
The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to respond to harassment, because it isn’t your fault. Your response is a matter of personal choice.
Before we launched Hollaback!, we tried every strategy in the book to confront street harassers directly – we yelled at them, scolded them, educated them – but it never seemed to work. We eventually decided that our attempts to be “one-woman street harassment education machines” weren’t hitting this issue at its root. To end street harassment, we had to change the culture that made it acceptable to begin with. Cultural shifts start with people coming forward to boldly share their stories, and story by story we’ve been building the case since 2005 for why street harassment – and harassment in all public spaces – matters.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, “Sexual harassment often has a serious and negative impact on women’s physical and emotional health, and the more severe the harassment, the more severe the reaction. The reactions frequently reported by women include anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, weight loss or gain, loss of appetite, and headaches. Researchers have also found that there is a link between sexual harassment and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Our research shows that responding to harassment reduces its emotional impact – but how you respond is your choice. You can decide to respond directly to harassers, or choose to respond by taking action against the culture that makes harassment acceptable. We’ve got some examples of both below.
BUT FIRST, WHAT IS HARASSMENT?
According to The Advocates for Human Rights, street harassment is, quite simply, “unwelcome or unwanted verbal, non-verbal, physical or visual conduct based on sex or of a sexual nature which occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person.” It can also be based on race, disability, class, gender identity, or other social identities, and serves to remind marginalized populations of our vulnerability to assault in public space.
EXAMPLES OF HARASSMENT:
IF I CHOOSE TO RESPOND DIRECTLY TO HARASSERS, HOW SHOULD I DO IT?
Your safety is the first priority. If you feel safe and choose to respond directly to harassers, here are some general guidelines designed to keep you safe:
There is no perfect response, because every situation is different and every person is different. Here are some examples of responses from readers on our blog:
HOW ELSE CAN I RESPOND TO STREET HARASSMENT?
To reduce your risk of trauma, there are many other ways you can respond that are equally as powerful as a “direct response” on a personal level, and also have the power to change the culture that makes street harassment acceptable to begin with.
ONLY GOT FIVE MINUTES? HERE ARE SOME IDEAS:
GOT A LITTLE MORE TIME?