Sexual Harassment in the Streets

by laeti.y.felix on February 2, 2015 - 9:38pm

            We have grown accustom to certain things in our lives that may seem odd to others, but we won’t notice them until someone points them out to us.  Maybe we won't even notice how odd it is until we see it in a more exaggerated or public form, such as in the media.  2014 has been an eye opening year when it comes to realizing how normatized we are on certain things, such as sexual harassment or street harassment.  Some may believe that it is not a frequent occurrence.  I can understand how some may not think it happens on a regular basis, because it is not an occurrence that may be easily reported (if it is reported at all) and it is a sensitive topic in which it is not often spoken about in the media.  It is still a topic that is taboo for some to openly speak about.  There are several questions that are often asked when it comes to sexual harassment. Some questions may be: What is sexual harassment?  If it happens to us or we see it happening, what should we do?  What if someone tries to report their sexual harassment case and it is not taken seriously?  2014 has been a major step forward because with the publications of videos that have documented street harassment in major cities such as New York, people have become more open and willing to talk about such a heavy and sensitive topics.  An overwhelming amount of people have come forward and have admitted that they have been victims of sexual harassment.  Street harassment videos often document women walking in urban streets for any length of time and they are often being touched (in areas not often touched by strangers such as the buttocks), catcalled, being called derogatory names, and other such behaviour that is not seen in a respectable manner.

            In the article titled 'How Street Harassment Became a National Conversation in 2014' by Bethonie Butler, published on January 2nd, 2015 in the Washington Post, Butler explains how one New York woman, Thao Nguyen, founded a blogging organization called Hollaback after she was initially unable to successfully file a police report on sexual harassment grounds in 2005. Nguyen wanted to raise awareness about sexual harassment and to educate people about what it is and how often it actually happens.

            The non-profit organization Hollaback is now available in many countries around the world, where people are able to post their stories as a cautionary tale or as a learning tool for others (especially for those living in the same area), there are also learning tools of what to do when an individual is sexually harassed.  There is also useful information and resources to help individuals feel empowered to do something about what has happened to them and others around them.

            The Washington Post is a credible source when it comes to current information.  It is credible because the Washington Post employees highly qualified and educated journalists who work tirelessly to inform the public about current events and the Washington Post regularly re-checks their published information to see if the published information is still credible.  The Washington Post has won dozens of awards for their exceptional work in journalism, some of their awards are multiple Pulitzer Awards.

            So what is sexual harassment?  On the UN United Nations) website, they define sexual harassment in accordance to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).  Sexual harassment would be considered as an unwelcomed sexual (mis)conduct or action that would be forced upon an individual who is unwilling and unwelcoming towards the act set in front of them.  Sexual harassment may come in many forms.  Some of the following are examples of what the UN website has provided in their document as a form of sexual harassment:  actual or attempted rape or sexual assault, whistling at someone, cat calling (according to the online Oxford Dictionary, a catcall is 'a loud whistle or a comment of a sexual nature made by a man to a passing woman'), touching oneself in a sexual manner in the presence of another person, making sexually suggestive signals or gestures to someone, and etc.

            The UN is a highly regarded and trusted source because they advocate for people's rights around the world and they obtain information from highly credible and reliable sources.  The UN continues to change the information they publish because there are always different pieces of information that updates because of new research, new policies and regulations, etc.  The UN attempts to be all inclusive of people coming from different countries and background and is highly trusted in taking action.

            So what are some simple ways to help people understand the topic of sexual harassment or street harassment?  A good start is to first get informed about the topic yourself.  It is difficult to talk about something if you don't know much about the topic in the first place.  Try to get information about what sexual harassment is from credible sources.  Watch some videos or read some stories of people who have been sexually harassed, whether it has happened to them in the street, in the workplace, or any other place.  If you are employed, try to inform your employer about workplace harassment and show your employer some guidelines and policies of other establishments so that your employer can update and/or obtain new regulations and consequences of what would happen to the harasser in question.  You can open a conversation with friends about what sexual harassment is and how it can affect people's lives.  When someone falls victim to sexual harassment, it is not a one time incident that they are able to forget about easily.  It can be a traumatic experience, mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically.  It may be even possible to write about how serious of an issue sexual harassment is on social media.  There are many tools and resources in which can be used today that make it easier to spread the word about this topic.



'How Street Harassment Became a National Conversation in 2014'




'What is Sexual Harassment'


'Street Harassment: Sidewalk Sleazebags and Metro Molesters'


Street and sexual harassment are issues that are more common than people may believe. Of course, certain areas are more affected than others but nonetheless, it still happens. The fact that women do not feel safe on streets alone is in itself a huge problem. People often believe that sexual harassment has to come in the form of a huge unwanted gesture but ANY unwanted action is harassment. This is something people need to understand. In New York City, where this issue is very present, there is an art movement called Stop Telling Women To Smile (STWTS) founded by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.
Here is a link to her website: I would highly recommend checking out the main video on the linked page I provided you, it explains her project very well. The initiative which originated in NYC has plans to branch out further and has already branched out in Mexico city. If you wish to get involved you can go on this link which will bring you to the getting involved section of the previous website:

I appreciated your newspaper article summary as it served as an eye-opener to the problem of sexual harassment that is constantly occurring in our world. I especially liked it when you said, “It is not an occurrence that may be easily reported (if it is reported at all).” Sexual harassment is a very sensitive topic as you mentioned and it is so easy to become a victim and to feel a sense of embarrassment or shame and not want to report it. Unfortunately, my best friend has been a victim to sexual harassment as a man on a bus rubbed himself against her and inappropriately touched her without her consent. She did not know what to do in the moment. It was a feeling of disbelief that something like that happened to her and she left after without saying anything to him. Personally, I felt enraged that someone could take advantage of her and that no one seemed to have seen anything. However, the shock from that traumatic experience wore off as she was able to contact the police, but she ended up dropping the charges because as time progressed she believed it did not matter. Many victims feel this way and do not report the incidents because they feel like it would not change anything; however, I disagree. Therefore, I am so glad to have read your summary as you have provided me with information on the non-profit organization, Hollaback, where people are able to write about their experiences and how to be more cautious around others. I am definitely going to provide my friend with this new information as the experience may still be haunting her, and it can help her cope better. In addition, although I have learnt what sexual harassment is in my Criminology classes, I appreciated the fact that you gave the definition of the term as it allows people to become more aware of what exactly is happening to many people in the world.