Street Harassment Happens Daily – What Can You Do About It?

It is a sad fact that if you are a woman, at some point in your life you will likely be the victim of street harassment.  In our society, women experience street harassment (either verbal or physical or both) in public places – and other people on the street avert their eyes, walk faster, or simply ignore it.

Is it because they don’t want to believe that it actually happens on a daily basis? Is it because they are afraid? Is it because they don’t care?

No matter what the reason that people take no action, rather than take some action, it is because of this that street harassment continues to exist.  Don’t  you think it is time to change that?

What if it was your daughter? Your sister? Your wife? Your mother? Would you think it was ok that she was harassed in broad daylight while others did nothing?

The Facts

It’s important to know that street harassment is not just something that happens to a rare few.  It happens to the majority of women.  While, an editorial such as this cannot cover every aspect of street harassment, a glimpse at some of the simple facts can give you a much clearer image about how prevalent it really is.

  • A study conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland associates in 200, with 612 adult women participating, revealed that 87% of women between the ages of 18-64 had been harassed by a stranger – half of the harassment incidents include physical action. This included women in rural areas, suburban areas, and urban areas, with women in rural areas reporting slightly more incidents of harassment.
  • A 2014 study commissioned by that had a sample of 2000 people in the US found that 65% of all women had experienced street harassment, with 23% of them experiencing sexual touching.
  • In Canada, a 1994 study with a sample of 12,300 women 18 and older revealed that 80% of women had experienced some sort of harassment by a stranger in public.

These are just the experiences of women in the United States and Canada.  Similar experiences were found in studies conducted around the globe.

What Can You Do?

One of the reasons that many do not step in when they see someone being harassed on the street is that they feel that physical altercations are the only way to stop it.  Not only is it not the only way, but it is also not suggested.  Unless you are trained in self-defense, you usually shouldn’t physically challenge someone who is harassing another in a public space.  There are other ways to deal with it.

Instead, you could:

  • Sit with or walk with the person that is being harassed.
  • Encourage others to join you (if one person steps in to defend someone that is being harassed, others are likely to be more comfortable doing so).
  • Tell the harasser that what he is doing is not ok and that you will report him to the appropriate authorities.
  • Pull out your phone and record the harassment.
  • Be calm. Don’t curse or insult the harasser. Avoid yelling or the person that is harassing maybe become more assertive.
  • Keep moving. If you can, help the person who is being harassed get away from the harasser.  Get off public transit.  Move to a more public space. Walk them home.
  • Call the police.

Personal Experiences

I was inspired to write about this because of a Facebook post that I read.  The young woman in question declined to have her name or Facebook post made public here.  The gist of the experience was that she was on a public bus and was harassed by several made transit riders.  Even though there were others on the bus, no one stepped in. She eventually had to get off the bus because the harassment was so bad. Not even the bus driver stepped in, even though she was sitting at the front of the bus. Her post spoke to me because she came from the same city where I’d travelled on public transportation for almost 20 years.

There are other experiences though, like this Tumblr post that was shared and went viral earlier in the year:


This post went viral earlier in the year.  This is not specifically about street harassment but it is about three persistent women who stuck up for another woman.

One woman said,

“He pulled her glass toward him, kind of awkwardly, then he took out a little black vial. He opened it up and dropped something in. Then he tried to play it cool, like checking his phone and hiding the vial in his hand and then trying to bring it back down slyly.”

He was picked up by the police and the glass with the wine was taken as evidence.


The truth is that almost every women you will speak to will have some experience of being followed, being verbally harassed, or even being physically harassed while in public.  And it’s not ok.

YOU Can Help

No matter who you are, you can help.  You don’t need to be a ninja or a warrior.  Just make your presence known.  Make sure he knows you see what he’s doing. Let him know that what he’s doing is not ok.  And let her know that she’s not alone.  No one should ever be alone in these situations.



Dealing with Harassers

Statistics – The Prevalence of Street Harassment


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