Stand Together Network


What is street harassment:

  • Catcalls, sexually explicit comments, sexist remarks, homophobic slurs, groping, leering, stalking, flashing, and assault. Most women and some men will face gender-based street harassment by strangers in their life. Street harassment limits people’s mobility and access to public spaces. It is a form of gender violence and it’s a human rights violation. 
  • It needs to stop. Every day, women and girls around the world face street harassment and violence in their own cities. Street harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of violence against women, holding them back from working, from socialising, from learning, and from living with freedom and dignity.  
  • Street harassment is also intersectional in nature as it often connects with sexual and domestic violence, racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, transphobia, reproductive injustice, Islamophobia, and other forms of oppression. 

Who can be a victim of street harassment:

Anyone, regardless of race, colour, age, religion, sex, ancestry, could be a victim of harassment or discrimination. Those who are involved can be victims, bystanders, and in some cases, witnesses who are affected by the harassment. 

Why does it happen:

While few people actually admit to committing street harassment, the act is often done with the intent to frighten or dominate the targeted individual, said Laura Beth Nielsen, a sociologist, lawyer and North-western University professor who explores the role of street harassment in society.  

^ personal experience blog  

Every day, women and girls around the world face street harassment and violence in their own cities. Street harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of violence against women, holding them back from working, from socialising, from learning, and from living with freedom and dignity. 

For the poorest and most marginalised women, it’s even worse – bad lighting in their communities, exploitative working conditions and insufficient policing all make violence more likely. 

Violence against women happens all over the world because of deeply unequal gender roles. It spans continents, and affects a shocking number of women and girls. This is not acceptable. No woman or girl, no matter where she lives, should have to feel afraid on the streets of her own city. 

ActionAid’s Safe Cities for Women Campaign

ActionAid demands safe cities for women. We campaign in 20 countries to make governments, businesses and individuals take action, and to end the sexist attitudes behind the culture of violence against women. 

In the face of constant attacks on our fundamental rights, women everywhere are fighting for the right to be safe in our cities. And we’re winning. Read on to see how women in Brazil, Vietnam and Liberia have made their cities safer  

Strategy to stop violence against women and girls may also ban non-disclosure agreements

Public street harassment is likely to be criminalised under plans being drawn up by the government as part of its long-awaited strategy to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) for England and Wales. 

The use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in cases of sexual harassment and abuse in higher education settings could be also be banned after a review. 

It had been briefed that home secretary Priti Patel would not look to introduce a new street harassment law – called for by campaigners and the government’s own adviser. 

But before the publication of its VAWG strategy on Wednesday, the government said it was “looking carefully at where there may be gaps in existing law”. 

Patel said she was “determined to give the police the powers they need to crack down on perpetrators and carry out their duties to protect the public whilst providing victims with the care and support they deserve”. 

The VAWG strategy will also see the launch of a new “StreetSafe” app allowing women and girls to record where they feel unsafe, as well as a public health campaign which will focus on perpetrator behaviour. 

A £5m “safety of women at night” fund will concentrate on “innovative” projects, such as the widely criticised pilot to put undercover policemen in bars and nightclubs to keep women safe

More than 180,000 people responded to a consultation on the new violence against women strategy, the majority of them following the murder of Sarah Everard, who was killed while walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London in March. 

A new national police chief with overall responsibility for tackling violence against women and girls will also be introduced, while the Ministry of Justice will commission a 24/7 rape and sexual assault helpline. 

The strategy also promises a review into offender management to enable police to target repeat offenders, while the government also confirmed it would make virginity testing – the examination of the hymen – illegal. 

Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence, said there was much to welcome in the strategy, but added: “It has absolutely nothing in it about the sexual exploitation of adult women or any real sense about how it is going to ensure crimes like indecent exposure will be taken more seriously. Saying it on a document doesn’t make it so.” 

Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said the review into NDAs in higher education should be extended across all work places. “While the language is bold the funding detailed so far will not ensure the government can produce its promise: a radical change in the whole system,” she said. 

Nimco Ali, independent adviser to the strategy said ending violence against women and girls would take “whole system” change. “The strategy aims to do just that, taking action through legislation and education, and I hope will be the foundation on which we can build a safer world for women and girls.”  

Preventing and Ending the Cycle of Street Harassment and Sexual Violence

Being born and raised in India, I assumed only young girls and women in my city experienced and witnessed multiple forms of sexual harassment in our country, especially on the streets and in public transit. Until I arrived in the U.S. in 2004 and continued to read about sexual violence, especially the blogs at Stop Street Harassment, I realized that street harassment is unfortunately prevalent all around the world in shared public spaces. 

Street harassment, often a troubling factor attributing to sexual violence and physical harassment, is often trivialized and normalized due to being a part of our everyday lives. Being catcalled, groped and grabbed, physically and sexually assaulted, stalked or exposed to flashings and lewd gestures are all types of street harassment. We often overlook the most troubling fact — most of us experience it everyday in our commutes, parks, walks, drives, bike rides and many more avenues. Imagine the trauma, the impact, and future implications on the lives of those affected and victimized.  

Street harassment is also intersectional in nature as it often connects with sexual and domestic violence, racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, transphobia, reproductive injustice, Islamophobia, and other forms of oppressions. 

Denying and trivializing the prevalence and the traumatic impact of street harassment on our communities continues to contribute to the hostile, negative, and misogynistic environment for young girls, women, and trans women. Unfortunately,when it comes to preventing street harassment and other related forms of sexual violence, the victims/ survivors are often held accountable for their victimization and are taught ways to prevent the harassment. Many women have been taught to be aware and cautious of their surroundings, and some have even learned self-defense, in an effort to increase their sense of safety and strength. These things are important, but when young girls and women are frequently asked to dress ‘appropriately’, asked to smile when catcalled, not to stroll ‘alone’ outside in the dark, always be with a friend in public, not to be ‘alone’ at bars, parks and other shared spaces– it contributes to rape culture and perpetuates sexual and domestic violence. Gendered policing and victim-blaming are not going to help prevent street harassment. 

  • Collectively shift the culture in how our society sees and responds to street harassment and sexual violence. We need to identify protective factors and effective ways to change these harmful gender and social norms that condone harassment, sexism, and other forms of oppressions. 
  • Take action: Get inspired by examples of events and activities of how other activists around the world are resisting and challenging street harassment in their towns. Take a look and see how you can adapt the elements of collaboration and community organizing to stop street-harassment in your community and town.
  • Share resources with survivors and communities: Those who have experienced street harassment and need help, can call toll-free: 855-897-5910 or click here for online hotline.  You can find other resources here through Stop Street Harassment or read stories shared by other victims/ survivors of their experiences on Collective Action for Safe Spaces. 
  • The month of April also marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM): It is important we recognize how street harassment, an often overlooked and minimized form of sexual harassment, is connected to sexual violence and other types of systemic and institutional oppressions. Check out how you can get involved. 

What is Public Sexual Harassment?

Public Sexual Harassment (PSH) comprises unwelcomed and unwanted attention, sexual advances and intimidating behaviour that occurs in public spaces, both in person and online. It is usually directed towards women and often oppressed groups within society however, it can be experienced by all. 

PSH is carried out because of gender discrimination and/or power dynamics. It perpetuates an environment and culture that disregards historically vulnerable and oppressed groups of people, diminishing their sense of self-worth and denying equal access to public space. PSH is an intersectional issue. 

How a victim’s identity characteristics intersect, for example through race, disability and sexuality, can compound their experience of PSH as perpetrators exploit the many vulnerabilities in a victim’s identity. Not all experiences of PSH are the same. However, they are tied together by the core power dynamic in which the harasser seeks to dominate over the harassed.  

While there is no standardized definition for street harassment (yet), our working definition (updated March 2015) is: 

Gender-based Street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. 

  • Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault, and rape. 
  • Street harassment often begins around puberty: 

* In a 2014, nationally representative survey of street harassment in the USA, half of harassed persons were harassed by age 17. 

* In an informal international online 2008 study of 811 women conducted by Stop Street Harassment, almost 1 in 4 women had experienced street harassment by age 12 (7th grade) and nearly 90% by age 19

  • Public sexual harassment is widespread within our society. The majority of women and girls in the UK will experience this violence at some point within their lifetime, and it will often begin during their childhood. PSH has become a ‘normal’ part of being a girl in the UK. 

 ‘Sexual harassment affects the lives of nearly every   woman in the UK.’  

 Women and Equalities Committee 

  • 1 in 5 girls aged 14- 21 have experienced public sexual harassment

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