rcasa

RCASA’s Tuesdays with Prevention: Street Harassment

In Sexual Assault Awareness on May 24, 2011 at 7:37 am

We all know the stereotypes, a woman walks past a construction site and is the target of catcalls. This is called street harassment. Recently this form of harassment has gained attention in the media as women all across the country are standing up and confronting their attackers. This harassment is not new, and exceptionally common, the first study dedicated to street harassment found that 100% of women surveyed reported being harassed—yes, one-hundred-percent, ALL of them (Gardner, 1995). With the addition of cameras on cell phones, women are getting pictures and videos of their harassers and posting them online. Hollaback, a website dedicated to taking back the streets, posts these stories, pictures, and videos in an effort to not only get the names and faces of their attackers out but also to raise awareness of this issue, and the vile and often violent nature of these attacks.

Some assert that women should just ignore these attacks, turn the other cheek, or worse—be flattered. What silence and acceptance of these attacks does is create and maintain a culture in which gender-based violence is acceptable. It minimizes the experiences of these women. More sinister is that these instances of harassment can be forms of rape-testing, that is seeing how far one can go as a means of judging their fitness as a potential rape victim.

RCASA cannot advocate that everyone challenge harassers, the risk of violence is just too great. But what we can advocate is standing up for oneself, and standing up for others when you see this kind of behavior. If a harasser is confronted by not just their victim, but everyone else around them, they’ll be out numbered and adequately shamed for their abhorrent behavior.

This harassment is not limited to just women, LGBTQ individuals(whether they are or are just perceived as such) also deal with this harassment on a daily basis. It too is abhorrent and worthy of ‘hollerin back.’

Hollaback groups are being started across the globe, including one in Richmond. This movement against harassment is gaining strength and people are taking notice.

Carol Brooks Gardner, Passing By: Gender and Public Harassment (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995), 89-90

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