street harassment

This summer, reclaim public space by not standing for street harassment. Image: Harold Navarro via Flickr CC

As summertime continues to draw near, you’ve likely already shed your long pants and coats in favor of short sleeves and thigh-grazing hemlines. If you live in the city, you know that summer can get especially HOT, so who could blame you for wanting to dress in clothes that make you feel cool and comfortable? The downside to wearing shorter skirts and shorts however, is the inevitable barrage of verbal harassment that seems be as synonymous with summertime as watermelon slices and days spent at the beach.

This summer, with help from organizations such as Hollaback!, women and men everywhere are on a mission to curb street harassment once and for all. Use these tips to defend yourself against street harassment, or as Maggie Carr of Bust says, “to annihilate street harassers.”

Be firm. This summer, make a vow to yourself to stay firm, and never apologize for street harassment. If you feel safe doing so, tell your harasser something like What you are doing is street harassment, and it is not acceptable; it is not okay. Maintain eye contact, and keep walking with your head held high.

Do not engage. If you’re firm with the harasser and he (or she) tries to push back, simply do not engage. Losing your cool will only allow them to get a reaction from you.

Keep it moving. If you find yourself alone with your street harasser, keep walking, with purpose. Get to a larger crowd of people, or head in the direction of a nearby safe space like a police station or shop that you can duck into. Often you’re safer by other bystanders, so continue to move towards more people.

Respond directly. If you see someone else getting harassed, you can respond directly to the situation by acknowledging that this situation is an example of street harassment, and that what the harasser is doing is not okay. Let the target know that you are on her/his side. Also, as Carr suggests, try to embarrass the harasser by stating loudly that his behavior is gross and probably illegal.

Delegate authority figures or bystanders. If you feel unsafe addressing an instance of verbal or physical street harassment, delegate others to help. Ask a bus driver, a construction site foreman, or a traffic cop, to intervene. Ask fellow bystanders to step in. Asking bystanders or authorities to help you when you or another person is being harassed is the best way to broach the situation if it truly feels unsafe.

Your safety, above all else, is of the utmost importance. If you feel unsafe addressing a harasser directly, follow your gut and remove yourself from the situation by finding someone to help, or moving towards a more public place. And remember: you aren’t being harassed because of your short skirt, or your body, or your hairstyle. You are being harassed because of a rape culture that allows such vile behavior to often go unpunished. The only way street harassment can be eliminated is by holding your ground, sharing your story, and continuing to talk about it.

Learn more about street harassment by visiting Hollaback!

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