In 2014, a woman walked down the streets of New York City for 10 hours. She recorded her walk, documenting random, strange men catcalling her. She wore jeans and a crewneck t-shirt. She did not speak a word, and yet still got harassed 100+ times in 10 hours.
Oxford Dictionary defines harassment as "aggressive pressure or intimidation." This includes catcalling and repeatedly making inappropriate comments to a woman. Many people seem to believe that women invite harassment based on the clothes they wear. This line of thinking is engraved in girls' brains since middle school when dress codes begin to be implemented. Schools claim that these codes are put in place in order to ensure safety against harassment from boys who may find the clothes "distracting." Girls as young as 11 are coached through what is appropriate school attire: shirts with straps that are at least two-fingers width thick, bottoms that reach the fingertips when one's arms are extended at their sides, and no midriffs or crop-tops. Girls are forced to stifle their self-expression due to a perception that boys lack the ability to control themselves. No 11 year old is dressing up to look "scandalous" or to seduce the boys. They are simply wearing the clothes that make them happy and confident. Harassment would be less of an issue if boys were taught from a young age how to control themselves.
Some people believe that women deserve to get harassed if they were "flirting." People believe that since the woman was flirting first then the harasser is just "returning" the flirtation. This video and this woman are proof that men will catcall and harass without a woman "starting the flirtation".
Another issue that women face with street harassment is how it isn't only adult women facing it, underaged girls are too. 85% of women have faced street harassment before the age of 17. In addition to this, an increasingly large number of older (45+ year old) men are messaging underage girls on Instagram, offering to be their "sugar daddy". Many underage boys also harass classmates. If one of the boys asks out a girl and get rejected, he might continue pursuing her, even though he received confirmation that she wasn't interested.
More than a third of the women interviewed in "Street Harassment in the United States" said they were late for school or work due to harassment. 3% under the age of 40 said they found the street harassment flattering.
Street harassment doesn't have to be shouting vulgar comments at someone, it also includes inappropriate staring, and, of course, touching.
But harassment stretches beyond random strangers on the street. It is mistakenly believed that women cannot be harassed by their own partner. However, one out of every four girls aged 15-19 who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner. A relationship does not automatically equal consent all of the time. It is okay to say "No."
Women are also commonly harassed in the workplace. 38% of women have experienced harassment in the workplace. And 72% of workplace sexual harassment victims do not report it.
Only 40% of the women who experienced violence seek any sort of help.
But, the future is looking brighter with women seeking help and sharing their stories. In 2017, the #MeToo hashtag went viral. The "me too" movement was created in 2006 by survivor and activist Tarana Burke as a way for women to share their sexual harassment and abuse stories and connect with others. The movement also tried to interrupt sexual violence wherever it happened. #MeToo now has 3 million posts on Instagram and has been used over 20 million times on Twitter. Many of these posts are of women finally speaking their truth and inspiring other women to do the same.
The Future of Harassment
The punishment for sexual misconduct varies from state to state. It depends on the classification of the crime. It might be a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a short term, usually less than one year, in county or local jail. It could also be a felony, which is punishable by a longer term in state prison. A person convicted of sexual misconduct may be required to pay a fine, attend counseling, and/or register as a sex offender.
In addition to this, colleges and universities are implementing programs to help reduce harassment on campus. For example, the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor has policies in place that prohibit supervisors from initiating or attempting to initiate an intimate relationship with anyone they supervise. They also have the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, which "offers prevention education for students, confidential support for survivors (students, faculty, and staff), and collaborates with other offices to offer trainings, programs, and innovative community engagement strategies to collectively create a campus free from violence."
Although there are ways to catch harassers, there is no clear, efficient way to fully stop them. If you are a victim of sexual harassment or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org. Reach out to or visit https://helpingsurvivors.org/ for more information. I am always available to chat as well, just reach out to me on my social media. Remember, you are not alone, there will always be someone willing to listen and hear what you have to say.
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“Get to Know Us: History & Inception.” Me Too. Movement, Metoo Movement, 16 July 2020, https://metoomvmt.org/get-to-know-us/history-inception/.
“Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center.” | Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, https://sapac.umich.edu/about-us.
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Snook, Ann. “The 2021 Guide to Workplace Sexual Harassment [Infographic].” i-Sight, https://www.i-sight.com/resources/guide-to-workplace-sexual-harassment-infographic/.
“Street Harassment Statistics.” The ILR School, 17 Apr. 2015, https://www.ilr.cornell.edu/news/faculty/street-harassment-statistics.
“Survivor Story Series.” Me Too. Movement, 24 June 2020, https://metoomvmt.org/explore-healing/survivor-story-series/.
Team@klientboost.com. “16 Alarming Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Statistics for 2021.” Inspired ELearning, 21 July 2021, https://inspiredelearning.com/blog/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace-statistics/.