How to talk to a harasser:
- Always use strong body language: Look the harasser in the eyes; speak in a strong, clear voice. Using your voice, facial expressions, and body language together, without mixed signals, show assertiveness and strength.
- Project confidence and calm. Even if you do not feel that way, it is important to appear calm, serious, and confident.
- Do not apologize, make an excuse, or ask a question. You do not need to say sorry for how you feel or what you want. Be firm. Instead of saying, “Excuse me … ” I’m sorry, but … ” or “Please … “, say directly, “Stop doing X.”
- Do not get into a dialogue with the harasser, try to reason with them, or answer their questions. You do not need to respond to diversions, questions, threats, blaming, or guilt-tripping. Stay on your own agenda. Stick to your point. Repeat your statement or leave.
- Do not swear or lose your temper: This type of reaction is the most likely to make the harasser respond with anger and violence and it also can make you seem like the one who is crazy or wrong when the harassment happens among a group of people, but no one sees what the harasser did to you.
- Decide when you’re done. Success is how you define it. If you said what you needed to say and you’re ready to leave, do so.
No action is too small to make a difference in working to end the problem of street harassment. Here are some suggestions for what you can do in the moment and after/before the harassment occurs. Share your ideas in the comments section.
In the moment:
- Respond: If you feel safe enough to do so, assertively respond to the harassers calmly, firmly, and without insults or personal attacks to let them know that their actions are unwelcome, unacceptable, and wrong. Here is advice from Martha Langelan on dealing with drive-by harassers.
- If speaking feels too scary, you can also hand the harasser information about harassment. Here are some examples from Appetite for Equal Rights, Street Harassment Project, graduate student Sarah VanDenbergh, and Stop Street Harassment (Show Respect 1 | 2, Wait a Minute 1 | 2, Picking up Women 1 | 2).
- Step In: Intervene when someone else is being harassed to help them out of the situation and let the harasser know that their actions are not condoned by others. Men engaging in this tactic can be particularly powerful since men (majority of street harassers) look to other men for approval. Check out this great bystander campaign from the University of New Hampshire.
- Report to Employer: If the harassers work for an identifiable company, call or write the company to let them know that their employees are harassing people on the job and why that is unacceptable. (Here are three examples submitted to this blog about how women successfully did this. Even threatening to report harassers to their company can make a difference.)
- Report to Police or Transit Workers: Take actions that will create real consequences for the harasser, such as reporting the person to a police officer or other person of authority, like a bus driver or subway employee. [Here is a statute in New York against serial acts of public lewdness and in Independence, MO, it’s illegalfor drivers to harass pedestrians or cyclists]
- Report with your Phone: If you have a smart phone and are in the U.S., download theHollaBack phone app and report your street harasser and if you are in Egypt, use HarassMap to report harassers via SMS texting.
Before or after being harassed:
- Share your Stories in Person: Talk about your street harassment experiences with family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. A lot of people don’t realize how often it happens and how upsetting it is. Maybe if more people knew, it would happen less.
- Share your Stories Online: Post your street harassment story or tactic suggestions on a website or blog to raise awareness about the problem and/or to offer advice to others. Start your own regional anti-street harassment website.
- Tweet your Stories: Tweet street harassment stories on Twitter. Add @catcalled #hbnyc or #streetharassment to your post and it will be added to @Catcalled, @ihollaback, or @StopStHarassmnt’s respective thread of harassment stories. Keep your own log of harassment experiences the way @streetharassmnt does.
- Post Information Offline: Put up anti-street harassment fliers,posters or signs (click on link for street signs) or hand out anti-street harassment fliers. Here’s another example of a street harassment poster.
- Write about It: Write and submit an article or op-ed about street harassment to a magazine or newspaper. An op-ed that journalistElizabeth Mendez Berry wrote in the fall of 2010 led to the first ever city council hearing on street harassment in New York City!
- Map It: Start mapping where you are harassed (google earth offers a free tool to do so with a tutorial) or contribute your story to someone who has a map to help visually show its volume. If there are patterns about where it occurs, then you can ask the police or a local business to help intervene in that area.
- Mentor Boys and Girls: If you are in a position of mentoring (as a family member, teacher, or friend) educate boys not to speak with disrespect to women and empower girls to stand up for themselves and challenge disrespectful behavior.
- Be a Male Ally: Men, we need you as allies! Read about how men can help stop street harassment. I also recommend reading Brian Martin’s “Men: Help stop public harassment,” Jackson Katz’s The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help, and Todd Denny’s Unexpected Allies: Men Who Stop Rape.
- Support Orgs & Initiatives: Volunteer time or donate money to fund anti-street harassment organizations, workshops, or community projects.