Dealing with street harassment guide

A guide for women with advice on how to effectively deal with sexual harrassment in public.

Submitted by Steven. on October 14, 2006

Harassment is: Any number of acts or comments which make you feel physically or sexually unsafe or uncomfortable. They can be made by people you have known for years or by perfect strangers.

Basic Advice
If you are the victim of harassment, take the following steps:

Be safe
Safety is a priority. If you are in a situation in which you feel unsafe at all, remove yourself from it as quickly as possible. Do not put yourself in unnecessary danger for the sake of making a principled stand.

However, if you do feel safe enough to respond to your harasser, do the following:

1. Name the behaviour
For example, "Don't slap my arse. That's harassment" or "Don't make suggestive remarks to me. That's harassment" or "Don't talk about my body. That's harassment" or "Don't stare at me. That's harassment". You can also simply say in a strong voice, "Don't sexually harass women" or "Stop! That's sexual harassment."

2. Name the perpetrator
"You, the man in the blue pinstriped suit, get your hand off my breast" or "You, the driver of the blue Polo, don't stare at my breasts"

3. Use strong body language
Look the harasser in the eye and speak in a strong, clear voice. Be confident in what you say and do.

4. Do not apologise or ask a question
For instance, don't say "Excuse me...", "Would you...", "Do you realise...", "I'm sorry, but...", "Please..." etc

5. Do not get into a dialogue with the harasser
Do not answer any of the harassers questions. Simply repeat your statement or leave.

So, for example,

What you should not do:
You say, "Don't shout 'Nice tits' at me or any other woman. That's harassment".
He says, "Jeez, can't you take a compliment?"
Don't say, "Yes, I can take a compliment, but that's not a compliment. That's harassment."
He will then counter with something like, "Well, you're crazy if you take it that way. I meant it as a compliment."

This allows him to justify his behaviour to you, himself and anyone else standing around.

What you should do:
When he says, "Jeez, can't you take a compliment?" either leave the situation, having made your point, or repeat your statement. If he continues to try to engage you in a dialogue, either leave or keep repeating your statement.

6. Do not swear or lose your temper
For many harassers, the goal is to get a rise out of you, which is why they participate in this kind of behaviour. For them to see you getting angry or upset just encourages them to continue to harass both you and other people.

In addition, if a passer-by hears you shout out, "You f***ing arsehole!" when they have seen or heard nothing the harasser has done, they will tend to think you are the harasser. This, again, benefits the harasser, who can put on a "Can you believe this woman?" look. If you remain calm, it will be clear that you are the person being harassed and the perpetrator is in the wrong. It will also take away the reward (upsetting you) for their action.

Taken from Anti-Street Harassment UK, edited by libcom