Street harassment is all too common. It can take many awful forms and its impact can be diverse and devastating. However victims of street harassment often are not able to share these experiences, and we have compiled a list of 5 key issues which can hold people back from speaking out.
- Escalation or later repercussions
When women face harassment they are often given reason to believe that they are in real physical danger. 74% of women surveyed in the UK have even reported being followed by these aggressors, making confrontation a huge risk. In the moment women must put their safety first, this is absolutely the right thing to do, but it means that they aren’t able to safely confront the problem and can be left feeling intimidated and powerless.
- Fear of not being believed
Those who have never experienced street harassment directly may be unaware of its prevalence and the effects it can have on victims. Common responses are more often critical of the victim than supportive, including interrogations such as ‘what were you wearing though?’ and ‘can’t you take a joke/compliment?’. These reactions simply place the blame on the victim and not the harasser. Even worse is the idea that you could be making false claims for attention, which is a devastating accusation to make and is responsible for the silencing of many victims.
- Social pressure to not make a fuss
Women are unfairly burdened with the expectation of being accommodating, understanding and above all ‘okay’ – even when they are very very ‘not okay’. ‘Moving on’ and ‘getting over it’ are part of a common narrative that silences victims and vilifies anyone who speaks up as ‘troublesome’, meaning that often the easiest way for women to end an instance of harassment is to try to ignore it instead of challenging it.
- Easier alternatives
Instead of speaking out against the seemingly overwhelming problem of street harassment, we often take steps to avoid it. Women take this interference into consideration in a number of ways every day, from planning routes home that don’t take them past pubs and bars, to selecting outfits they think will attract less attention. We even learn to automatically placate harassers with smiles and lies about husbands and appointments we are late for. Keeping our heads down is safer and easier in the short term, but even then are not 100% effective.
- No opportunity to respond
One common reason women aren’t able to speak up against street harassment is that the harassers don’t stick around. They shout from moving vehicles or ‘safe’ distances, and don’t hang around to see the stunned horror they have left their victim in. In these situations victims are left to feel surprise, anger, shame and powerlessness within a moment. When you are unable to respond it seems there is no way to speak up or make someone accountable for a horrible experience.
One way victims of harassment can start speaking out and challenging this culture is by sharing their story anonymously online. Share your story today and let others know you support them.