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The All-Too-Familiar Story Behind Nonprofit ‘Stop Street Harassment’

If someone wants to report a street harassment occurrence, what’s the best way for them to do so?

It’s really tough, especially for the guys in cars. So often they’re already gone before you can even respond. I think a lot of it has to come down to education. I do a lot of campus talks, and the number one thing I tell women is to talk to the men in their lives about it. Too often, men who are harassers, or who maybe don’t consider themselves to be harassers, don’t recognize what the behavior is, or how often it’s happening, or that it upsets people. There are a lot of stereotypes that suggests it’s a certain kind of woman [who’s harassed]: a sexy woman in a short skirt, and she’s asking for it. Which, yes, those types of women are harassed, and no, they’re not asking for it. Every woman is facing harassment, and many men are, as well–especially LGBTQ men. It’s important for us as individuals to say, “I have been harassed. This is the impact on me.” Then the people in our circles, especially men, are more aware of it. It’s important that they talk to other men about it, because so much of harassment is men showing off for other men. If men start to say, “No, this doesn’t impress me. I don’t like this,” I hope that it’ll start to improve.

Some street harassment takes the form of gender policing, too. Yelling at women with short hair, calling them lesbians, or harassing men that go outside of their gender norms, as well. A lot of that is continuing, and in some ways it’s getting even worse under the current administration. For example, in the D.C. area, there’s been a lot more harassment of transgender people. Our transit campaign included a photo of a transgender person, specifically to say, “ Don’t harass.” Maybe the next generation won’t be as bad offline, but they’re so used to being online, and of course online harassment is such a huge and related issue. I want to be hopeful and say, “Maybe the next generation will be better!” But when there are such bad examples, including that of our president, it’s a little hard to have hope.

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