MTV Staying Alive|31.03.2015|Feature
What is street harassment and what are its effects?

Imagine you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and, KABLAMO – a random stranger hits you with a “Hey Baby” or maybe a “Good Morning” or maybe even a “Nice Ass”.

Alright, put your imaginations away, because, let’s be real, you shouldn’t need to think too hard to imagine a situation like this. Street harassment happens every day to all types of people.

Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what street harassment is. Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. It is on the spectrum of gender-based violence and ranges from catcalls and stalking to sexual assault and murder.

People of all races, ages, sexual orientations, socio-economic statuses, abilities, and genders get harassed. However, most often street harassment targets women, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming folks.

Though the “Hey Baby”s and “Damn, Beautiful”s might be intended as compliments, they don’t always come across as such. Compliments generally get lost in delivery when coming from a random person interrupting and imposing himself.

And let’s get one thing straight – those getting harassed are definitely not “asking for it”. Regardless of how much or little a person is wearing or has drunk, everyone deserves safety.

Street harassment can really affect those who are targeted. Some develop severe anxiety about travelling alone or at night or in unfamiliar places that’s rooted in their fear of being harassed again.

The persistence of street harassment is also linked with sexual assault and murder because it’s based in the idea that public space for some to dominate while others feel unsafe in it.

Men of all backgrounds are guilty of street harassment. All sorts of men target people on the streets, regardless of their race, age or socio-economic background.

In New York City, for example, harassment happens most often in the Financial District, Times Square and SoHo.

See for yourself:

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These parts of the city are incredibly dense. It seems that the busier the street, the higher the frequency of street harassment.

But remember that street harassment is not just a problem in NYC. Street harassment is a global issue. Men all around the world perpetuate a culture of street harassment, ensuring that the streets are not a safe space for everyone.

What would a friendly and non-intrusive “Good Morning” be like? Can you imagine a world where women could get dressed in the morning without having to worry what might come off as “asking for it”? It’s a pretty cool vision, right?

Well, Hollaback!, a non-profit based in New York City is dedicated to ending street harassment around the world.

They work with people who have been the targets of street harassment and encourage them to share their stories. On top of that, Hollaback! is building a global movement, working with local leaders around the world to end street harassment in their communities.

Interested in joining the movement and making this imagined vision a reality? Check out www.ihollaback.org.

Image credit: Roman Kruglov

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