THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF STREET HARASSMENT
What is Street Harassment?
Behavior that is disrespectful, inappropriate, and threatening to women in a public setting.
Specific behaviors include public and unwanted staring, leering, whistling, catcalling, commenting, hooting, hissing, propositioning, following, embarrassing, humiliating, exposing, self-pleasuring, touching, groping,threatening, stalking, assaulting, and more.
Street Harassment is a form of Bullying
Street harassment is a form of bullying and sits along the continuum of sexual assault. These behaviors depend upon the existence of an imbalance “Power & Control”. Implicit with this imbalance of power and control is an underlying “threat level” of violence. The Harasser depends upon this implicit threat in order to intimidate the Target of Harassment into not responding assertively.
Why is it a Problem?
Street harassment has the effect of causing women to feel unsafe and less confident as they go about their lives in public streets. The most common response to street harassment is to ignore it. Therefore, young women are literally being “conditioned” to not to respond to being bullied and humiliated. This constant “victimization” has a negative carryover effect and makes women less assertive in other parts of their lives.
What Can be Done About it?
The long term solution is to make street harassment culturally unacceptable. But in the mean time, women need to be provided with proactive response when they are harassed. In order for the response to have maximum effectiveness, the response must be executed in a calculated manner. It should not be a knee jerk reaction.
Won’t Responding Make the Situation Worse?
One reason that the street harassment is so prevail ant and “successful” is because the Harasser is counting on the Target either to not respond out of fear, or react out of anger. Either way, the Harasser has “controlled” the situation and exerted his “power”.
How Can I Formulate an Effective Response?
An effective response is about increasing your power and control of the situation while simultaneously lessening the Harasser’s power & control. Every situation of harassment must be approached differently. You must be able to determine what factors are providing power and control to the Harasser, and how to best undermine them. In many cases you will find that the Power is simply a matter of physical strength. Being male provides the Harasser with more physical strength. The Control is the intimidation created by the Power.
Power & Control
When a man harasses a woman, he is in effect saying “I can say or do anything I want, and you cannot do anything about it”. The reason he feels this way is that he feels that he can rely on his physical strength keep him safe. His ace in the hole is his ability to become violent to be victorious in the encounter. But is this really true? Can he really assault you without recourse?
The reality is that in a vast amount of situations, if the man attacks you, he has just crossed a major line. One that could put him in jail, cost him thousands of dollars in legal fees, cause him to lose his job, or the respect of his peers. He could be labeled as a sex offender. His power in the situation is only temporary; the real power lies in the aftermath. Refute his power and he has lost control.
That being said, there are those that harass specifically to get a reaction. They know you would never engage with them voluntarily. Therefore, they force you to acknowledge their existence. These men need to be handled a little differently. But the strategy remains the same. Determine the source of their power and control and formulate a calculated response