changing culture, street, transit

So what is Street Harassment, exactly?

Need some help recognizing street harassment?

Maybe you have heard this term being used a lot lately, likely due to the fact that it is International Anti Street Harassment Week, and so it seems to be on everyone’s radar. Maybe you aren’t super clear on what IS street harassment and what is just “being friendly.” There is a difference. Lets talk about it.

Firstly, a definition with some help from the people at Green Dot Etc. :

Street Harassment is a form of power-based violence.


Power based personal violence is a form of violence that has as a primary motivator, the assertion of power, control, and / or intimidation in order to harm another. This includes partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking and other uses of force, threat, intimidation or harassment of an individual.


You’re maybe familiar with a similar sounding term –sexual harassment? Well, street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ2 folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life. Street harassment can be sexist, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, sizeist and/or classist. It is an expression of interlocking and overlapping oppressions and it functions as a means to silence our voices and “keep us in our place.”

So how does this play out in our streets, busses, parks and other public spaces?

Street Harassment can look like:

  • Vulgar Gestures
  • Sexually Explicit Comments (e.g., “Hey baby, I’d like a piece of that”)
  • Leering
  • Whistling
  • Barking
  • Kissing Noises
  • Following someone
  • Flashing someone or exposing oneself
  • Blocking someone’s path
  • Sexual touching or grabbing (e.g., touching someone’s legs, breasts or butt)
  • Public masturbation
  • Comments about someone’s appearance, gender, sexual orientation, etc

If you are seeing this things like this, and still aren’t sure if you are witnessing harassment, it’s a good idea to look at the person on the receiving end of the actions. Their body language may be telling of how they are reacting to the exchange. It is totally appropriate to check in and ask the person being targeted “Are you ok?” Our next blog post will talk more about how to intervene, so stay tuned for that.

Unwanted attention like this isn’t a compliment. Compliments generally don’t make the receiver think about taking a new route to work, make them feel totally uncomfortable, or cause concern for their safety.

 If it’s a compliment, it’s not harassment. But we understand that Vancouver has a reputation for already being unfriendly city, and it can be hard to figure out how to talk to strangers. Knowing this, you may want some more guidance so as not to offend.

So here we go: if a person approaches another person in public politely, strikes up a conversation with them, receives a clear rejection and respects their wishes, that’s not harassment.

Street harassment happens when words and actions are obviously unwanted and non-consensual. It’s forceful. It’s dehumanizing. It’s propelled by a sense of entitlement and profound disrespect for others. Perpetrators don’t want to give compliments or forge mutually beneficial connections; they want to intimidate and bully others. They resort to insults, stalking, threats or acts of violence when told to leave.

That being said – there are many different ways to initiate conversation without coming off as a creep! Comments on a shared experiences (“this coffee is great”), conspicuous books (“I haven’t read that yet, is it any good?”), or current events or other topics that don’t reduce another person to their parts, are examples of friendly, non-threatening places to start.

This being said – please keep in mind, you may not have created this world of street harassment, but you’re living in it. And the object of your affection has been socialized in it. So if your flirting is met with resistance, hesitation, or downright rudeness, don’t take it personally.   Just say sorry, keep it moving, and remember the 80% of the 811 women Holly Kearl surveyed who said they constantly have to look over their shoulder. The 50% who have to cross the street and find alternate paths to their ultimate destinations. The 45% who feel as if they can’t go in public alone and the 26% who feel as if they have to lie about a significant other to get perpetrators to leave them alone. The 19% who had to move and the 9% who needed to completely change jobs just to avoid street harassment. And if the rejection pisses you off, take it out on the harassers and get involved.



Join the #itsnotacompliment conversation on twitter 


Participate in our newest campaign – What’s your number? 


Works Cited / to read more

Green Dot Inc


no comments
changing culture, events, transit

Hollaback! Vancouver and Metro Vancouver Transit Police team up to help end harassment on transit


Part of ending street harassment is being an active bystander. As we approach Anti-Street Harassment

Week, Hollaback! Vancouver and Metro Vancouver Transit Police (Transit Police) challenge you to do

just that.

April 13 is the official launch of an exciting new partnership between Hollaback! Vancouver and Transit

Police which endeavours to raise awareness about harassment on transit and provides riders with

effective strategies to address something that doesn’t look right.


The first step in ending street harassment is acknowledging it is a real problem. Through submissions to

the Hollaback! website and using the Hollaback! app, we know that street harassment is a problem. We

want to help change the culture of silence around this issue and to challenge the idea that harassment is

a normal part of urban living. Both Hollaback! and Transit Police have been using smart phone

technology to help bring this serious issue to light.

The Hollaback! App easily and immediately shows users 3 things:

1) If you’ve been harassed, you’re not alone

2) Street harassment is used to exert control over others by making them feel scared or

uncomfortable. It is much more than individuals just acting inappropriately.

3) There are street harassment “hotspots” in most cities often centered around high pedestrian

traffic areas.


Sharing stories in this way and showing solidarity to those who have experience harassment allows us to

slowly chip away at the culture of silence around this issue.

The Transit Police’s OnDuty App allows you to report non-emergency issues and track crime on transit

from your smart phone.


Not feeling safe on trains and busses, limits how people move around their city. It can negatively affect

performance at school or work. Street harassment is not acceptable. An act of resistance can be as

simple as making eye contact or texting a report to Transit Police 87-77-77. It is everyone’s problem, and

there IS something you can do.

Being an active bystander sets precedence and reinforces social barriers surrounding the inappropriate

nature of harassment. It is also the most direct way to express solidarity with a rider who is probably

feeling embarrassed and alone.

Hollaback! and Transit Police emphasize four key approaches: direct intervention, delegation, distraction

and delaying.

1. Direct intervention communicates clearly that the harassment is not acceptable.

2. Delegating the problem to Transit Police by using the non-emergency text line at 87-77-77 is

effective and discreet.

3. Creating a distraction, such as pretending to know the person, off-sets the perceived power

privilege that the aggressor is seeks to create.

4. Delay your time in the picture to ensure the person leaves the interaction feeling safe.

We will have more on how to recognize harassment and strategies for intervening on the blog over the

next two weeks.


Hollaback volunteers and Transit Police will be at Commercial Broadway SkyTrain Station Monday April

13th at 10 am to engage with the public and hand out flyers for the new campaign that calls on each one

of us to be active bystanders. Feel free to come by and chat, ask some questions and learn a few new

strategies to make transit safer.

Can’t make it out to Broadway on April 13th? Follow Hollaback Vancouver and Transit Police on twitter,

facebook, instagram. Join the conversation using the hashtags #SeeSay and #ItsNotACompliment to

show your support. Download the Hollaback app and see what the picture of street harassment looks

like in Vancouver. Or download OnDuty, the Metro Vancouver Transit Police app which allows

bystanders to safely report non-emergency incidents of street harassment on public transportation


Read more about this exciting partnership and the event here! 

no comments
events, LGBTQ, street, verbal

What’s Your Number?

April is home to International Anti Street Harassment Week, which runs April 12-19th.  Here in Vancouver we are kicking it up a notch and running multiple events all month long – turning April into our BIGGEST MONTH YET!  We have campaigns, art shows, and an exciting collaboration to announce in the next 2 weeks!


We are going to start by telling you all about our “What’s your Number?” Campaign …


What’s Your Number? will enable people to record the frequency and emotions involved with street  harassment for 24 hours. Clickers (or counters) will be distributed to initial participants along with a  blank notebook. For 24 hours, they will click twice for direct street harassment, and once for an  indirect impact. These indirect impacts can include negative feelings attributed to abuse, witness situations, or crossing the street to avoid potentially harmful interactions. Participants from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to come forward.  Once you have completed your 24 hours with the clicker – you record your number, and pass the sketchbook and clicker to a friend, co worker, or even random interested person.

The clickers and sketch books are going to be circulating for 2 weeks beginning April 12.  In order to showcase the process behind What’s Your Number?, we will be hosting an art show on April 30th at 7pm!  This will be a free event extended to the community at-large. Part education, part creative and part party, this night will get  everyone together in a comfortable space to talk about the effects of street harassment and – most  importantly – what can be done. Join the Hollaback team, participants and community engagers at this event for drinks, music, art, and activism!


Watch our facebook for more details about the art show!

If you are interested in carrying a clicker for 24 hours –  please email us at [email protected]



More info about what to do once you have the clicker can be found here!

FAQ whats your number




no comments

International Women’s Day 2015 – Vancouver

This Sunday, March 8, will be International Women’s Day 2015. As a non-affiliated celebration, IWD looks to promote knowledge and awareness of the past and on-going struggle for women’s equality. Without dwelling on negativity, it also seeks to salute the hard-working feminists of the world for their diverse and dynamic labours. This year in Vancouver, there are a couple neat events taking place around town. What better way to celebrate than in the company of other positive souls! Check out some (or all!) of these cool happenings:

International Women’s Day Conference – hosted by YWiB SFU

Saturday March 7, 9am-5pm; Pinnacle Vancouver Harbourfront Hotel 1133 West Hastings Street, Vancouver.


With the theme of, “Make It Happen”, YWiB SFU is spending the day hosting workshops and panels. Inspiring young women to become leaders and take initiative is this group’s main goal. You also get to enjoy time to network and get to know fellow delegates during the event. Tickets are $40 and available via Eventbrite.


Edit-a-thon – hosted by Art + Feminism

Multiple dates and times.


Join a campaign to improve women’s presence online. Art+Feminism’s ‘Edit-a-thon’ takes on the slanted world of Wikipedia articles by mass editing in groups. Happening all over North America, there are multiple options in Vancouver to meet up and participate. Each event has computers to use and possible accommodation for childcare. Tutoring is provided for first-time editors. These meetups are free, but you should RSVP here.


Women & the Cuban Revolution – hosted by Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba,

Saturday March 7, 6pm; Vancouver Public Library, Peter Kay Room, 350 W. Georgia St., Vancouver.


This event examines the “revolution within the revolution” which took place in Cuba. Spend the evening discovering how this state has achieved 43% representation of women in government, and 60% representation in the labour force. Presented through film, music and poetry, this event fuses politics and art. All the details can be found on Facebook.

no comments

New submission from Ella

I got so sick of street harassment in Vancouver that I bought bear mace at 3Vets (near Broadway and Cambie). Not sure if it’s my increased confidence carrying a perfectly legal product or what, but the harassment is way less. I’ve only had to pull it out of my bag once, and the guy ran, I mean, literally ran. Now he knows the fear I once had to feel daily!

I've got your back!

no comments

New submission from MD

So I’m taking the metro and this guy comes up to me and whispers in my ear. He’s close and starts making lewd comments that make my skin crawl. He said very disgusting things. The more look frustrated the more he smirks like he’s getting off on it. I get out of the metro early and wait for the next train. I reported this to the transit police. I am always a bit tense and guarded when taking the sky train now.

I've got your back!

no comments

New submission from phone app

There is a  guy harrasing people along false creek condo along main street

no comments

New submission from KatD

I was walking along Dunsmuir on Friday night talking on the phone with my boyfriend and headed off to the BC Lions game, when I suddenly felt and heard a slap on my butt. I spun around to see a guy running in the opposite direction and around the corner along the Seymour. All I could do was yell “EXCUSE ME!!!” after him. I didn’t see his face or the others he was with.

This is the first time I have experienced a physical form of street harassment, and now the few times I have walked alone at night since the incident I have been really anxious and super aware of my surroundings. During daylight and/or with others I have also been anxious but nowhere near the same degree as at night. I want to be able to be me and be in public without being anxious that someone will invade my personal bubble and touch me inappropriately.

I've got your back!

no comments

View Archives

Powered by WordPress