The results of Hollaback!’s recent study with Cornell University tell us that street harassment happens globally to a large percentage of women, often starting when they are a teen.
Our own campaign from April showed us that, on average, Street Harassment affected participants every 1 hour and 42 minutes while they were awake!
So if we know this is happening, to so many people, in so many places. why isn’t it reported more so something can be done about it? There are many complex reasons why people don’t talk about or report street harassment. In talking about this issue with so many people, here are a few that we often see.
Victim Blaming – Outdated, gendered ( and totally offensive) attitudes about how women should look and act have created a culture of victim blaming – a tendency to dissect the behavior of the victim of sexual assault,rather than that of the offender. This pattern of asking what the target was wearing / doing/drinking / saying is often replicated by societies, safety campaigns, authorities and even the legal system. This can make it frustrating, triggering and difficult to report. This is why we have your back – check out the stories here on the blog and see that the common demonstrator is the exertion of a sexist power dynamic and NOTHING you did.
It’s not (always) illegal to be a creep – Being the target of behaviors such as staring, whistling and cat calling can seriously impact how safe we feel in our cities – as we travel on buses, go to school or work, or try to get around. Unfortunately it can be difficult ( but not impossible) to use the law to curb this behavior. ( PS for more information about the law around street harassment in Vancouver check out Hollaback!’s Know your Rights Guide starting on page 23).
Shame – The same attitudes that have created victim blaming have also taught us to feel shame about a lot of things to do with our bodies and our sexuality . This internalized shame can make it difficult and triggering ( especially if we have experienced other sexualized violence in our lives) to speak to people in authority about behaviors directed at us.
These are just a few barriers that make it hard to talk about Street Harassment. These reasons are exactly WHY Hollaback! started and WHY we brought it to Vancouver! You may feel like you cant talk about it or that that no one takes your anger / story / struggle seriously – WE DO. Share your story on our site or app . Show some solidarity to other people experiencing harassment by clicking the “Ive got your back” button at the bottom of each story.
We are encouraged by Transit’s Police recognition of these barriers and their joining us to help break them down. The text reporting feature makes it so EASY to report any creepy behavior on transit – because everyone deserves to move around their city and feel safe while doing so. Save 87-77-77 into your phone and use it whenever you see or hear something that isn’t right.