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New study suggests street

harassment is widespread
This chart from the Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces: A National Street Harassment Report, illustrates the prevalence
of street harassment among men and women in the United States. (Raquel Reichard)
BY LAUREN
MCEWEN-JUNE 4
Stop Street Harassment, a nonprofit working to end sexual harassment in public spaces, just
released the first national study on street harassment. Titled Unsafe and Harassed in ublic
Spaces! " #ational Street Harassment $eport,% it consists of data reported by &,''' people
sur(eyed by market research company )fk, and information from *' focus groups SSH held
across the United States between +ebruary and ,arch &'*-.
,any of the study.s findings support what has been suggested through the reader/submitted
testimonials that SSH has been collecting since it was founded in &''0.
"cross all age1s2, races, income le(els, sexual orientations, and geographic locations, most
women in the United States experience street harassment. Some men, especially men who
identify as gay, bisexual, 3ueer, or transgender, do as well,% reads the executi(e summary,
written by SSH.s founder, Holly 4earl.
There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about what street harassment is. " lot
of people think of the stereotype of a woman in a short skirt walking by a construction site,
when it.s so much more than that. 5t really has a negati(e impact on harassed people.s li(es,%
said 4earl in a phone inter(iew.
6hile my 6eb site and Hollaback7s 6eb site collect so many stories, which are powerful, 5
think that they need to be supplemented by data to show the statistics of how many people are
impacted,% she said.
"ccording to the study, 89 percent of women and &9 percent of men in the United States ha(e
experienced street harassment. +ifty/se(en percent of women and *0 percent of men sur(eyed
reported experiencing (erbal harassment. +orty/one percent of the women and *8 percent of
the men reported experiencing physical forms of street harassment, like flashing or groping.
The study, which was funded by indi(idual donors, had its limitations, the main one being
di(ersity. 4earl would like to ha(e gotten more responses from people of color, members of
the :);T< community and teens to get a better understanding of how indi(iduals.
intersecting identities alter the street harassment they experience.
The types of street harassment reported by race. (Raquel Reichard)
The study also showed respondents who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
were more likely to ha(e experienced street harassment. This includes (erbal forms =9>
percent compared to ?> percent of those who identified as heterosexual@ and physically
aggressi(e forms =-9 percent compared to &0 percent, respecti(ely@,% the study reads.
From Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces: A National Street Harassment Report. (Raquel Reichard)
Some of the demographics Id like to see more research on include queer men of color,
transgender individuals in general, and older gay/bisexual men, since my research
identified an age curve for harassment, where the youngest and oldest participants
experienced the most harassment Id also like to see more research on harassment of
queer men by other queer men,! said SS" board member #atrick $c%eil
5.m happy that SSH.s report ga(e (oice to some groups who often are not included, such as
immigrant and #ati(e "merican women,% he said. He said he also was glad that SSH has
broadened the con(ersation about street harassment to include gay and bisexual men,
particularly because he belie(es this form of street harassment is about perception.
Ais, straight men can certainly be percei(ed as gay, and that can impact the way they na(igate
public spaces, but it can also impact the way they treat women in order to pro(e their
masculinity to other men,% said ,c#eil, who became in(ol(ed with SSH after hearing 4earl
speak to his graduate class at )eorge 6ashington Uni(ersity, where he also studied public
policy. He first began writing about street harassment on SSH.s blog, and joined the board
this year and wrote his thesis on how gay and bisexual people experience street harassment.
#inety percent of the men in my research said they sometimes, often, or always feel
unwelcome in public spaces because of their sexual orientation. "nd whether that translates
to actual acts of harassment is, in my mind, immaterial. Bne reason street harassment is so
paralyCing is because it affects us e(en when it.s not actually happening to us,% ,c#eil said.
5 think the biggest takeaway from my research in particular was that D as this report
suggests D street harassment has lasting effects long after indi(idual incidents. "bout >*
percent of the men who took my sur(ey said they constantly assess their surroundings when
na(igating public spaces, and that should concern us,% he said.
That is one of the reasons why SSH identifies street harassment as a human rights issue! 5t
limits the way harassees are able to mo(e about their communities by making them feel
uncomfortable or unsafe.
Bne of the other issues was getting study participants to accurately identify harassment.
ublic, sexual harassment is so normal that harassees do not always mentally flag their
experiences as something serious, unless physically aggressi(e harassment is in(ol(ed.
Some people would say, 75 was only harassed once,. and would recount a physical experience,
but as the con(ersation continued, there were (erbal experiences that came up,% 4earl said.
4earl was surprised that out of the E* percent of the sur(ey participants who belie(ed there
are ways to end street harassment, 99 percent of them felt that the best way was to install
more security cameras and increase the police presence in their communities, while 9?
percent of respondents suggested educational workshops about respectful interactions with
strangers.
5 wonder if that.s why street harassment is such a big problem, in part, because parents and
adults aren.t talking to kids about it. They.re just kind of li(ing the example of what they see
out there, and they don.t necessarily understand why this is a problem, so we just ha(e the
cycle perpetuate,% said 4earl, who co/authored a national study on sexual harassment among
children in grades > through *& in &'**.
She belie(es that talking to children about respect, consent and what is appropriate and
inappropriate humor =in another harassment sur(ey, many boys reported harassing other
people as a joke@ can help to end the cycle.
" national study like this one is so important because it confirms what street harassment
writers and researchers D and those affected by street harassment D already knew! that it.s
not just a compliment or the price you pay for being a woman or for being gay,% ,c#eil said.