Sexual violence encompasses a number of physical, electronic, and verbal actions — including street harassment, also known as catcalling. People who are the victims of street harassment can feel afraid and violated, often choosing to ignore the perpetrator instead of starting an argument that can potentially lead to violent situations. However, we can all work together to stop this problem — from bystander witnesses to family units, friends, and the survivors themselves.
How to Respond to Street Harassment
If you witness an instance of street harassment, you may not want to intervene. However, it is important to provide support to the victim and to communicate to the offender that his or her actions are not acceptable. To respond to street harassment, take the following steps:
- If the harasser is someone you know, pull him or her aside and communicate firmly and clearly that what he or she said was wrong. Explain that catcalling, leering, and other instances of harassment are crimes and let him or her know that you will not tolerate that behavior.
- If you witness a stranger experiencing street harassment, do not be afraid to stand up for him or her. Tell the perpetrator loudly and clearly to stop harassing the other person. Approach the victim and ask if he or she needs any assistance. Sometimes, a small show of support can mean a great deal to a harassment victim.
- If you are a victim of street harassment, listen to your instincts regarding whether or not you should respond to the harasser. In some situations, it may be safer to ignore him or her and get to a safe place as quickly as possible.
- If you are with friends, in a busy, public place, and the perpetrator does not seem to be violent or intoxicated, you can respond to him or her. You can loudly repeat a clear, simple statements such as “Stop harassing me” or “Leave me alone.” If you want to contact law enforcement, ask a friend or bystander to wait with you or go to a public place.
Can You Report Street Harassment?
It may seem like street harassment is a crime that you cannot report to law enforcement, since the crime may pass quickly and you may not know the perpetrator. However, reporting an instance of sexual street harassment can help you seek the justice you need to recover, prevent future street harassment crimes, and raise awareness of how wrong these actions truly are.
If you experience sexual street harassment, take the following steps to report the crime.
- Get to a safe place as quickly as possible. Go inside a nearby shop, wait by a busy bus stop, or escape to another public place with lots of people around.
- If you feel comfortable doing so, call 911 and bring law enforcement to the scene. Tell the officers exactly what you are reporting the perpetrator for, such as sexual battery, disorderly conduct, or another specific offense that the officers can charge him or her with.
- Collect as many details as possible. Write down all of the details you can remember about the harasser, including their physical description, what he or she said, and the date, time, and place that the incident occurred.
- If there are any witnesses to the harassment, ask them if you could collect their contact information for your future case. Collect their names, phone numbers, and other methods of contact that they feel comfortable providing.
- If you do not feel comfortable calling 911 immediately, call your local police station’s non-emergency number at a later time to report the incident.
Sexual street harassment is always wrong and violating. If you are the victim of sexual street harassment or you witness it happening to someone else, you can take the above steps to stop the behavior and seek justice. If you wish to seek justice against the perpetrator, contact an attorney who specializes in representing sexual violence survivors as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help guide you through the civil and criminal justice systems and help you identify the reparations you need to recover. Contact an Uber sexual assault lawyer today.