In the fight against street harassment, there are a few tools basic to being a street harassment hero. We find that people often wonder what they can do to protect themselves and ways that they can holla back at their harassers. Some people don’t even think that street harassment is their problem at all – it doesn’t happen to them, so they don’t need to worry about. However, one of the most important tools in breaking the silence and social acceptability of street harassment is to not just stand up for ourselves, but others being harassed.
Harassers use street harassment as their method of choice because it’s so easy to get away with – it’s fairly anonymous, women are socialized to accept it as normal or even compliments, and bystanders usually hesitate to get involved. Like rape, harassment is effective because it isolates victims. Or, at least it can. There are few things more alienating and that make you feel powerless than people seeing something bad happening and no one stopping it.
By staying silent we are complicit with the things that we don’t speak out against. It’s not always easy to be an effective bystander, especially as women, we are bred to not ruffle any feathers, be confrontational, or upset the status quo: blend in and be seen and not heard. We’re taught to be embarrassed by speaking out and chastising someone or standing up for a victim. Heaven forbid we cause a scene and call attention to ourselves.
The ridiculous truth is that harassers are the ones engaging in inappropriate and anti-social behavior. If we all started speaking out, the dominant paradigm would inevitably start to change. Harassers would learn that their actions are no longer acceptable and by holding them accountable for their actions publicly, they would certainly think twice about opening their mouths and offering their uninvited and unsolicited opinions.
The key to bystander intervention is twofold: courage and safety. Ensuring the physical safety of yourself and the harasser is paramount. Use your judgement to figure out if there is an opportunity for the harasser to cause harm and if a verbal intervention will aggravate the situation. It’s true that safety is found in numbers, so having other people around is always an asset. Then, it’s all courage and confidence. You will be amazed at the effect your vocalization against harassment will have on the victim, the harasser, and other bystanders.
For more information and step-by-step bystander intervention tips, check out our vlogs at:
or Hollaback’s website at: