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Hollaback! is proud to partner with TrustLaw and DLA Piper to provide an international “Know Your Rights” guide to street harassment. The guide establishes legal definitions of street harassment and provides an outline of local laws governing street harassment. The “Know Your Rights” guide is aimed to inform individuals of their rights in public space.
We’ve received some questions about the guide, and we wanted to take a minute to answer them here:
Question: What exactly is street harassment?
Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. It exists on a spectrum including “catcalling” or verbal harassment, stalking, groping, public masturbation, and assault. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ 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 the interlocking and overlapping oppressions we face and it functions as a means to silence our voices and “keep us in our place.” At Hollaback!, we believe that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it. If you’ve experienced street harassment, we’ve got your back!
For the purposes of this guide, street harassment is defined per local laws. For example, in Maryland, United States, one form of street harassment is defined as: “making unwanted or inappropriate sexual comments if it continued after a request to stop.” In Berkeley, United States, street harassment is defined as: “unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and wilful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner.”
Question: Who experiences street harassment?
On our site, we primarily receive stories from women and LGBTQ individuals. You can read those stories here (and click the I’ve got your back button to support them).
For more information on how identity intersects with one’s experience of street harassment, including individual stories of street harassment, check out Hollaback!’s Harassment Is: Identity and Street Harassment guide.
Question: How did this guide come about?
Since our launch in 2005, Hollaback! has fielded requests from survivors requesting legal information. We have tried to make legal information about street harassment transparent on all our local sites, but oftentimes, this information was either hard to find or required legal expertise to navigate. At the same time, we listened to survivors articulate concerns about police involvement. With this in mind, we sought legal support to create an international guide that provided accessible, locally-based legal information for individuals who have experienced harassment, advocates, and activists around the world.
In December 2013 we partnered with TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global legal pro bono service, to create an international “Know Your Rights” guide to street harassment. Over the next nine months, DLA Piper led a team of law firms and in-house corporate legal teams who worked pro-bono to navigate local laws in fourteen languages and work with our site leaders to learn how laws are implemented on the ground. We are incredibly thankful for the hard work of everyone involved.
Question: What are the goals of the Legal Guide?
The goals of the “Know Your Rights” guide are:
Question: Does Hollaback! endorse increasing criminalization of street harassment?
No. We believe that it is our role as advocates to steer policy makers away from measures that would increase criminalization, and toward measures that engage communities in prevention. As explained in Hollaback!’s article by Deputy Director, Debjani Roy, “Criminalizing verbal harassment and unwanted gestures is neither the final goal nor the ultimate solution to this problem and can, in fact, inadvertently work against the growth of an inclusive anti-harassment movement. The criminal justice system disproportionately targets and affects low-income communities and communities of color, as evidenced by policies such as New York City’s Stop and Frisk program and other degrading forms of racial profiling. Our objective is to address and shift cultural and social dialogues and attitudes of patriarchy that purport street harassment as simply the price you pay for being a woman or being LGBTQ. It is not to re-victimize men already discriminated against by the system.”
Question: I don’t feel safe working with the legal system. Are there any options in this guide for me?
The purpose of this guide is to educate and inform individuals about their rights. We understand that there are many reasons why individuals might not feel comfortable accessing legal recourse when harassed. This guide is not meant to act as an endorsement of any single solution, but as an option.
What is important is that you feel supported and know that you are not alone. We encourage you to share your story on our website: ihollaback.org, speak to your friends, and practice self care.
Regardless of what you choose to do, it is always important to know what your rights are.
If you have additional questions, email us at email@example.com. We welcome your feedback and engagement in this conversation as we work together to make the streets safer for everyone.
A new report released today offers the first ever global legal resource on street harassment. Led by NGO Hollaback! and the Thomson Reuters Foundation and coordinated by global law firm DLA Piper, the “Know Your Rights” guide compiles the latest legal definitions and information on all forms of street harassment across 22 countries and in 12 languages. A monumental undertaking, the guide involved the efforts of 11 legal teams working in collaboration around the world.
Happy Friday Hollaback!’ers!
Hollaback sites around the world have been spreading the word through many media outlets!
The Hollaback! mothership team was featured in The Daily Show’s segment on street harassment. Correspondent Jessica Williams used biting satire and wit to challenge assumptions on street harassment. Williams even tweeted at Hollaback! when the segment aired.
Hollaback! is proud to be a part of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United’s initiative to end harassment of restaurant workers. They are utilizing our employer guide, authored by Deputy Director, Debjani Roy, who will be speaking at a rally on Tuesday to share stories of harassment in the restaurant industry.
Executive Director, Emily May commented on the tragic and disturbing attacks in Detroit and New York toward women who resisted harassment.
“Street harassment is on a spectrum of gender-based violence,” May pointed out. “When street harassment is okay, it makes groping okay. And when groping is okay, it makes assault okay. And when assault is okay, it makes murder OK. We need to stop this cycle where it starts.”
Hollaback! Halifax has experienced even more media coverage of the #CatsGlareBack rally in Watch Magazine and the Chronicle Herald. You can also listen to their panel discussion “Unlearn: Rape Culture” on Dalhousie University’s radio online (available to stream and download for the next couple of months).
Great job this week, team!
HOLLA and out!
– The Hollaback! Staff
This dirty old man would not stop looking at me and grinning all the way home. 30 minutes later, there he was still just looking and grinning. I finally put my book down, fed up and glared at him letting him know silently his stares were unwelcome. He looked sheepishly away. Well, that won’t work for everyone but this creep got the message. Took a quick picture but only part of him came out.
dude on the street says i am a fucking bitch
you a fucking bitch!
you ain’t too good for me
keep on walk’n bitch!
so i keep on walking
because it was daylight
and my dog was beside me
and i had faith, even if small,
in witness testimony
if dude decided to kill this bitch
because we all know what happens
when bitches refuse
we wake up in this city
with a fight right outside our door
we get dressed
knowing the eye-fuck disrobes the thickest layers
and the world
of all its pretense to justice
we brush our teeth and ready our faces
not for the catcall or the hand on the arse
but for ourselves
when we leave the house
we know the real issue isn’t us
but the men who feel entitled to our time, our bodies, our lives
and threaten to make our world contract
like a blast rewound
but a blast rewound is a blast in motion
lets break the rotation of this storm
when the streets hold you hostage
turn around and bounce a bomb into
the eye of that storm
explode this cyclone
when the red fire of his words
hits the hillside of your flesh
fling that grenade
take in all the oxygen and
starve that fucker of hate
we are not on the supply side
of male demand
we are soldiers in lipstick
with our own game to kill
in this average city
where breathable sidewalks
This happened just now. On my way home, a man (or boy? he seemed younger than me!) passed me on his bike and – slapped my butt! I was stunned and speechless for a second, then I couldn’t think of anything better than asking him if he’s nuts… then I started running and almost caught up with him as he was going really slow, and shouted “Better drive more quickly or I catch up on you and smash your face in!” And that little *** started pedalling for his life. Then I shouted an insult at him that I am not very proud of and I could suddenly see his breath vaporize as he took the next turn in a hurry. I am so mad, and that is why I’m almost glad I didn’t catch him. I wouldn’t have been any better if I had really tried and hit him.
My first day working there and a family was coming in after a funeral.
I was walking past the first group of people and one man started saying “she’s beautiful” over and over again, I ignored him and he shouted “c**t” at me.
Another groups of men kept whistling and saying “sexy arse” every time I walked past them.
I was counting down the minutes until I finished.
I am 15 years old and live in Helena Montana. I had just gone to a play with my mother at our community theater. she stopped to talk to a friend and I headed to our car. I was the only one on the sidewalk and it was about 10:00 at night. As I passed these two men sitting on a divider wall, one of them shouted to his friend “wow look at that whore!” I froze I looked around thinking they must be talking to someone else but I was the only one. I felt dirty and ashamed then I felt dirty and ashamed for feeling that way. I started asking myself if my shirt was to low or my jeans to tight but even if they were I should be able to go where I want and wear what I want without fear of harassment. people tell you to take it as complement but it’s not it’s a way for these men to express their dominance over my body. This was the first time this has ever happened to me and what I think bothered me the most was that I have to remember that forever as the first time I was sexually harassed.The harassers probably forgot about it five minutes after they did it. I have the right to be in a public space with out my body becoming a public space.
Guy being very mean and nasty about me being African American and how he always wanted to fuck one and is it true that our ass is big with no draws on
“Hey Sexy” by a 6′ 180lb guy