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According to the CDC “non-contact unwanted sexual experiences,” including street harassment, are the most prevalent form of sexual violence for both men and women in the United States. Internationally, studies show that between 70-99% of women experience street harassment at some point during their lives. Comments from “You’d look good on me” to groping, flashing and assault are a daily, global reality for women and LGBTQ individuals, but street harassment is rarely reported, and culturally accepted as ‘the price you pay’ for being a woman or for being gay. The long-term impacts include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as a reduced sense of safety that can limit earnings, decrease mobility, and interrupt their ability to fully engage with civic life. Below you’ll find additional research on street harassment.
Internationally, 17 of our sites have performed research on street harassment in their communities. Here are some selected results:
Street Harassment on College Campuses
Hollaback! recently partnered with an outside consultancy firm to take our understanding of public harassment beyond the street and on to the college campus. We collected data from 282 undergraduate, graduate and part-time college students and 44 college administrators on campuses from the urban, suburban and rural U.S. to find out how harassment exists in spaces of higher education.
We took the data collected and formed three conclusions (backed with helpful statistics) about on-campus harassment. Here are the conclusions Hollaback! drew from our College Harassment Survey:
- students are being harassed on their college campuses (67% of students experienced harassment),
- harassment is limiting student’s ability to benefit from education,
- and current campus systems and processes are insufficient.
Hollaback! ULU Cross Campus Sexual Harassment Research
Written by Susana Antubam, University of London Women’s Officer
Between June 3rd and June 20th 2013, research was conducted across University of London institutions on the subject of sexual harassment on campuses. Results showed that over 1 in 2 students had been personal sexually harassed or had witnessed sexual harassment on campus in the last year. The report also showed that the majority of students did not have confidence in the current reporting system at their university. This was reflected in fact just 17% of respondents said that they had reported their experiences to authorities.
Our City, Our Space, Our Voice: A report on street harassment in Ottawa
Julie Lalonde, Hollaback! Ottawa Site Director
Our city, our space, our voice: A report on street harassment in Ottawa is the result of an open forum held in May by Hollaback! Ottawa and WISE: Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments and a subsequent online survey. The forum focused on safety on transit with the survey addressing street harassment more broadly.
The survey results found that 97% of respondents experienced street harassment in the past year and only 10% reported it to the authorities. Additionally, the survey found that street harassment predominantly affects women and LGBT2QQI* folks and the impact on their daily lives is tremendous. 38% of respondents indicated that street harassment made them fearful to go out alone and 32% would routinely change their route or final destination.
Research on harassment in public spaces in Poland
Written by Joanna Roszak and Greta Gober
As many as 85% of female respondents in the study were victims of
harassment in public spaces in Poland (94% of them more than once in
their life), compared to 44% of men. The average age of when women and
men first experience this type of aggression is 12 years. As far as
female victims are concerned, the majority of perpetrators are men
(98%). In the case of male victims, perpetrators are both men (44%)
and women (41%). Harassment in public space usually happens in the
street, in public transportations and during mass events (such as
concerts, in pubs, etc.). It pertains to as many as 60% of all cases
of street harassment. The time of the day does not play any role, as
it happens equally at all times throughout the day.
When Street Harassment Comes Indoors: A sample of NYC service agencies and union responses to street harassment.
Written by KC Wagner, Beth A. Livingston, and Sarah T. Diaz from Cornell University.
Abstract: Street harassment is an under-researched, but likely prevalent, experience for many New Yorkers. In partnership with Hollaback!, researchers from the Worker Institute at Cornell sought to better understand how often New York City-based social service providers receive reports of street harassment, and how they respond to those reports. In a survey of 110 service providers, we found that more than 86 percent of respondents had received reports of street harassment from a client, constituent or consumer, and that 92 percent of respondents felt there was a need for increased training and resources for both their staff and those they serve. In our report, we explore these findings further and offer some possible steps for taking action on this important issue.
The Experience of Being Targets of Street Harassment in NYC: Preliminary Findings from a Qualitative Study of a Sample of 223 voices who Hollaback!
Written by Beth A. Livingston, KC Wagner, Sarah T. Diaz, and Angela Liu.
Abstract: Street harassment is an under-researched but likely prevalent experience for many New Yorkers. In partnership with Hollaback!, Cornell-ILR researchers sought to better understand how street harassment is experienced and the factors that influence its short- and long-term outcomes for those targeted by implementing a grounded qualitative study of descriptions of experiences of street harassment taking place in New York City submitted to the Hollaback! website between 2005 and 2008. In our report, we describe our findings and present a preliminary theoretical model of how street harassment is experience, as well as suggest some possible hypotheses for future study.
The State of our Streets: A Report on Street Harassment in Boston, 2013
Written by our site leaders in Boston
Abstract: Hollaback! Boston’s survey found that 88% of their respondents had experienced street harassment. They examine respondent’s identities and the emotional impacts of street harassment, including: anger, fear, and nervousness. They discuss the frequency, location, and types of street harassment reported. The report closes with a list of recommendations on how to respond to street harassment in Boston.
Our Spaces, Our Stories: A Report on Street Harassment in East Lansing
Written by our site leaders in East Lansing
In 2014, Hollaback! East Lansing found that “…70%, or 149 people, reported having been the victim of street harassment in East Lansing themselves. While 21% of respondents had not experienced street harassment, a significant 9%, or 19 people, were not sure if they had been victims of street harassment.” The report examines “types” of harassment, including harassment in survey respondent’s own words, and ends with recommendations.
Croatia Street Harassment Survey, 2012
Written by our site leaders in Croatia
Abstract: According to the results of online survey conducted by Hollaback Croatia, 99% of women experienced some form of street harassment in their lifetime, and 1 in 2 women will experience it by the age of 18. Calling pet names, leering, honking, comments about the appearance are most pervasive & most often forms of harassment. However, other types such as flashing, groping or following are also very common types, and 1 in 3 of women have been physically attacked. Experience of harassment leaves most women with negative emotions, no or little help from bystanders and altered behavior such as avoidance of being alone after dark or avoidance of eye contact.
Street harassment in Istanbul
Written by Maggie Hunter, co-site leader of Hollaback Istanbul
Abstract: Hollaback Istanbul/Canımız Sokakat conducted research on the nature of street harassment in Istanbul to understand street harassment beyond the numerous stories they have received. They learned, of the participants in our survey, 69% reported experiencing harassment regularly on at least a monthly basis. The most common forms of harassment experienced included: leering (75%), being honked at (60%), being whistled at (59%), having kissing noises directed at them (48%), and being sexually touched or groped (46%), and the vast majority believe they can’t prevent street harassment.
Using the data collected on our site, we work with research teams from across the world to better understand street harassment and impact of our model to address it.
Hollaback!: The Role of Collective Storytelling Online in a Social Movement Organization
Summary written by Jill Dimond, Sassafras Tech Collective; Michaelanne Dye, Georgia Institute of Technology; Daphne LaRose, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Amy Bruckman, Georgia Institute of Technology. Cross posted from crowdresearch.org.
“Before reading those stories, and posting, I accepted it as the norm to get harassed all the time.” (Hollaback participant, 2012)
Storytelling is a key tactic long leveraged by social justice activists to reveal the unjust ways that people experience the world. Hollaback, an organization working to end street harassment, invites women and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgendered, Queer) people to share their story of harassment in a collective online space. In our paper, we asked:does sharing a story of harassment online make a difference to an individual or community?
Street harassment is a new term for an old phenomenon. It can include stalking, groping, verbal and physical assault that happens in public space. Even though there are no population level studies, smaller city-wide studies in the US, Canada, Egypt, and India indicate that it is a pervasive and serious problem. We interviewed people who shared stories of harassment online to understand whether storytelling online impacted them in any way.
We found that by visiting the Hollaback site, participants of our study were able to problematize their experience with street harassment. Before visiting the site, some participants thought that harassment was just a part of life that they had to endure. But by posting their story on Hollaback, participants were able to problematize their terrible experiences and see it as part of a larger injustice. One participant writes:
“Posting it did a weird thing to me though…I used to be able to brush off a lot of the stuff I get on the street and at work, because I’ve been getting it consistently since I was in high school, but now I think it means something more to me to be able to just walk down the street and be left alone.”
Posting stories also transformed the way that participants felt and thought about their experience:
“I became more sure in my conviction that I was right to consider what happened was really, really wrong. Not to just accept it as part of life.”
Participants also stated that sharing their story impacted their behavior afterwards:
“But I found myself forcing myself to bring it up and to tell people about it and to, even like, people I wouldn’t normally tell this to, like my Dad… Hollaback cultured my feeling that this should be shared.”
Beyond the individual, the crowd-sourced stories also impacted the actions and direction of the Hollaback organization. For example in New York City, there were many stories about bystanders who failed to help someone being harassed. In response, Hollaback started a Bystander Campaign, where people who witness street harassment can share their story, and are given ways to intervene.
Historically in social movements, organizations and people in positions of power have been influential in defining what the problems are and what to do about it (known as “framing” in social movement theory.) But collective storytelling online allows people who experience injustices to define the problem and provide visions for ways forward.
For more, see our full paper, Hollaback!: The Role of Collective Storytelling Online in a Social Movement Organization
A Narrative Analysis of Hollaback! Posts: Political Processes and Rape Culture
Written by Daisy Marshall (2013)
Abstract: D. Marshall’s research was undertaken as a topical narrative analysis, focusing on 15 textual narratives detailing experiences of street harassment in Sheffield, posted on sheffield.ihollaback.org.
Findings discovered that there were three common types of political process used in the narratives. Posters attempted to inspire social change
by highlighting the negative effects on victims, challenging harassers and encouraging other women to speak out.
The study also found that victims experience more negative emotions if they feel at risk of being raped and that those who speak out against harassment may be silenced with mockery, minimization and escalation of the harassment including attempted rape.
Analyzing Sentiments from Street Harassment Stories
Written by Parvathi Chundi and April Corbet from the Computer Science Department at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Abstract: Street harassment is a pervasive problem that typically targets women and LGBTQ community. There are no eﬀective ways to deal with the harassers as the acts of harassment happen randomly and are diﬃcult, if not impossible, to prosecute. Hollaback! is an international movement aimed at stopping street harassment. Hollaback! servers collect street harassment stories from victims around the globe to share, gather statistics, and create awareness. In this paper, we present a preliminary study focused on analyzing a small sample of Hollaback! stories submitted from New York city. The LIWC software  is used to measure the positive and negative emotions hidden in each story and correlate it to the socio-economic status of the location from which the story was submitted.
Summary Report on Hollaback! Street Harassment Data
Written by Sara Bastomski, M.A., Hollaback! Volunteer Data Consultant.
This report summarizes the data available from 99 street harassment incidents that occurred in New York City and were reported to Hollaback! between October 2005 and February 2011.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey
Conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011.
Key Statistics on Street Harassment (Pg. 17 & 20):
Non-contact unwanted sexual experiences were the most common form of sexual violence experienced by both women and men (Tables 2.1 and 2.2). One-third of women (33.7%) experienced some type of non-contact unwanted sexual experience in their lifetime, and 1 in 33 women (3.0%) experienced this in the 12 months prior to taking the survey. This equates to 40 million women in the United States for the lifetime estimate and 3.5 million women in the last 12 months.
Nearly 1 in 8 men (12.8%) reported non-contact unwanted sexual experiences in his lifetime, and 1 in 37 men (2.7%) experienced this type of sexual violence in the 12 months before taking the survey. These numbers translate to 14 million men in the United States who had these experiences in their lifetimes and 3 million men in the last 12 months
Dialogue Through Standpoint: Understanding Women’s and Men’s Standpoints of Sexual Harassment
Written by Debbie S. Dougherty, University of Nebraska
This article explains that men and women experience and understand sexual harassment in different ways. Dougherty makes the argument that in order for effective policy on sexual harassment to be created, the standpoints of both men and women will have to be taken into consideration.