WESS Social Justice Club Joins The Fight Against Street Harassment with IHOLLABACK Webinar Event

Ruby Sklar

The moment when your heart drops and your chest begins to pound as a shadow peers in the back of you at night, you run, afraid to look back. Once you reach a build you go in, look back, and realize the man behind you was walking his dog. But it will not always be a man walking his innocent beagle behind  you. 


On Tuesday December 8, the WESS social justice club brought an expert from an anti-street harassment campaign to speak about situations and effects of street harassment, and methods to be an active bystander when witnessing street harassment. In New York City, street harassment is as prevland as pigeons flying in the sky. The IHOLLABACK campaign initiative states, “We’re building a world where we can all be who we are, wherever we are.”  which expands on the idea about spreading knowledge on being an active bystander to sexual harassment and emphaizes that people who experience harassment are never at fault. 


Street harassment is an issue that can affect anyone no matter age or gender. The ability for people to intervene or be an active bystander in any way is beneficial to aid the well being and mental health of the person experiencing street harassment. During the seminar, 92% of attendants  anonymously stated that they had experienced some form of street harassment. Street harassment affects people in the longer term. Psychological and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD are associated with people experiencing street harassment. Social and financial aspects of life can be limited due to lack of mobility, leaving a job or skipping school due to harassment experience there. Street harassment is often believed to be an occurrence that happens on the street, though longer term impacts can limit people for a long time after they experienced the event.  


Street harassment is a huge issue around the world that is normalized and often victim blaming occurs. According to an organization called Stop Street Harassment, in 2002 70% of the people surveyed stated that they have been subject to some form of sexual harassment. On the same website an online survey from 2012 conducted in Croatia reported that 99% of the people, 500 surveyed mostly women, had experienced some form of sexual assault in their lifetime. 


In the United States, anti-street harassment campaigns have started to make people aware, through a survey by  SSH in June 2014. The survey collected data from 2,000 people  nationwide, and it found that 65% of all women had experienced street harassment. Street harassment is a global issue that needs to be addressed and it is important to be an ally and an active bystander in a harassment situation. 


In a survey by the ihollaback campaign, only 25% of people said that someone intervened when they experienced a form of sexual assault and 79% stated that oustide intervaention improved the situation. The 5D’s are used to aid someone experiencing street harassment : Distract, Delegate, Document (give the person experiencing the event, do not post the video with details included such as place, date, and key identification of the harasser), Delay (after the incident is over, check in with the person who was harassed.. For example, say “Can I sit with you? Can I accompany you somewhere?”) and Direct (ask “are you okay? Should I get help?”). 


Street harassment should not be overlooked, but rather something that is a call to action. Any form of aid is helpful to a person experiencing street harassment as well as the safety as a bystander attempting to help. According to a group survey from the webinar, 78% of people said, i’m scared i’ll end up being targeted, though there are many methods to aid the person being harassed in the situation. In any situation of street harassment it is never your fault: reclaim your space, tell your story, recognize that street harassment hurts, and take care of yourself. The ability to aid the person that is facing the situation is critical to end the cycle of sexul assault and the long term effects of the harassment.  


To find more information please go to https://www.ihollaback.org