Here in this wonderful time that we call 2016, street harassment remains a prominent threat to women and LGBTQIA+ individuals all around. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed street harassment knows that it’s a scary, enraging, and confusing thing. Sometimes what to do in those situations can be tricky, especially if the perpetrator won’t leave the victim alone. Though I often hear people speak proudly of telling catcallers to “fuck off,” it isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially if the person being harassed is alone. The harsh reality is that there are some situations where expressing outrage is not worth risking safety.
I don’t often come across conversations where people have ways to deal with catcalling and street harassment that don’t include confronting it head on. However, there are a few ways that bystanders can help in situations of harassment (many of these may also work for public displays of domestic abuse/violence).
1. Create a diversion.
Try to distract from the situation in any way possible. Spilling a drink is always a good one, but falling down or dropping things could work as well.
2. Pretend to know the victim.
Walk up to them and start a conversation with things like “Hey, I’ve been looking for you!” or “Hi, what’s up! It’s been so long!”
3. Approach them.
Get the attention of the person being harassed and ask a question. Try to ask them for directions, or something of that nature that isn’t a quick one-word answer. Take them away from the situation.
4. Record it.
Use your cell phone to take a video in case the victim wants to report it with evidence (if anything illegal happens such as touching, pulling on clothing, etc.)
5. Get help!
Call the police if it isn’t stopping or if the incident is becoming violent.
6. Call out the perpetrator if you can.
If you want, speak directly about the situation! But make sure only to do this if you know you’re safe.
All too often, bystanders do nothing in the face of street harassment because they fear for their safety. Always remember that nobody deserves to be harassed and that there are ways to help that won’t put you at risk. Women and LGBTQIA+ individuals must stick together, and hopefully we’ll create safer streets for all of us.