Jen Corey, the current Miss D.C., recently made headlines in Washington when she slammed a man against a wall at a bar. Why? Because he was the third man that night to inappropriately touch her without her consent and she’d had enough.
Men have harassed Corey in public places since she was 12 years old — and it’s not just at the bars. It’s on her lunch break. At the grocery store. When she’s out shopping with her girlfriends. And I’m sure you know the exact type of thing she’s talking about. Around the world — even in countries like Egypt and Yemen where most women are veiled in public — 80 percent of females are harassed by unknown men in public places. This harassment ranges from unwanted leers and whistles to sexually explicit or sexist comments to sexual touching and stalking. The unwelcome attention impacts our sense of self, freedom to go out in public, and our comfort level when we’re there.
This reality is unacceptable. Women should have the right to go outside without being harassed or touched. Corey told me, “I don’t expect every guy to leave me alone when I’m out … I just want to be respected and I don’t think that it’s too much to ask.”
It isn’t. But unfortunately, until men are educated not to harass women and are penalized if they do, it will keep happening. So, what can we do to deal with it? It depends on the situation, but when we feel safe, we can empower ourselves by taking some kind of action against the jerk who is making us feel annoyed and unsafe.
Here are 10 ideas for action, with more found at Stop Street Harassment and in the forthcoming book “Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women.”
1. Tell the harasser exactly what you want to happen. For example, tell him “Move away from me,” “Stop touching me,” or “Go stand over there.” Use an assertive tone and forego saying “please” to strengthen what you are saying. He doesn’t deserve any niceties.
2. Say a general statement like, “Stop harassing women. I don’t like it. No one likes it. Show some respect.” Speak it in a neutral but assertive tone.
3. If you are in a crowded area, identify the perpetrator and shame him in front of others. You can say something like, “Hey man in the grey shirt, stop touching me!”
4. If you are at a bar or on a bus, tell the bartender or the bus driver what is happening. Tell someone standing nearby and ask for their help.
5. Snap a photo of the harasser and use it to report him to the police, public transportation authority, or store or bar manager (depending on where the harassment occurred).
6. If the harasser works for an identifiable company (such as a construction company or delivery service company), write down where the harassment occurred and a description of the harasser (or take a photo) and report him to his boss.
7. If the harasser is in a car, write down the license plate number. Even pretending to write it down can scare him into stopping. And if the harasser is aggressive or threatening, you can use it to report him to the police.
8. Tell the harasser that you are conducting a research project or survey. Start asking them questions such as, “How often do you do this?” or “How do you choose which people to harass?” or “Do you discuss your harassment activities with your mother, sister or female friends?”
9. Look out for your friends and other women. If it looks like a woman is being harassed, ask her if she is okay and offer help.