More Research Needed to Help Prevent Street Harassment via IWPR Blog

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research is a great ally of anti-street harassment work and they are interested in conducting street harassment research if they can find funding for it. They asked me to write a guest blog post about the need for more research. Here is an excerpt and you can read the full post on their blog, FemChat.

“….After four years of learning, writing, and speaking about this issue, I know there will never be gender equality until street harassment ends. I also understand that policymakers are hard-pressed to make significant changes without data that illustrates a problem and without research suggesting policies that could improve the problem.

This is where we reach the catch-22.

To truly address street harassment, we need citywide, statewide, and/or nationwide studies to give us concrete data about its prevalence, the impact it has on women’s lives, and why it happens (and thus what we can do to prevent it). Then policies can follow.

These important studies require funding to be conducted well (I did my informal survey online, with a shoestring budget). Funders often hesitate to put money behind an initiative that has not been proven to be a problem. Street harassment hasn’t been proven to be a problem because there are so few studies. There are so few studies because there is no funding…and back and forth and back and forth.

This is unacceptable. In the United States, we take pride in our country being the land of the free, but that’s not true for women. Girls routinely face harassment on their way to school and when they are out with friends, and women routinely face harassment on their way to work or while running errands – particularly if they walk or take public transportation. They should not be penalized because of this catch-22.

It’s time to break the cycle. It’s time for a smart funder to realize that the stories, informal data, and studies from the 1990s support the need  for new, comprehensive studies that can inform new policies—and help make our streets safe and free for girls and women, as well as for boys and men.”

So if anyone has funding available or knows about an organization/foundation that would be interested in funding street harassment research, let me and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research know. More data will make our case stronger and better equipped to ask for policy changes.

6 Responses to More Research Needed to Help Prevent Street Harassment via IWPR Blog

  1. Marty Langelan says:

    Hi, Holly —

    Yes, funding for this research is very scarce. I have been conducting systematic research on how to stop street harassment for more than 30 years — testing all kinds of tactics and responses to see what actually works.

    But we have never had a grant to support this work.

    Hundreds of trained volunteers have participated in my research every year — thousands over 30+ years.
    The lack of grant funding has not prevented serious research. I’ve never had any shortage of volunteers to test various tactics, responses, and pre-emptive actions to stop harassers — and there’s certainly no lack of harassers out there, for us to conduct our field tests on.

    But the lack of funding has made it difficult to write up and publish the research results. Without a grant, there is no reimbursement for my time as the lead investigator. So I have not been able to spend much time writing and publishing articles on the ongoing research results.

    I would love to be part of any research grant applications you want to put together. If you need an academic institutional sponsor, my affiliation as a professor at American University should be helpful — just let me know what you need on that score.

    Is there anything else I can do to help with this?

    Best always,

  2. Marty Langelan says:

    Hi again, Holly —

    Just to clarify — we’ve never been turned down on a grant proposal — the reason we’ve never had a grant for this research on stopping harassers is because we could not find any source where we could even apply for a grant on this.

    If someone can suggest a possible source for funding, I will be happy to help you prepare a professional grant application. We’ve had very good luck on all kinds of grant applications in other areas.

    Best always —

  3. Hi Marty,
    Thanks for your messages and offer of help. IWRP is also looking for ideas for possible sources of funding for such research. As I mention in my post, it’s a catch 22 where funders don’t want to fund something that hasn’t been “proven” to be a problem and it hasn’t been “proven” to be a problem because there’s no solid research out there on prevalence. And in this case in particular, we are hoping to do research to show its prevalence since that is sorely needed. Recent studies showing prevalence in Egypt, India and Yemen have led to many more initiatives to address it and that’s what we’d like here. We know regular folks can talk action in their daily lives w/out this but it’d be great to have more action from orgs, policy makers etc and that likely won’t happen without stats and we won’t get stats without research that can’t be conducted well without funding.

  4. Marty Langelan says:

    You are so right about the catch-22.

    I do a brief prevalence-of-harassment survey in every class I teach. The most reliable data come from the mandatory classes (participants are required to be there, so it’s not a self-selecting group). I teach primarily in urban areas — have less data, but some, from rural areas. The results are consistent across all groups I teach: corporate employees, government employees, managers/supervisors, community organizations, high school and college students: more than 90% of females report that they have experienced street harassment, and about 10% of males.

    Gay-bashing harassment is included in those results (it accounts for a small share of the harassment reported by females, and a pretty large share of the harassment reported by males).

    It would be very easy for me to distribute a short written survey form in every mandatory class I teach, to give you current data on prevalence.

    Let me know — glad to help you establish a good, solid track record of data on prevalence.


  5. alankearl says:

    I thought New York City’s Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, committed to conducting a study in his borough. Or was this a “maybe”? What is the status of this? I think it’s like a snowball, if one study (however limited) is conducted, it will draw attention and concern, and then possibly another will be funded and another and so forth.

  6. @alan they are looking for… FUNDING! lol, it’s what we all need I guess.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: