The Truth About Street Harassment



In June of this year, the non-profit organization Stop Street Harassment commissioned a study to learn more about the prevalence and effects of street harassment in the U.S.  Their findings?

Among women:

65% of all women had experienced street harassment.

23%  had been sexually touched.

20% had been followed.

9% had been forced to do something sexual.

Among men:

25% had been street harassed with self-identified LGBT men experiencing a much higher rate than others.  The most common form of harassment was homophobic slurs.


holly kearlThe full report is available online at no cost.  Why spend so much time and effort on a little, harmless cat calling?  Because it’s not little, as the statistics above show, and it’s certainly not harmless.   Holly Kearl, founder of Stop Street Harassment and consultant to the United Nations, authored the report on the survey, which was itself conducted by an independent research firm.  Kearl writes on page five of the report:  “Street harassment is a form of gender violence.  It causes many harassed persons, especially women, to feel less safe in public places and limit their time there.  It can also cause people emotional and psychological harm.  Everyone deserves to be safe and free from harassment as they go about their day.”

Street harassment includes any unwanted interactions in public spaces that are motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression and that make the person being harassed feel angry, humiliated, or scared.   Street harassment is considered different from sexual harassment because street harassment occurs among strangers and in a public place.  That place may be on the streets, but it may also be on public transportation, in a park, or in a store.  Sexual harassment occurs between people who know one another in places such as work or school.

Street harassment is not warranted by the way you dress, the way you walk, or your sexual orientation.  It is not “just a part of living in the city,”  or “just a part of being in high school.”    Girls do not “have it coming,” and guys don’t “deserve it for acting gay.”   Street harassment is disrespectful, offensive, and, in many cases, illegal.

Learn more about street harassment, how to stop it, and what to do if it happens to or around you at Stop Street Harassment.


R. Shannon Duval is a Ph.D in philosophy, Fulbright Scholar, second degree black belt in TaeKwonDo, and a national champion in kali arnis.  Known as "The Wonder Ninja" for her dual careers in philosophy and martial arts, Germ's Educational Director (and Consulting Editor of Germ U) has traveled to lands far and near, and has discovered that while the pen is mightier than the sword in all of them, swords are still an awful lot of fun.  She loves playing hide and seek in things that are bigger on the inside than the outside, simultaneously wielding distinctions and edged weapons, and pondering the original nature of snowmen. Have a great idea for using Germ in the classroom? Contact her at


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