41% of American Women Report having been Touched, Followed or Sexually Assaulted in Public

Saturday, July 19, 2014
(photo: Getty Images)

Walking down streets or being in public spaces can be wrought with ugly, unwanted encounters with strangers, according to an unusual kind of social behavior study.


The group Stop Street Harassment says large numbers of people, particularly women, are frequently confronted by individuals they don’t know expressing sexual or violent intentions or both.


“From ‘hey baby’ to ‘stupid fag,’ from flashing to groping, sexual harassment in public spaces, or ‘street harassment,’ is a problem many people experience, some with profound consequences,” the group wrote in its new report.


Using thousands of anecdotes collected from Americans over six years, as well as a scientifically based survey, Stop Street Harassment warns that too many women, as well as homosexual men, are enduring mistreatment out in public.


It found that 41% of women reported experiencing “physically aggressive forms” of harassment, including “sexual touching (23%), following (20%), flashing (14%), and being forced to do something sexual (9%).”


An even larger percentage (65%) said they have experienced at least one type of street harassment in their lifetimes.


Other findings noted in the report include:


  • 86% of women and 79% of men who had experienced harassment reported being harassed more than once.
  • 57% of women reported incidents of verbal harassment.
  • 25% of men have experienced street harassment, including 18% involving verbal harassment and 16% enduring physically aggressive forms.
  • Respondents of color were more likely to have been harassed. According to the survey, 48% of black respondents and 45% of Hispanic respondents said they had been verbally harassed. Only 36% of white respondents said they had.
  • LGBT respondents reported more harassment. The survey said 57% of LGBT respondents had been verbally harassed, and 45% had suffered physically aggressive harassment. For straight respondents, the numbers were 37% and 28%, respectively.


The group argues that street harassment should be considered a type of human rights violation and a form of gender violence.


The report was based on a survey of 2,000 adults, about half men, half women.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces: A National Street Harassment Report (Stop Street Harassment) (pdf)

Unpaid Interns not Protected by Sexual Harassment Laws (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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