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Home>Getting Around>Safety>Safety: Street Harassment Information

Safety: Street Harassment Information

By the Stanford Women’s Coalition


Street harassment refers to a range of harassing behaviors that occur on the street or in other public places including catcalling, sexually explicit comments, unwanted touching, and other unwanted attention and behavior.


Studies have found that over 80 percent of the women surveyed had experienced male stranger harassment in public and that those experiences had a large and detrimental impact on their perceived safety in public.

  • Ross Macmillan, Annette Nierobisz, and Sandy Welsh, “Experiencing the Streets: Harassment and Perceptions of Safety Among Women,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 37, no. 3 (August 2000).


  • Whistling, kissing noises, psssst noises
  • Comments like “Give me a smile!” and “Hey baby!”
  • Yelling from a distance
  • Blocking a woman’s path
  • Grabbing, groping, touching
  • Following (on foot, in a vehicle)
  • Honking


Women and girls experience harassment daily, often changing their behavior in an attempt to avoid it. Harassment happens while we are walking down the street, riding our bikes, on public transportation, etc. It often escalates to derogatory name-calling and even violence. Some harassers can be testing a woman to see if she is an easy target for sexual assault. This is called rape-testing.

Street harassment should not be considered a normal interaction between men and women.

Harassing a woman and/or assaulting her because she does not want to talk to man is unacceptable behavior and should always be seen as such.


How to talk to a harasser:

  • Always use strong body language: Look the harasser in the eyes; speak in a strong, clear voice. Using your voice, facial expressions, and body language together, without mixed signals, show assertiveness and strength.
  • Project confidence and calm. Even if you do not feel that way, it is important to appear calm, serious, and confident.
  • Do not apologize, make an excuse, or ask a question. You do not need to say sorry for how you feel or what you want. Be firm. Instead of saying, ‘Excuse me…’ ‘I’m sorry, but…’ or ‘Please…’, say directly, ‘Stop doing X.’
  • Do not get into a dialogue with the harasser, try to reason with them, or answer their questions. You do not need to respond to diversions, questions, threats, blaming, or guilt-tripping. Stay on your own agenda. Stick to your point. Repeat your statement or leave.
  • Do not swear or lose your temper: This type of reaction is the most likely to make the harasser respond with anger and violence and it also can make you seem like the one who is crazy or wrong when the harassment happens among a group of people, but no one sees what the harasser did to you.
  • Decide when you’re done. Success is how you define it. If you said what you needed to say and you’re ready to leave, do so.

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Last update: 12/12/2018

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