Mapping Activist Responses and Policy Advocacy for Street Harassment: Current Practice and Future Directions

Abstract

This article presents findings from a comprehensive mapping exercise of activist responses to, and policy advocacy for, street harassment across the US, UK and Australia. Analysis of activist groups found that the bulk of responses constituted forms of “awareness raising” and documenting the experiences of victims, suggesting that current advocacy is largely situated within the “problem identification” phase of policy development. The extent and focus of activism and advocacy efforts varied across the three locations, with the responses advocated for shaped by local concerns and politics. In particular, activist groups diverged in their support for criminal justice responses to street harassment. Where policy and other initiatives have been developed, these have rarely been evaluated, and there is a clear need to establish an evidence base to better support future policy and practice developments.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Posts sharing individual experiences or disclosures of street harassment were coded under “story gathering and disclosure”. Although these arguably also function as a form of “awareness raising”, these themes have been distinguished in order to differentiate between the sharing of general, collated information about street harassment and the sharing of personal experiences.

References

  1. Ahmad, N. M., Ahmad, M. M., & Masood, R. (2020). Socio-psychological implications of public harassment for women in the capital city of Islamabad. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 27(1), 77–100.

  2. Ancheta, A. C. P. (2018). No place for harassment: Construing street harassment as gender-based sexual violence and providing remedies therefor. Ateneo Law Journal, 63, 539–648.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Arndt, S. (2018). Street harassment: The need for criminal remedies. Hastings Women’s Law Journal, 29(1), 81–100.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Banyard, V. L. (2011). Who will help prevent sexual violence: Creating an ecological model of bystander intervention. Psychology of Violence, 1, 216–229.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Banyard, V. L., Weber, M. C., Grych, J., & Hamby, S. (2016). Where are the helpful bystanders? Ecological niche and victims’ perceptions of bystander intervention. Journal of Community Psychology, 44, 214–231.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Baptist, J., & Coburn, K. (2019). Harassment in public spaces: The intrusion on personal space. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 31(2–3), 114–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bowman, C. (1993). Street harassment and the informal ghettoization of women. Harvard Law Review, 106(3), 517–580.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Brundson, D. (2018). Legal solutions to street sexual harassment in the #MeToo era. Atlantis Journal, 39(2), 40–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Buchanan, N. T., & Ormerod, A. J. (2002). Racialized sexual harassment in the lives of African American women. Women & Therapy, 25(304), 107–124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Carretta, R. F., & Szymanski, D. M. (2019). Stranger harassment and PTSD symptoms: Roles of self-blame, shame, fear, feminine norms, and feminism. Sex Roles, 82, 525–540.

  12. Chmielewski, J. F. (2017). A listening guide analysis of lesbian and bisexual young women of color’s experiences of sexual objectification. Sex Roles, 77, 533–549.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43, 1241–1299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Davidson, M. M., Gervais, S. J., & Sherd, L. W. (2015). The ripple effects of stranger harassment on objectification of self and others. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39(1), 53–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Davidson, M. M., Butchko, M. S., Robbins, K., Sherd, L. W., & Gervais, S. J. (2016). The mediating role of perceived safety on street harassment and anxiety. Psychology of Violence, 6(4), 553–561.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Davis, D. (1994). The harm that has no name: Street harassment, embodiment, and African American Women. UCLA Women’s Law Journal, 4, 133–178.

    Google Scholar 

  17. DelGreco, M., & Christensen, J. (2019). Effects of street harassment on anxiety, depression, and sleep quality of college women. Sex Roles, 82, 473–481.

  18. Desborough, K. (2018). The global anti-street harassment movement: Digitally-enabled feminist activism. In J. R. Vickery & T. Everbach (Eds.), Mediating Misogyny (pp. 333–351). Cham: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Fairchild, K., & Rudman, L. A. (2008). Everyday stranger harassment and women’s objectification. Social Justice Research, 21, 338–357.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fileborn, B. (2013). Conceptual understandings and prevalence of sexual harassment and street harassment. ACSSA Resource Sheet. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Fileborn, B. (2014). Online activism and street harassment: Digital justice or shouting into the ether? Griffith Journal of Law and Human Dignity, 2(1), 32–51.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Fileborn, B. (2017a). Justice 2.0: Street harassment victims’ use of social media and online activism as sites of informal justice. British Journal of Criminology, 57(6), 1482–1501.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Fileborn, B. (2017b). Bystander intervention from the victims’ perspective: Experiences, impacts and justice needs of street harassment victims. Journal of Gender Based Violence, 1(2), 187–204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Fileborn, B. (2020). Online activism and street harassment: Critical cartographies, countermapping and spatial justice. Onati Socio-Legal Series. Online first.

  25. Fileborn, B., & Loney-Howes, R. (2020). Using social media to resist gender violence: A global perspective. In Oxford research encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  26. Fileborn, B., & Vera-Gray, F. (2017). “I want to be able to walk the street without fear”: Transforming justice for street harassment. Feminist Legal Studies, 25, 203–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Foshee, V. A., Bauman, K. E., Greene, W. F., Koch, G. G., Fletcher Linder, G., & MacDougall, J. E. (2000). The safe dates program: 1-year follow-up results. American Journal of Public Health, 90(10), 1619–1622.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Franzke, A. S., Bechmann, A., Zimmer, M., Ess, C., and the Association of Internet Researchers (2020). Internet research: Ethical guidelines 3.0. https://aoir.org/reports/ethics3.pdf. Accessed 24 Feb 2021.

  29. Gardner, C. (1995). Passing by: Gender and public harassment. Berkley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Gekoski, A., Gray, J. M., Adler, J. R., & Horvath, M. A. H. (2016). The prevalence and nature of sexual harassment and assault against women and girls on public transport: An international review. Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, 3(1), 3–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Hamby, S., Weber, M. C., Grych, J., & Banyward, V. (2016). What difference do bystanders make? The association of bystander involvement with victim outcomes in a community sample. Psychology of Violence, 6, 91–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Hollaback (2014). Street harassment: Know your rights. Accessed via https://www.ihollaback.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Street-Harassment-Know-Your-Rights.pdf2014/10/Street-Harassment-Know-Your-Rights.pdf. Accessed 24 Feb 2021.

  33. Hollaback. (2017). Show up: Your guide to bystander intervention. New York: Center of Urban Pedagogy.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Holland, E., Koval, P., Stratemeyer, M., Thomson, F., & Haslam, N. (2017). Sexual objectification in women’s daily lives: A smartphone ecological momentary assessment study. British Journal of Social Psychology, 56(2), 314–333.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee. (2018). Sexual harassment of women and girls in public places. Sixth Report of Session 2017-19. HC 701. London: House of Commons.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Imbesi, R. (2008). Sexual assault prevention program for secondary schools: Report. Melbourne: CASA House.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Johnson, M., & Bennett, E. (2015). Everyday sexism: Australian women’s experiences of street harassment. Melbourne: The Australia Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Joseph, J. (2016). Gender-based street harassment: An international perspective. In K. Jaishankar (Ed.), Interpersonal criminology: Revisiting interpersonal crimes and victimization (pp. 3–16). Boca Raton: CRC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Kelly, L. (1988). Surviving sexual violence. Oxford: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Kissling, E. A. (1991). Street harassment: The language of sexual terrorism. Discourse & Society, 2(4), 451–460.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Lenton, R., Smith, M., Fox, J., & Morra, N. (1999). Sexual harassment in public places: Experiences of Canadian women. Canadian Journal of Anthropology, 36(4), 517–540.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Lennox, R., & Jurdi-Hage, R. (2017). Beyond the empirical and the discursive: The methodological implications of critical realism for street harassment research. Women’s Studies International Forum, 60, 28–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Logan, L. S. (2015). Street harassment: Current and promising avenues for researchers and activists. Social Compass, 9(3), 196–211.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Loney-Howes, R. (2019). The politics of the personal: The evolution of anti-rape activism from second-wave feminist to #MeToo. In B. Fileborn & R. Loney-Howes (Eds.), #MeToo and the politics of social change (pp. 21–36). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Loney-Howes, R., & Fileborn, B. (2019). Conclusion: ‘A new day is on the horizon’? In B. Fileborn & R. Loney-Howes (Eds.), #MeToo and the politics of social change (pp. 335–342). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Macmillan, R., Nierobisz, A., & Welsh, S. (2000). Experiencing the streets: Harassment and perceptions of safety among women. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 37(3), 306–322.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Mason-Bish, H., & Zempi, I. (2019). Misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia: Street harassment at the intersections. Feminist Criminology, 14(5), 540–559.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. McMahon, S. (2015). Call for research on bystander intervention to prevent sexual violence: The role of campus environments. American Journal of Community Psychology, 55, 472–489.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Mendes, K., Keller, J., & Ringrose, J. (2019). Digitized narratives of sexual violence: Making sexual violence felt and known through digital disclosures. New Media & Society, 21(6), 1290–1310.

  50. Mullany, L., & Trickett, L. (2018a). Misogyny hate crime: New research reveals true scale of issue–And how the public are united against it. The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/misogyny-hate-crime-new-research-reveals-true-scale-of-issue-and-how-the-public-are-united-against-it-100265. Accessed 24 Feb 2021.

  51. Mullany, L., & Trickett, L. (2018). Misogyny hate crime evaluation report. Nottinghamshire: Nottingham Women’s Centre.

    Google Scholar 

  52. O’Neill, T. (2018). “Today I speak”: Exploring how victim-survivors use Reddit. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 7(1), 44–59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Plummer, M., & Young, L. E. (2010). Grounded theory and feminist inquiry: Revisiting links to the past. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 32(3), 305–321.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Quinn, B. A. (2002). Sexual harassment and masculinity: The power and meaning of “girl watching.” Gender and Society, 16(3), 386–402.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Reinharz, S. (1992). Feminist methods in social research. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Roenius, A. (2016). My name is not “beautiful”, and no, I do not want to smile: Paving the path for street harassment legislation in Illinois. DePaul Law Review, 65(2), 831–872.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Rosewarne, L. (2019). #MeToo and the reasons to be cautious. In B. Fileborn & R. Loney-Howes (Eds.), #MeToo and the politics of social change (pp. 171–184). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Serisier, T. (2019). Speaking out: Feminism, rape and narrative politics. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Stop Street Harassment. (2014). Unsafe and harassed in public spaces: A national street harassment report. Reston, Virginia: Stop Street Harassment.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Vera-Gray, F. (2016). Men’s stranger intrusions: Rethinking street harassment. Women’s Studies International Forum, 58, 9–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Vera-Gray, F. (2017). Men’s intrusion, women’s embodiment: A critical analysis of street harassment. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Vera-Gray, F. (2018). The right amount of panic: How women trade freedom for safety. Bristol: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Vera-Gray, F., & Fileborn, B. (forthcoming). Hiding the harm? An argument against misogyny hate crime. In Donovan, C., Hall, E., & Clayton, J. (eds) Geographies of hate, Routledge.

  64. Vitis, L., & Gilmour, F. (2017). Dick pics on blast: A woman’s resistance to online sexual harassment using humour, art and Instagram. Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal, 13(3), 335–355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Wesselmann, E. D., & Kelly, J. R. (2010). Cat-calls and culpability: Investigating the frequency and functions of stranger harassment. Sex Roles, 63, 451–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Willsher, K. (2019). French police issue almost 450 fines under street harassment law. The Guardian (30 April). Accessed 30/10/2020 via https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/30/french-police-issue-almost-450-fines-under-street-harassment-law

  67. Wise, S., & Stanley, L. (1987). Georgie Porgie: Sexual harassment in everyday life. London: Pandora Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

My sincere thanks to Dr Tully O’Neill for her research support on this project, and to Tully and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and encouraging feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Funding

This project was funded through the Australian Research Council DE190100404.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bianca Fileborn.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The author currently serves as a board member for It’s Not a Compliment.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 1 Summary of responses to street harassment

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Fileborn, B. Mapping Activist Responses and Policy Advocacy for Street Harassment: Current Practice and Future Directions. Eur J Crim Policy Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10610-021-09479-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Street harassment
  • Public intrusion
  • Mapping
  • Gender-based violence
  • Policy
  • Activism