Saturday, April 04, 2015

Public Street Harassment

From The Age today The private struggle with public street harassment:
" A survey released last month by the Australia Institute found almost 50 per cent of women polled said they had been followed, while 40 per cent said they had had their paths blocked. 
More than 40 per cent had also experienced unwanted sexual touching by a stranger, while 36 per cent had been flashed. Almost 80 per cent had been honked at, 75 per cent had been leered at, while more than 60 per cent had experienced lewd or sexist comments. 
La Trobe University sexual violence researcher Bianca Fileborn calls street harassment one of the "most pervasive forms of sexualised violence". As with rape and domestic violence, it is likely that the figures are even higher than suggested by surveys. Many women do not report their experiences. Some don't even tell their friends or family.
It's simply part of being a lady in 2015 in Australia. Or the United States, Britain or Canada, where similar figures are recorded. 
There is not much research about the perpetrators of street harassment, but overwhelmingly they are understood to be men, who are more likely to harass strangers when in a group. This is not to suggest that most men drive around in cars scaring the bejesus out of women. The point is, enough of them do it to enough women – and the result is a culture that is unnervingly everyday in its violence against females. 
There is also an unnerving lack of action to stop it.
What happens to women on the streets is not seen as a critical issue – it is certainly not taken with the same level of seriousness as the safety of young men at risk of coward punches (where laws were changed, new terms coined). "Street harassment" is not even specifically referred to in the federal government's much trumpeted national plan to reduce violence against women. 
Perhaps this is why many of the responses have been informal ones: encouraging bystanders and friends to intervene if it's safe, as well as websites like Hollaback that collect and publicise examples. 
But until street harassment is seen as a mainstream issue, worthy of tackling rather than ignoring or tolerating, the onus will remain on individual women to handle it. Women, who like Rachel are not only scared by what is happening, but in her own words, "pissed off". 
"I'm just so angry. You should be able to walk in your local area at night." "

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