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How to Deal with Street Harassment

What is Street Harassment?


Street harassment
can be a lot of things, but basically if you are offended by someone’s behaviour towards you in a public setting – that’s harassment.

Street harassment can be things like:

  • Cat calling
  • verbal abuse
  • insulting comments
  • unwanted touching
  • invasions of personal space
  • whistling
  • yelling
  • staring

Unfortunately, street harassment is really common and happens to lots of people. This behaviour is form of bullying, and it can make you feel pretty crappy when it happens.

All too often women and girls are at the receiving end of hostile or aggressive attention from strangers (who are usually men). There’s a few reasons why this happens, and it’s got a lot to do with how women are viewed in our society.

To read more about why street harassment happens to women more than men, check out this post.

Our tips for dealing with street harassment:

Rule #1. Trust Your Gut

If you get that bad feeling in your stomach trust your instincts, and do whatever you need to to keep yourself safe.

Rule #2. Don’t Worry About Being Polite

You don’t owe it to anyone to be polite, who cares if someone you don’t know thinks you’re rude? Your safety is the most important thing, so don’t worry about good manners.

If you’re being harassed in public, try to remember that:

1. It’s your right to leave the situation
If you feel uncomfortable, it’s absolutely fine to leave the area. Change seats, switch carriages, cross the street. Again – don’t worry about being polite.

2. It’s your right to tell the person to stop
If you feel able to, tell the person to stop talking to you or to leave you alone.

3. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, call someone.
Call a friend or adult you trust. You could have an unrelated conversation, which will tell the harasser that you’re busy and you’re not at all interested in interacting with them.

If you’re feeling really unsafe, call a friend or an adult, tell them exactly where you are and what the situation is, so they can help you out.

4. If you’re feeling unsafe, call the police
If you feel like the situation is escalating, call 000 for help.

If you witness someone else being harassed:

If you are in a situation where someone needs help, you need to make a judgement call about what to do. Each of these steps are in order of difficulty and confidence. Only do what you feel you are able to do while watching out for your own safety.

(once the offender has left)

1. Ask the victim if they’re ok
Once the offender has left, you could ask the victim if they’re ok. It’ll probably make them feel a lot better.

(while it’s happening)

1. Ask the victim an unrelated question (time, directions etc)
You could ask the victim an unrelated question as a distraction, such as ‘Excuse me, do you know what the time is’ or you could ask for directions somewhere.

2. Ask the victim if they’re ok
Ask the victim ‘is this person bothering you?’ or if they need help in front of the offender.

3. Call someone you trust
Call an adult or friend you trust, explain where you are, exactly what’s going on and ask them for help.

4. Call the police
If things are really escalating, call the police.

If you’ve experienced street harassment, and it’s upset you in any way – it can really make you feel better to talk about it.

When you’re feeling stressed out it can be easy to forget that there are people you can call on for help like your friends, a trusted adult or your school counsellor. If you’d prefer to talk to someone else, try Beyond Blue or Kids Helpline. It’s free, and  totally confidential.

Click here for a list of Support Services.