Sometimes it’s possible and effective to report street harassment to the police, a transit worker, or to the harasser’s employer to help prevent that person from harassing someone in the future and to help record incidents of harassment since it’s VASTLY under-reported. Read stories about how people successfully reported their harasser.
If the harasser is threatening, touching or following you, flashing or masturbating at you, or persisting in more benign forms of harassment, you can report him to the police or a security officer. Find out what the laws are in your area and what you can or cannot report. For example, in Independence, Missouri, it’s a $500 fine or jail time for people who harass pedestrians and cyclists from their cars!
Since you do not know the name of the harasser, taking down a physical description or snapping a picture and a description of where it occurred will help when you report it. If there are other people nearby, make sure they realize the man’s behavior is unwelcome and harassing and see if they would be willing to be a witness to your story for the police.
While I have read stories of women who had police officers tell them things like “what did they expect?” or to “get a gun,” and while women of color and/or transwomen in particular may feel uncomfortable reporting harassers to the police, there are women who have had success with this tactic.
For example, on the ACLU Blog, Robyn Shepherd shared an amazing story of standing up to a street harasser/sexual assaulter. She was on her way to work when a guy whacked her on her rear on the street. She chased the guy down yelled at him and called the police who came and helped her look for him and took her complaint seriously. In the end, he got away, but it was still an important response.
If the harasser is at a bus stop, subway station, or train depot, or if he is on any form of public transportation, report him to the transit authority employee or file a complaint through an online or phone-based system (most major transit organizations have such a form or 800 number). In New York City, you can call NYPD’s Sex Crimes Report Line at 212.267.RAPE to report any form of sexual harassment experienced on the transit system. Chicago, New York City, and Boston all have anti-sexual harassment Public Service Announcement campaigns to encourage people to report sexual harassers.
If the harasser works for an identifiable company, call or write the company to let them know that their employees are harassing women on the job. If possible, let them know the location and the time of day that the employee was harassing you so they can better identify which employee it is and hold the employee responsible for his actions. If they care about business, they will not want employees harassing potential customers or having their business get a bad reputation.