There is no one “right” way to deal with harassers and since street harassment includes a variety of behaviors from catcalls (mostly legal) to groping (definitely illegal), you could employ a variety of responses.
Every situation and person is different and often you only have a second or two to assess your safety and decide what to do.
*** If your physical safety is at risk, get to safe place and call 911. If you can’t leave, ask a bystander to call for you. Looking a bystander directly in the eye and asking for help is often the best way to ensure s/he understand that you need help. ***
But if you want to address harassers and harassment directly — either instead of or in addition to reporting them to the police — there are many different ways to do it.
Respond to the Harasser
If you feel safe enough to do so, respond to the harasser calmly, firmly, and without insults or personal attacks.
* Use simple statements like, “Stop harassing women!” “Back off” or “Leave me alone now,” to let the person know that his or her actions are unwelcome, unacceptable, and wrong.
* If applicable, let the harasser know that his or her actions are illegal and that you intend to report them to the police if s/he doesn’t stop.
* Or get creative — hand the harasser a card or flyer on why street harassment is inappropriate or find some other surprising way to respond.
* Public shaming is often an effective tactic: Ask the harasser to repeat him or herself or loudly announce to passersby what the harasser just said or did.
* Marty Langelan’s book Back Off! How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers and Holly Kearl’s book 50 Stories about Stopping Street Harassers include many examples of confronting harassers.
* METRAC offers a free “Not Your Baby App” that allows users to find examples of ways to respond to specific sexual harassment scenarios.
Report Harassers to Their Company
If the harassers work for an identifiable company, call or write the company to let them know that their employees are harassing people on the job and why that is unacceptable.
* Even threatening to report harassers to their company can make a difference.)
Share Your Story
* Share your story with loved ones and friends to raise their awareness about the issue.
* Share your story on the Stop Street Harassment blog and/or your social media accounts.
* Download the Hollaback! phone app.
If you see street harassment happening, do something.
* You can ask the person being harassed if s/he wants help and what s/he would like you to do.
* Or simply check in to see if that person is okay.
* You can also let the harasser know his or her actions are not condoned by others.
* Men speaking up can be particularly powerful since men (the majority of street harassers) look to other men for approval.
* Check out this great bystander campaign for other ideas.