Study: The Surprising Consequences of Street Harrasment, and How to Combat It

Sixty-five percent of American women have experienced unwanted attention on the street, and the consequences that follow linger long after the incidents occur.

According to a 2015 survey conducted by nonprofit, Hollaback!, street harassment can result in severe behavioral changes in everyday life. The survey polled more than 4,800 people living in the United States, and found that the threat of street harassment results in fear, anxiety, and can distract women at work, school, and various environments.

"We hear stories of street harassment every day  —  and even so this data shocked us. The prevalence of street harassment in the U.S. is profound," said Debjani Roy, the deputy director of Hollaback!

Some examples of these behavioral changes that women experience in the survey include varying walking routines, walking with men, and hiding one's body shape. Though these changes make some women feel safer, other women like Maisha Johnston of Everyday Feminism believe that women shouldn't have to go out of the way for these safety measures so much.

"The truth is that street harassment is an even bigger problem than the mild annoyance a catcall might cause in the moment," Johnston writes. "It's part of a culture of normalizing the idea that women exist solely for the sexual pleasure of men."

"To be clear, I'm not saying that people targeted by misogyny shouldn't do any of these things – I'm saying that we shouldn’t have to," she continues.

Advocacy groups like Hollaback! are striving to change this over-normalized phenomenon as well. With opportunities to share stories, learn intervention techniques, and promote education, the group also is dedicated to fighting street harassment internationally through a smartphone app.

Through this method, users are encouraged to speak up when they see harassment by quickly documenting it in a short, photo-optional post and sharing it to a publicly viewable map.

"We work with women, girls, and LGBTQI individuals to document in words and pictures, and to literally indicate on a map, where they experienced harassment in public spaces," the website states. "Doing this provides a forum for individuals to share their experiences and brings attention to this long-ignored issue."

MAKER Emily May is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of New York City-based Hollaback! Check out her exclusive story in the player above.

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