The impact of street harassment
Have you ever been catcalled, or had someone pull/grope you inappropriately on the street? That’s harassment. Harassment is any form of unwanted or unwelcome behaviour that you find offensive. Usually, the aim of this is to embarrass, intimidate or hurt someone else. While some people might look at street harassment as being playful or harmless, the impact it has can be negative and long lasting. Street harassment is actually a power thing. It’s mainly done by men to make them feel more powerful than those that they are harassing— the sexual and unwanted comments put the person they are directed at to a lower position than them. Here are a few ways harassment can impact an individual and society:
While some (especially those harassing) may think catcalling and being publicly groped is a compliment, it can really make the person being harassed feel bad about themselves. It doesn’t matter whether it happens online or in the streets, but if you’re constantly harassed and picked on - you might feel like there is something wrong with you, like you’re asking for it or like you need to completely change in order to avoid being harassed. This can negatively affect your self-esteem and the way you view yourself in general.
It can be traumatic
For those who are just looking on at someone being harassed, street harassment could seem harmless. However, it can have a deep effect on the victim. Street harassment, whether verbal or physical, is a violation of a person’s personal space, privacy and rights to their own body. Verbal, physical and sexual violation are all traumatic acts - they violate someone’s very existence which can have psychological effects on someone to the point that they develop anxiety, fear being out in public and fear being around men in particular (who, statistically, are more responsible for street harassment).
Disregards the concept of consent
It’s important for everyone to learn what consent is and every time we allow people to get away with touching, groping or speaking sexually to someone without their permission, we teach people that consent is not important. When people are allowed to get away with violating someone in small ways, it becomes easier for them to commit worse acts where consent is ignored, like rape and abuse. Not letting people get away with street harassment will help us teach them that consent is always necessary and that it is never, ever acceptable to touch or be sexual with someone without their consent.
Street harassment is wrong - not only because it is rude and disrespectful, but because it is a violation of an individual. It’s important for us to be able to speak out against it in order to discourage it from happening to people, especially young women, every day.
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