Street Harassment is no Laughing Matter

By Eimear Quinn

Have you ever encountered harassment on the street? I’m particularly asking if this was doled out by the male species.

    Street harassment has always been a popular form of intimidation, especially in the case of large packs of males. It’s become an epidemic.

    Before anyone begins to point the all too familiar ‘sexist’ finger, I’d like to draw attention to some statistics.

    Research carried out by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has shown that 70 – 99% of women – internationally – have encountered street harassment at some stage in their life.

   Street harassment is defined as unwanted sexual contact, cat calling, flashing and most disturbingly, public masturbation. And that’s only to name a few.

    Numerous other investigations into this form of harassment have been carried out, particularly by the anti-street harassment organisation Hollaback!

    Hollaback! New York teamed up with researchers from the Worker Institute at Cornell University to explore the response from service providers and unions on the topic.

     Of those involved in the study, 86% said they had received a report of street harassment from a client, consumer or constituent. A further 96% said that they or a colleague had an experience of street harassment themselves.

  So as you can now tell – if you couldn’t before, this is recurring issue that needs to stop and the organisation of Hollaback! has been instrumental in the prevention of street harassment.

    Hollback! was founded in New York in 2005 by Co-founder and Executive Director Emily May. Since then, she has built an army of followers with branches popping up in more than 60 countries worldwide.

    They provide a place where women and LGBTQ individuals can safely share their stories of harassment and access information on how to stand up to the culprits.

    Thankfully, it has reached Northern Ireland in the form of Hollaback! Belfast, co-founded by Helen McBride and Sharlene McGee, having recently established the branch with a Chalk Walk and a fabulous launch night in the Hudson Bar, Belfast.

   Don’t get me wrong, not all men are evil! There are plenty of male supporters of anti-street harassment and a great amount of male Hollabackers!

       But it is time to take a stand and put an end to this street disease infecting our streets and affecting our daily commute.

    Here are a few tips, courtesy of Hollaback!, on what you can do as a bystander if you witness someone being harassed:


  • Offer the target your seat
  • Drop your bags, cause a commotion
  • Pretend to know the target and say “I’ve been looking for you everywhere, come on, we have to go meet friends”
  • Ask for directions


  • Ask the target “Are they bothering you?”
  • Tell the person you will call the police if they don’t stop
  • Take a picture with your phone
  • Look disapprovingly at the harasser


  • Call the police
  • Make eye contact with other bystanders and ask “What should we do to help?”
  • Report it to a transit authority worker

    Before taking on any of these pro-active techniques to help a target, think about your safety and consider the alternative methods of intervening (e.g. calling the police, gathering some friends to help intervene).

    For some further information, here are some helpful links for you to have a gander at. If you feel your calling is to get involved in the fight to end street harassment, don’t hesitate to make yourself heard!!/HollabackBelfast?fref=ts

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