Street sexual harassment isn't just unwanted grabbing or touching in public, it may include vulgar gestures or noises, shouting obscenities, whistling or leering. In India, there are laws against sexual harassment. Find out what they are and how you can use them against the harasser.
Being able to fend off an attacker may save your life. At the very least, consider arming yourself with pepper spray.
There isn’t a 'best' way, or even a right or wrong way, to respond to every street harassment situation. You must be the judge and act accordingly, keeping your safety as your first priority. At times, no response is the best response. Let the situation determine the response that is right for you.
This may be a gloomy piece of advice, but keeping a serious expression on your face can often be a useful shield against harassment. In places where male-female eye contact can be interpreted as flirtation, an aura of business announces very clearly that you are off limits.
Often the first signal from a street harasser will be auditory, such as shouting obscenities,or trying to gain your attention in some way in order to approach you. A good way to avoid this is to have headphones on your ears. Your attention is crucial to someone wanting to interact with you, and if it is obvious that you are unable to hear what they’re saying they will usually stop. If you are wearing headphones that are actually playing music, however, this may potentially cause problems, as some women have reported being attacked because they were unable to hear the person’s approach.
If you find yourself in a situation where your harasser is following you and refuses to go away, one way to get them off your back is to slip into a nearby place of business, such as an internet shop or hotel. If the harasser seems dangerous, you may have someone inside call the police. Otherwise you can wait inside until they have disappeared.
Look your harasser in the eye and denounce their behaviour with a strong, clear voice, showing your assertiveness and strength. Project confidence and calm, even if you do not feel that way. Many people prefer to identify the harasser and name their behaviour out loud, saying, for example, 'Man in the yellow shirt, do not comment on my body, that is harassment!' or 'Do not stare at me like that, that is harassment' or something similar. You can also say 'that is not OK!' or 'don’t speak to me like that!' Try out different phrases and see what feels natural to you. The important thing is that you aren’t apologetic in your response.
Once you’ve given him your piece of mind, keep moving. Harassers don’t deserve the pleasure of your company.
To end street harassment, we must change the culture that makes it acceptable to begin with. Such cultural shifts begin with people coming forward to share their stories and formulate a plan of action. You can join the movement by joining such anti-street harassment organizations as Hollaback, or starting one in your own city.
Regardless of how enraged and violated a harasser may make you feel, your personal safety should be your first priority when responding. If you feel you’re in an unsafe situation, without the support of those around, or alone with a potentially violent person, no response may be the best strategy – remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
If you feel that responding will not jeopardise your safety, then stand up for yourself – lend your support to changing the culture of street harassment by calling out your harasser and letting them know that their behaviour is unacceptable.
When responding to a harasser, it’s important to be strong and firm, but don’t lose your temper. This type of reaction could make your harasser respond with anger or violence. Let them know their actions are unwelcome and unacceptable while still keeping in control of the situation.
Harassers may try to react to your firm response. They may try to engage you in further conversation or even make fun of you. As tempting as a verbal war with them may be, it’s not recommended. The attention may further feed their abusive behaviour. Say your piece then remove yourself from the situation.
One simple step to decrease the likelihood of harassment is to be in the company of others. Potential harassers are a lot less likely to bother you if someone else is around.
So that you don’t have to perform any of the undesirable actions listed above, the first set of precautions should be to know what is acceptable within the culture you are traveling. If it is scandalous within that culture to reveal your knees or shoulders, then you will be attracting a whole lot of unwanted attention if you do so. Should women be able to wear whatever they want? Sure. Will they be harassed if they wear clothing that draws unwanted attention within the culture they are in? It’s likely.
Your vacation to another city or state is no time to push cultural boundaries. Sometimes even the police will be insensitive to your harassment claims if they judge you to be wearing something inappropriate. Even if you totally disagree with a society’s conservatism, you risk harassment if you do not play by its rules.