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Globally and locally street harassment has reached epidemic proportions, yet is one of the least-talked about or legislated against forms of violence. Thanks to the sponsorship of Girls Action Foundation, Hollaback! Winnipeg has completed the city’s first survey to analyze the experiences of girls, women, trans, two-spirit and gender nonconforming individuals with street harassment. “Street harassment is unacceptable, women and LGBTTQ individuals shouldn’t have to pay the price of harassment just to move through public places. The results of our survey show that the sad state of our streets.” says Hollaback! Winnipeg Director Jodie Layne.
In Winnipeg, 94% of those self-identifying as female, trans, or genderqueer has experienced sexual harassment, with 63% of respondents reporting incidences of street harassment occurring once a month or more frequently. The forms of harassment are varied, with the most common form of harassment indicated as honking(73%) followed by: leering(66%), whistling(66%), comments on your body(59%), sexist comments(54%), and sexually explicit comments(44%). Although verbal harassment is the most common, we also found alarmingly high numbers of respondents who indicated physical forms of harassment including following, masturbating, blocking path, assaulting, and groping.
Street harassment is defined as any unwanted attention in a public place, but the vast majority of reported harassment(96%) against the targeted group happened on the street with 63% reporting incidences at a bus stop, 39.2% happening on a Winnipeg Transit bus, and 30% experiencing harassment at a shopping mall. “Our respondents are from girls as young as 12 and women up to the age of 77. It’s heartbreaking that this is a behaviour that follows them their whole lives,” Layne says.
Perhaps the most alarming figure and the one most telling of our attitude towards harassment is that only 14% of incidences of harassment were reported. And of those who did report their experiences – there was no result. One respondent even says that Police made matters worse telling her that when she was harassed in the hallway of her apartment building it was because she was a sex worker and “she was asking for that kind of attention”. Another woman, who identified herself as a newcomer, said that when she reported a neighbour sexually harassing her she was told she would “have to learn to get along with the people here”. Layne says she’s disappointed by these outcomes and hopes that the police will train officers in how to react to street harassment, “When people experience street harassment, it’s isolating and reaching out to someone and feeling victimized further makes it worse. Street harassment is an obvious problem in the city and things like this result in non-reporting a lack of awareness. We need to realize this isn’t acceptable and demand respect as we go about our daily lives.”
Right now there is a great conversation going on in Winnipeg facilitated by articles written for Spectator Tribune. They’ve brought an immense amount of attention to how safety means different things to different people based on many factors: our own assumptions and attitudes about an area, our race, our gender, our class, our sexual orientation.
The original article dispels many people’s views who don’t frequent downtown:
Then, Kate Sjoberg, responds with a question about who it is that feels safe downtown and who benefits from ‘downtown safety’ initiatives:
In the comments it’s Anastasia Chipelski(a holla! friend) who speaks to the issue of street harassment:
“It’s really interesting to see these different takes emerging on downtown and, in this article, my neighborhood. I live about a block away from the area that Kate states she feels safe in, and although I am also a white, educated, able-bodied woman, I had had a much different experience.
I do not feel safe walking alone in my neighborhood after dark, but I do it anyway, with careful preparation and a sense of defiance. I have
been threatened, harassed, and followed home by the men who drive into the neighborhood and who assume that since I am female, and I am out on the street, I am sexually available to them. I don’t even dare glance at a passing car when I am walking on the street, I have learned not to
stand still, and though I’ve tried many different options, I haven’t been able to find a way to dress myself that will counter this
perception. I am not worried about other people walking about, drunk or sober, alone or in groups – it’s the men in the cars who see every
woman as a potential pick-up, and as a body that they are entitled to.”
As always, thanks to our incredibly talented videographer, Cleo Leslie!
Help us bring the Holla! mesasage to Denver in April and vote for us to present to media makers from all accross North America.
I don’t get harassed very much, mainly because I don’t tend to hang out in areas with large groups of people who have been drinking, and I tend to look really pissed off when I’m walking most of the time (it’s just the way my face goes, guys). The only two times I can remember being harassed (and none were particularly serious) were both right beside the Manitoba Museum.
I was walking into work after parking on the side street right across from the museum doors – like I could literally turn my head to the left and the doors are right there. You have to walk down some stairs to get to the planetarium entrance (the planetarium is attached to the museum and the city’s tunnel system), and above the doorway in front of the museum doors is a porch thing you can stand on. There was a group of guys there, maybe 6-8 of them, and they were being pretty rowdy. It was summer, so I was probably wearing shorts and a t-shirt or something else totally innocuous. I got out of my car, grabbed my stuff, and started walking toward the planetarium entrance, and made the mistake of glancing at the guys for less than a second (seriously, how do they pick up on this stuff?) which was enough to prompt one or two of them to call out “hey baby! Come over here! Come on, baby!” I just kept an eye out for potential garbage being dropped on my head and ignored them as I walked under them. It was about 4 PM on a weekday and I had the number for the security guard’s office at the Concert Hall, so I wasn’t too worried, it was just more unexpected than anything.
The other time I got harassed a friend and I were standing on the boulevard in the middle of Main Street waiting for the light to change so we could cross, and someone in a tiny pick up truck honked at us and maybe whooped. Classy as hell, those tiny pick up truck drivers.
Other than that, there have been random guys who have tried to strike up inane conversations with my friends and I, but they weren’t really being creepy, it was just out of the blue (and therefore a little disconcerting). The first time was about two blocks from my house in a park, and I was with 3 other girls. We were about 11-15, and the boys who talked to us were about 15, and they were just clueless as to how to talk to girls. My group just walked back to my house and went inside. The second time was in Little Pizza Heaven at about 11:30 PM. A (drunk) guy apparently studying education at the U of M struck up a conversation with my friend and I in the very crowded restaurant, with our group of 9 20-year-old guy friends hanging out outside. Eventually one of our guys just came in and just sat down with us, but the education student just seemed overly friendly as a result of alcohol, so we weren’t worried at all.
So far my sexual harassment experience has been pretty innocuous, for which I’m eternally grateful. I never know how to react in those situations, so I don’t know what I would do if I was groped or seriously yelled at. I’d like to think I’d punch the guy in his squishy bits, but more likely I’d just be shocked and frozen, and then be flaming with fury over having not actually punched anything. Hopefully if I get seriously harassed one day I’ll be able to follow the example of all of the brave women on this website who have stood up for themselves in the past. Keep fighting the good fight, ladies! Can’t let the bastards get us down!
I was walking from my car in the parking lot behind TD Bank and Little Pizza Heaven. I was going from my car where my boyfriend was waiting in our car. As I exited the car a guy yelled, “Hey Betty Boop!”
My boyfriend yelled to me, “Hey, he street harassed you.” I turned around and told him not to say things like that to girls he doesn’t know and it was rude. He asked if I would rather have him call me a stupid whore and called me a drama queen. I told him I don’t want him to call me anything and I just want him to keep his comments to himself.
Telling that my only choice was to either be Betty Boop or a stupid whore. Fucking frustrating.