If you are a female, you will eventually have to deal with street harassment. Unfortunately, it can be found all over the world, no matter where you are. That’s not to say that such harassment does not take place at home, it certainly does. But, at least in your own culture you are more familiar with the rules about how to respond. You know what authorities can be sought for help. But, this is usually not the case in a foreign country. Know how to deal with street harassment abroad and make your next trip more comfortable.
Street harassment is any unwanted attention from a stranger in a public place. It can include staring, following, picture-taking, commenting, hooting, whistling or yelling. It is referred to as cat-calling. Many women feel like they must have done something to bring on this behaviour, so they feel embarrassed, scared, frustrated, ashamed or even guilt and replay the incident over and over in their head, trying to find out the missing action that could have caused the harassment.
Why Does Street Harassment Happen?
Street harassment is clearly a matter of power. It very rarely happens to those has power in a society. Some men harass them to try to prevent their equality and force them to retreat to their homes, as women strive to gain equal rights worldwide. When you are in a foreign country, there is an added layer of fear and confusion. You and the locals have cultural differences that mean there are different norms, clothing, race and different ways of showing affection in public, so people who have never experienced street harassment at home may go through it for the first time in a foreign country.
How to deal with street harassment abroad:
There are certain countries that are known for more solicitous attitudes towards women walking alone, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel to those. Prepare yourself, do some research ahead of time so that you know what to expect.
Try to ignore:
The best way for minimising harassment is to simply ignore it. Men who catcall are looking for a reaction and by reacting you are giving them more attention and incentive to continue their behaviour.
Your number one priority must be your safety. If you think you can’t handle the situation any more, try to escape from it. Do whatever you can do to get out of the situation and stay safe.
Our body has a physical reaction, like pumping our heart faster and generating adrenaline, when we detect a threat. Take a moment to relax and calm down. Drink a glass of water or try deep breathing to lower your heart rate.
Trust your gut feeling:
Only you can feel the difference between a simple annoyance and an actual threat. Listen to your gut feelings and do what you feel right to do in the situation either to run away from the situation or ask a police officer or local woman for help.
Try not to be discouraged:
It is important to recognise that street harassment is an issue all over the world and almost every woman has experienced it. As women are an easy target, it is not only you to whom they are looking like that or passing comments but, every other woman. Just because you are becoming a victim of street harassment, you can’t sit at home all the time. So, be brave and face the situation. I know it is not easy, but it is not that difficult too.
Power isn’t about dominating the weak, it is about helping or protecting them. If you think women are weak, be a man; try to protect them instead of harassing them. The man who does things like that is a real coward because a true man knows that women deserve to be respected and treated equally.