Street Harassment and Its Effects on Victims

Street harassment is a social issue that has gradually become a challenge in modern societies. The issue takes various forms, which comprise sexual, ethnic, and racial harassment. Whereas other forms of harassment are minimal, sexual harassment is the most pronounced form that several women experience as they engage in their daily initiatives.

It is imperative to assert that the issue of street harassment has a range of negative effects, which compel society to initiate steps that focus on its management. Reduced performance, self-worth reduction and depression, affected lifestyle, bitterness, and resentment, as well as personal blame, are some of the negative effects linked to the issue of street harassment. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to examine the effects of street harassment in contemporary societies.

Effects of Street Harassment

Reduced Performance

Reduced performance is one of the negative effects associated with street harassment. When people experience harassment of any kind, their productivity in workplaces reduces. Consequently, the performance of students drops when they experience harassment. Reduced performance in learning institutions and workplaces emanates from the low self-esteem developed when others demean individuals because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Women, people of the dissimilar race from the hosts, and those, who have different sexual orientations are some of the victims, who experience higher rates of harassment as opposed to others in the society.

When individuals whistle, catcall, or handle another person in an abusive or demeaning manner, the victim develops a feeling of inferiority, and as such, becomes less confident. According to Kearl, individuals who have become subjects of street harassment are reluctant and reserved an aspect that affects their overall performance (20). The fact that street harassment involves intimidating behaviors directed towards particular people due to their gender, sexual orientation, or race implies that the victims become shy and isolate themselves in an attempt to minimize repeat instances of harassment.

Reduced Self Worth and Depression

When a person becomes a subject of street harassment, feelings of low self-worth develop. Reduced self-worth implies that the individuals look at themselves as less valuable concerning others, who are from a different race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. Moreover, reduced self-esteem and worth lead to depression. In the words of Fairchild and Rudman, depression is one of the challenges that several people experience when others harass them in a demeaning manner (343).

The explanation substantiates the essence of developing institutions that address the issue of street harassment. Remarkably, depression is one of the major effects that the victims of harassment experienced in the aftermath of the act. Reluctance and reserved nature of several individuals, who have become victims of harassment is a result of depression that takes effect after the act. These individuals isolate themselves from others and stay away from certain areas, which include public places.

Affected Lifestyles

Another effect, which makes street harassment an issue of concern, is the change that it initiates in the lives of individuals. ElSherief and Belding explain that in modern societies characterized by busy schedules, some individuals have changed their lifestyles to minimize instances of harassment (2). In essence, changes in individual lifestyles should be within their own will and freedom and not through fear instilled by perpetrators of street harassment.

Some women have to change their mode of dressing, whereas gay individuals have to walk without holding hands and demonstrating affection towards each other. Consequently, people of color, who comprise some percentage of the minorities, have to minimize their participation because of the fear of harassment. Change in dressing code, reduced demonstration of affection, and minimized participation are key components that dictate human lives, and thus, by interfering with them, street harassment becomes a social issue that needs time management.

Bitterness and Resentment

Street harassment comprises activities that demean individuals and lower their self-worth. While some subjects of harassment remain calm and walk away from the scene, they, in turn, develop feelings of resentment and bitterness towards individuals from a particular race.

According to research conducted by Houle et al., several women developed negative attitudes towards men after experiencing street harassment (93). The feelings of resentment, hatred, and bitterness developed because, on several occasions, the perpetrators of the illegal acts were men. It is fundamental to explain that some cases of violence and cold blood murders have transpired because of long-term feelings that emanated from the illegal issue of harassment.

Without a proper and effective mechanism that addresses the heinous act, the feelings of harassed individuals eventually lead to severe consequences. When individuals become subjects of harassment, some develop a thick skin and become defensive to any member deemed to be from the team that perpetrated the act. Since the majority of the victims do not get enough time to look at the perpetrators or even know them at a personalized level, the issue leads to a general perception (Fileborn 48). The general perception results in feelings of bitterness and resentment, which victims direct towards people from particular sex, race, sexual inclination, or religion.

Personal Blame

In several cases, victims of street harassment blame themselves for dressing in certain ways, behaving in a particular manner, or using certain routes. These feelings of blame are effects that transpire in the aftermath of harassment. The victims blame themselves and ask questions relating to the reasons that led to them engaging in activities that initiated the act.

To coin the negative effect of self-blame that affect victims of street harassment, Cigrovski conducted a study and found out that several gay individuals blamed themselves after harassment (5). The study compounds the negative effect that street harassment has on individuals, who are then compelled to live in constant fear and self-pity. It is tantamount to highlight that blame can lead to several issues such as suicide because the victims develop feelings of low self-worth, and hence, lose the essence of continued existence.


Street harassment is an illegal act that has overtime become a social issue, which requires management. Whistling, catcalling, sexual abuse, and mishandling individuals in a demeaning manner are among the major activities that street harassers perpetrate on their victims. Gender, race, sexual orientations, and religion are some of the components that harassers use when executing the act on a person.

It is vital to explain that the act is illegal and has a range of negative effects, which are detrimental to live of the victim. While some of the effects may be short-lived, others remain in one’s memory for a lifetime. Reduced performance, self-worth reduction and depression, affected lifestyle, bitterness, and resentment, as well as personal blame, are among the negative effects associated with street harassment.

Works Cited

Cigrovski, Barbara. “Hollaback, a Social Movement Dedicated to End Street Harassment.” A Social Work International Journal 2.29(2015): 1-10. Print.

ElSherief, Mai and Elizabeth Belding. The Urban Characteristics of Street Harassment: A First Look. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2015. Print.

Fairchild, Kimberly and Laurie Rudman. “Everyday Stranger Harassment and Women’s Objectification.” Soc Just Res 21.1(2010): 338-357. Print.

Fileborn, Bianca. “Online Activism and Street Harassment: Digital Justice or Shouting into the Ether?” Griffith Journal of Law and Human Dignity 2.1(2014): 32-51. Print.

Houle, Jason, Jeremy Staff, Jeylan Mortimer, Christopher Uggen and Amy Blackstone. “The Impact of Street Harassment on Depressive Symptoms during the Early Occupational Career.” Society and Mental Health 1.2(2011): 89–105. Print.

Kearl, Holly. “Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces.” Stop Street Harassment 1.1(2014):1-63. Print.

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