How To Respond To Harassment

Last week we received a post from an individual asking the community how do you respond to harassment? We received some really great comments and ideas so we thought we should share our own thoughts on responding to street harassment.

At HBDC! we strongly believe in using nonviolent methods to engage our oppressors.  The tips we teach at our HBDC! trainings and workshops are the methods we learned from our Shero Marty Langelan, who has given us permission to use them on our blog and in our trainings. We HIGHLY recommend her book Back Off! for a more in depth look on various methods to address street harassment as well as the history of street harassment.

Remember to only engage when you feel safe and when you feel like saying something. There is no right or wrong way to address street harassment and whatever your reaction is, is okay.

Try out one of these methods from Marty and let us know how it goes!

a. Name the behavior. Describe exactly what the harasser is doing, stating behavior (“you are exposing yourself”), principle (“this is about respect”) and a direct command (“put that penis back in your pants right now”).

b. Interrupt the harasser with this all-purpose statement: “Stop harassing. I don’t like it—no one likes it. Show some respect.”

c. Put up a “stop sign.” Put your hands in front of your chest, palms out, look the harasser in the eye and say, “Stop right there.” (If the harasser doesn’t stop, you know it is time for you to get out of there!)

d. Make an A-B-C statement. “When you do A [when you say “hey sexy” for example], the effect is B [it makes me uncomfortable] and I want C [from now on just say “hello”].”

e. Ask a Socratic question. (One of our personal favorites.) “That’s so interesting—can you explain why you think you can put your hand on my leg?” The more idiotic the action the more impossible it will be for the harasser to explain.

Finally, if you are in danger and you are attacked, yelling “HELP!” (soft consonant sounds) has no power.


“KI-YA! IT’S AN ATTACK! CALL THE COPS!” The bite of the “K” sound gets the message across loud and clear.

3 Responses

  1. PS

    Thank you for posting this! I always wonder how to respond. These are great tips. You guys are AWESOME!

  2. Anonymous

    i stay in India and its hard to reply or respond in that way can you please give some mre suggesstions?

  3. Karin

    I am being harassed by a homeowner who thinks because I am on the HOA board I have turned all the board members against him. He physically attacted a mail board member over a year ago, and threatened to run over me with his Caravan as I was getting in my car in October. He threatened at least two other people in my neighborhood the same way. I filed a police report and paid $435.00 out of my own pocket for a restraining order against him.

    After over 26 attempts to serve him, our board president served him personally, only to have the judge call it an HOA issue and throw out my request for a permanent restraining order. I am 61, live alone, and go out of my way to avoid any contact with him. He sends nasty emails to me with crazy comments. I have not spoken to him, emailed him, or had any contact with him in over a year. When I did, I was pleasant and polite.

    When I see him I do NOT make I contact but ignore him altogether. In one of his crazy emails he showed an interest in mediation. I contacted a mediator, hoping they would see that he was unbalanced. I do believe they realized what I was saying was true when we met. But, they are volunteers, and once the judge has heard the case and made a decision, he will not change it. The court system has failed me.