“Just be quiet and let her go where she’s going.” That’s the advice that Rafi D’Angelo from Harlem gave men on his ‘So Let’s Talk About’ page after explaining how he heard a woman getting catcalled 3 times in just 5 minutes while walking in the same direction as her. Scroll down to read D’Angelo’s story in his own words.

D’Angelo explained to Bored Panda that he got some feedback from women who were angry about him not speaking up and stopping the catcalls while conducting his social experiment. “And I think it’s important to be aware of the situation and your surroundings and think about what the next step would be. If you’re with your friends and they’re catcalling women, call them out on it. You’re friends. You have a prior relationship. They’re more likely to listen to you,” he said.

“You don’t tell a perfect stranger, a grown man who is already showing the world he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him by dint of the fact that he’s calling out to a strange woman, to correct their behavior unless you are protecting someone else from a violent situation,” he stressed. “I’m not going to tell a grown man how to act unless a woman is in danger because then I’ve escalated a situation to a point where he might want to fight, and for no reason. The interaction between him and her would’ve been over, but I’ve interjected an opinion, and made a situation worse.”

Bored Panda also reached out to Emily May, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Hollaback!, an organization that aims to end harassment in all its forms. Scroll down for our full interview with May. You can find more resources about what bystanders can do if they see street harassment right here.

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Catcalling is something that many women (and men) have to deal with often

Image credits:FlairImages (not the actual photo)

Rafi D’Angelo shared a story about how he saw a woman get catcalled 3 times in just 5 minutes

Image credits: So Let’s Talk About

Image credits: So Let’s Talk About

Image credits: So Let’s Talk About

Image credits: So Let’s Talk About

Image credits: So Let’s Talk About

Image credits: So Let’s Talk About

“Street harassment is sexual, gender-based, and bias-motivated harassment that takes place in public spaces like the street, the supermarket, and the social media we use every day. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups of our vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Street harassment can happen to anyone, but disproportionately punishes women, girls, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized groups for being themselves in the world,” she said.

May from Hollaback! said that street harassment is on a spectrum of gender-based violence. “Street harassment is on a spectrum of gender-based violence. At one end of the spectrum, we have examples like inappropriate gestures, staring, whistling, following, and comments about your appearance or identity,” she explained. “As we move along the spectrum we start to see more severe forms of street harassment like public exposure and groping that are illegal. We include these behaviors in how we define street harassment because they are so common, pervasive, and rarely reported to authorities.”

Catcalling is all about power

According to May, street harassment is all about power. “If street harassment were about getting dates, it would be what author Marty Langelan calls a ‘spectacularly unsuccessful strategy.’ Instead, street harassment is about ‘putting people in their place.’ Remember that it’s not your fault. And because it’s not your fault, it’s also not your responsibility to have the perfect response to street harassment. It’s their responsibility not to harass you,” she pointed out.

May explained that while everyone is vulnerable to street harassment, research indicates that people who are aware of their surroundings, walk confidently, and respond to harassment with confidence are less vulnerable.

“Nevertheless, direct confrontations with people who harass can escalate, particularly if you are alone or in an unpopulated space. While it is each individual’s right to decide when, how, and whether to respond to street harassment, it’s important to prioritize your safety and wellbeing,” she said.

There’s no ‘perfect’ response, but here’s what you can do if you’re being catcalled

According to May, there are several things you can do when harassed on the street. The first thing is trusting your instincts. You can respond to someone catcalling you because this may reduce the trauma. However, it’s also alright to do nothing. You decide how you react and you do it for you.

May also advises reclaiming your space by setting your boundaries, engaging bystanders, and documenting the situation if you feel safe. Just remember that your safety is your priority.

Lastly, practice resilience. Developing rituals that you do after being harassed can help you shake off the negative feelings and maintain confidence in yourself. Open up to your loved ones and share your story.

And this is how people reacted to D’Angelo’s post

The scene that D’Angelo described can be an unpleasant common occurrence for women (and men!). According to Business Insider, 65 percent of women and 25 percent of men in the United States reported having been on the receiving end of at least one type of street harassment in their lives. What’s more, most have reported being catcalled or harassed on the street more than once. And for some, this is an everyday occurrence.

Street harassment can have negative effects on our emotions and our minds. Targets of catcalling can feel threatened, scared, annoyed, angry, and embarrassed. All of these feelings can affect how the person’s day will go: they might be less productive at work because their mind keeps jumping back to the interaction or they might snap at their friends because they’re on edge.

While there’s probably no ‘perfect’ universal strategy on how to deal with catcallers, there are plenty of tips that women and men give on how to handle the situation (which just goes to show how widespread the problem really is).

Anita Roberts, the founder of Safeteen, told CBC that women can give street harassers “the look” that communicates to them that they don’t like what they’re doing. They can also put up a hand in front of them to show them that they should stop.

If you decide to speak to your catcaller as you’re walking by, use a neutral tone, be clear and firm. Don’t provoke them but also make it crystal clear that what they’re doing is not acceptable.

Bystanders also have an obligation to step in. If you see that somebody is being harassed, you can tell the catcaller to knock it off. Or you could even ask the victim if they require any assistance. It’s up to every member of their community to make it better and safer for everyone.