Road rage, cat calls, toxic offices worse than ever? 46% of Americans agree harassment today all too common

NEW YORK — When a woman walks down the street, it may not be a shock to hear the dreaded “cat call” whistle from someone as she passes by. Unfortunately, it can go much further than that and bystanders can make all the difference. So how can you help? A new survey reports four in 10 Americans have no idea what they should do when they see people getting cat-called.

The poll of 2,000 U.S. adults found 72 percent have either experienced harassment firsthand or have witnessed someone getting harassed. Half (52%) of them have been harassed in the past, while 37 percent have witnessed it happen to others in public.

Forty-six percent of those who have experienced public harassment said they’ve gone through more harassment in the past five years than “any other time in their life.” A majority of harassment witnesses (57%) said they’ve seen it escalate into a fight or assault, and a similar amount (55%) are able to easily spot when it’s happening.

However, many can’t help but feel emotions of anger (75%), sadness (50%), being stunned (41%) and pure helplessness (32%) when they see harassment happening.

What is considered harassment?

Commissioned by L’Oréal Paris Stand Up and conducted by OnePoll, the study found 73 percent agree the definition of harassment has evolved over the past 20 years and 64 percent believe it happens more frequently today than two decades ago.

Today, people defined harassment to include being touched without permission (67%), being made to feel uncomfortable (67%), being followed (55%), being racially profiled (52%) and being yelled at (49%).

And not all harassment happens behind closed doors. Across the board, respondents believe harassment happens most often in the workplace (52%), in bars and restaurants (38%), on public transit (35%) and on college campuses (32%).

Over half (61%) feel like people in a position of power are more likely to get away with harassment.

“It is so important to recognize what harassment is and where it’s happening,” says President, Co-Founder and Lead Executive Officer of Right To Be, Emily May, in a statement. “Yet so many people describe these feelings of hopelessness and not knowing what they should do or what options exist to prevent harassment from happening.”

What to do if you witness someone being harassed

While the results found 67 percent would be willing to intervene if they witnessed someone get harassed, 45 percent believe they could have done more to decrease instances of harassment if they knew how to properly combat it.

Many shared what they have considered doing to combat harassment: calling out bad behavior when they see it (45%), taking self-defense courses (39%) and learning how to contact the proper authorities (35%).

Over half (56%) said they’d be willing to take a short training course to learn what they should do against street harassment, and nearly as many (54%) said they would feel better equipped to defend someone experiencing harassment if they had the training.

Fifty-eight percent even believe it’s just as important to take anti-street harassment training as it is to learn CPR.

“Knowledge about how to address street harassment is true power,” continues May. “The best way people can take a stand against harassment is to learn the best ways to recognize it, address it, and prevent it from escalating.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by L’Oréal Paris Stand Up between March 9 and March 13, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

About the Author

Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia is a recent graduate from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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