Whistling and staring at women in the street is harassment – and it’s got to stop

By Bianca Fileborn, La Trobe University

You may not have heard the term “street harassment”, but if you’re a woman in Australia, you’ve probably experienced it: whistles, stares, unwanted comments, touching or being followed by strangers in the street.


According to research by the Australia Institute, 87% of us have experienced some form of physical or verbal street harassment, often before the age of 18. Internationally, this figure is higher, at 96%.

As with other forms of sexualised violence, men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of street harassment and women the victims – although victims may also be targeted on account of ethnicity and or sexual orientation.

While it may be tempting to dismiss such occurrences as “minor” or “harmless”, there is a substantial body of research that tells us this is not the case. The impacts of street harassment vary depending on the context, and range from the immediate, visceral responses of anger, repulsion and shock, through to longer-term effects such as anxiety, depression and, in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Street harassment also has a very real impact on women’s use of and access to public spaces. Women consistently report that they limit their movements in public in order to avoid street harassment as well as more “serious” sexual violence.

While there is considerable merit in documenting the prevalence and impacts of street harassment, we need to ensure that this is not all we do.

Violence against women

Street harassment is part of the continuum of men’s violence against women, which includes what we might consider to be more “serious” forms of gender-based violence, such as sexual assault, rape and physical abuse. These seemingly vastly different forms of behaviour are interconnected, and all contribute towards women’s oppression and inequality.

A hidden video camera records the unwelcome advances a woman in Manhattan, New York, over ten hours/Hollaback.

Despite this, minimal attention has been paid to how we might prevent and respond to street harassment. There is little legal or other recourse for women who have experienced street harassment. And street harassment is notably absent from policy documents and discussions on the prevention of men’s violence against women.

Yet, if we are to eliminate all forms of violence against women it is vital that street harassment is included in our prevention efforts.

Avenues for prevention

So, what avenues are there for responding to, and preventing, street harassment?

Improving justice responses to street harassment is one option that could be pursued. Although some forms of street harassment are covered under current legislation, others, such as staring, are not. We know relatively little about victims’ experiences of reporting to the criminal justice system, although as with other forms of sexual violence it is likely vastly under reported.

However, a formal justice response may not be the best, or most appropriate, option for responding to and preventing street harassment. Certainly, it is an avenue that should be kept open to street harassment victims should they desire to pursue it. Yet, the justice system has a long history of responding poorly to violence against women – a problem that persists, despite efforts to reform the system.

The nature of street harassment makes it difficult to respond to through the justice system. The often-fleeting nature of street harassment means that perpetrators have moved on, often before women are able to identify who they were.

Additionally, the harm from street harassment may arise from the cumulative experience of repeated harassment and not from the action of individual perpetrators.

Internationally, public transport companies have run campaigns communicating that harassing behaviour will not be tolerated. Anna Jurkovska/Shutterstock


When it comes to responding to street harassment, we need think outside of the formal justice box.

Bystander intervention, for instance, is gaining increasing prominence as a response to gender-based violence, and offers much potential when it comes to the prevention of street harassment. Bystander intervention can mean directly confronting the perpetrator – where safe to do so – and other actions such as asking the victim if they are okay.

Speaking up when we see street harassment tells perpetrators their behaviour is not acceptable, while simultaneously offering our support to victims.

Internationally, public transport companies have run campaigns communicating that harassing behaviour will not be tolerated. Australian-based companies could easily do the same.

Continuing to challenge the attitudes towards women and gender stereotypes that underpin street harassment is also vital. While programs such as “Sex and Ethics” are increasingly being introduced into our schools to help achieve this, research shows that we still have a long way to go in shifting attitudes.

A lack of current responses to street harassment, while disappointing, allows us to develop responses from the starting point of victims’ needs and experiences. While some victims may prefer to access the traditional justice system, others may desire innovative or new responses such as voicing their experience online. A one-size-fits all approach is unlikely to be successful; we need a suite of responses.

Whichever options we ultimately decide on, one thing is clear: it’s time to stop just talking about street harassment and start taking some action.

Bianca Fileborn does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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I’ll take nuke waste: MP offers his farm for radioactive dump

Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey, whose seat of Grey covers 900,000 square kilometres of the state’s north, said his electorate is an obvious location for radioactive waste.


Mr Ramsey even offered his property.

“I’m happy to have that on my farm, as long as my farm is the geologically correct place to have it,” he said,

Mr Ramsey has visited repositories in France, Sweden and Finland, and estimated it would take about 3 hectares of his 2,400 hectare holding near Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula.

With jobs and income up for grabs, he said his neighbours were largely supportive.

“A number of them said ‘what’s wrong with my farm?’” he said.

“And there may not be anything wrong and if they want to put their farm up as well, I’m more than happy for that to happen.”

Australia has three operational uranium mines, Olympic Dam and Beverley in South Australia and Ranger in the Northern Territory, producing about 40 per cent of the world’s uranium.

‘A number of them said ‘what’s wrong with my farm?”

Australia has no power plants, but does have a reactor at Lucas Heights in NSW for uses including nuclear medicine.

But there’s nowhere to store the waste, which is either shipped offshore or kept in hospitals and universities.

Storage of low and medium level waste is one consideration of a Royal Commission beginning this week, which Premier Jay Weatherill said would also examine nuclear enrichment and power generation.

“Much of the debate around nuclear power is characterised by shreds of information,” Mr Weatherill said.

“We want reliable information so that debate can be well informed so people, we can raise people’s awareness so they can work through the issues and make judgements about the ethical, practical and financial issues at stake here.”

Aboriginal communities are worried their lands could be targeted because of their isolation and stable geology.

Yankunytjatjara woman Karina Lester was involved in the successful high court fight against a waste dump proposal put forward more than a decade ago by the Howard Government.

Ms Lester said she was dismayed that the issue was back on the agenda.

‘We are impacted everyday by those actions of what’s happened in the past’

“Aboriginal people are struggling still to this day of overcoming what happened in the 50’s with the tests at Maralinga,” she said.

“The concern I have is whether the Anangu and Aboriginal people of South Australia are being engaged in this, because we have either experienced Maralinga or we are descendants of.

“We are impacted everyday by those actions of what’s happened in the past.”

Ms Lester blamed the black mist that covered her lands for illnesses in her family, including her fathers’ blindness. 

She said Aboriginal communities have already shouldered enough of the radioactive burden, telling the government to “look elsewhere”.

“Those countries or those lands that might look bare on a map are actually someone’s country that has stories, and stories that are very important to Aboriginal people for our identity, our health and wellbeing,” she said.

“Aboriginal people are looked as a dumping ground again – quick fix, out of sight out of mind.”

But one Aboriginal group has emerged that said radioactive waste was a responsibility it was willing to bear.

The Adnyamathanha people of the northern Flinders Ranges know the many challenges that uranium poses – not only is the Beverly mine on their traditional lands, but just up the road is Mount Painter, the source of uranium used at Maralinga.

‘Aboriginal people are looked as a dumping ground again’

Chairman of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association Vincent Coulthard said his country already had a nuclear history and his people felt obliged to take responsibility for the waste it had generated.

He has offered to take back the waste and return it to the ground, so other communities can be spared the radioactive burden.

“We worry about where the waste is going to go particularly if it’s taken into other people’s country, because that’s not right, that we should,” he said.

“If the waste is being created in our country then they need to find somewhere to put it but not in other people’s country, you know.”

Mr Coulthard said if selected, the Adnyamathanha people should be recompensed.

“The government and the companies have generated an enormous amount and they should pay, they should pay,” he said.

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Hang up your gloves, social media – it’s time to understand grief and loss

My mother called me on Sunday to tell me that 23-year-old boxer Braydon Smith had been airlifted to a Brisbane hospital and was on life support after collapsing following his fight against John Moralde on Saturday night in Toowoomba.


She called because my family has known the Smiths and their extended family for over twenty years, when my family moved so that my two older brothers would be closer to the gym where they had begun amateur boxing, coached by Braydon’s father Brendon. They then went on to have professional boxing careers under Brendon. My brother now runs a boxing and fitness gym of his own in Toowoomba.

I have always had mixed feelings about boxing, and would probably never have watched it had my brothers not been in the ring. Even then, I would watch every single one of my brothers’ fights with my fingers over my eyes. But then I have also seen the love that they have for the sport, and all that it has brought into their lives, and I am grateful for it. Boxers train incredibly hard, incredibly long, and are generally incredible athletes.  Unlike a sport like tennis, for example, you probably aren’t making a great deal of money from it unless you are in the upper echelons of the boxing ranks. Even if you don’t understand it, you should know that so many boxers do it for the pure love of the sport: that is undeniable.

And it was no different for Braydon, who tragically passed away on Monday, surrounded by his family and close friends. He was born into a family that was immersed in boxing. I have memories of him as a little blonde boy trotting around in oversized boxing shorts and headgear, and shoes far too big. The last time I saw him was a few years ago, when he and my brother both had bouts on an undercard at the Gold Coast. Then he had suddenly become a grown-up blonde man, in the right-sized boxing shorts and shoes. He came over to catch up with me at one point, and I saw the excitement and thrill in his eyes. He didn’thave to box; he was a smart, popular, and just a plain lovely 23-year-old about to finish his law degree. He had the world at his feet. But he wanted to box. He wanted to have a positive impact on how people thought of his beloved sport. Because it brought him joy, it was in his blood, and he loved doing it.

I know it can be hard to understand why some people have the desire to participate in this kind of sport, or even sports like Rugby League or NFL, where concussions are rife. But you support your loved ones in doing what they love to do, and you hope that this kind of (quite rare) nightmare scenario never eventuates. And mostly, it doesn’t. But this time it did.

Heaven gained a champion boxer and champion bloke. Gone too soon #PrayForBrayd pic.twitter广西桑拿,/godNMoK4TN

— Kieran Wagstaff (@KieranWagstaff) March 16, 2015

The day Braydon died, I spent a couple of hours reading through all of the newspaper stories and social media posts about his death. They covered the heartbreak of those who knew him personally; as well as people who only knew his name or boxing career, and those who were neither. I also saw quite a lot of comments from strangers who thought it pertinent, on posts informing the public that this young man had died just hours before, to harshly declare (without expressing sympathy) that he knew the risks of boxing, he knew what he was getting into, that boxing is bad (and other similar sentiments). No matter what your stance is on the sport, I found it breathtakingly insensitive. Totally lacking compassion, without even a moment’s good grace.

Who is that kind of comment, on that kind of post, meant to serve? A 23-year-old man had just died. Would it help his family or friends who might be reading? I am positive there will be a discussion around the safety of boxing after this, as there was around helmets when Phil Hughes passed away, and that is understandable. But does anyone really need your largely uneducated opinion right at that moment, when people are hearing about and mourning a death that has literally just happened? It is a totally unnecessary sentiment that just comes across as some sick kind of told-you-so. And I would feel this way regardless of who it was.

If I saw a notification on social media that someone had died in a parachuting accident, or someone had died from lung cancer after smoking, my first instinct would be to feel sympathy for them, and especially their loved ones. I would tread carefully. My first thought wouldn’t be to rush to the announcement and espouse that I know what they had done wrong in order to die, or implying that they should have expected, or somehow deserved it. Take a pause in moments like that and really think about what impact your words will have, and why you are saying it.

Have some sensitivity, even if you didn’t know the person who has died, even if you don’t have memories of him as a little blonde boy stomping around in boots too big for him.

Rebecca Shaw is a Brisbane-based writer and host of the fortnightly comedy podcast Bring a Plate.

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Dragons’ attack NRL’s worst in 15 years

Left reeling after recording the worst attacking start to an NRL season in 15 years, St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has threatened to make changes to his side ahead of Saturday’s clash with Canberra.


The eight points – from just two tries – the Dragons have scored in 2015 in losses to Melbourne and Wests Tigers is the least points a side has scored in the opening two rounds of the NRL premiership since Canterbury managed just two points in their first two games way back in 2000.

With Brett Morris joining the Bulldogs in the off-season, the Dragons attack has been left largely impotent over the opening rounds, though their cause has not been helped by an ankle injury to Josh Dugan.

The fullback missed the Dragons’ 22-4 loss to the Tigers and is only a 50/50 chance of taking on his old club Canberra in the nation’s capital, which has traditionally been a poor hunting ground for the joint venture.

And the Dragons again appear ripe for the picking, given just five days to lick their wounds before facing up to Ricky Stuart’s Raiders.

McGregor said he was maintaining faith in his international halves Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop but wouldn’t hesitate to wield the axe in a bid to kickstart the Dragons’ season.

“The excuse book will be left at the door come tomorrow,” McGregor said.

“Our biggest thing has been our D from last week, we wanted to improve that and that has been our major focus.

“But in attack we will obviously look at a few things and we might make some changes.

“We need to play a bit flatter and a bit straighter and have some more options out the back.

“It is something we need to fix now.

“The first thing you do is have a really good review of tonight and have a really good chat about it.

“But I’m confident with our playing group.

“We will get it right.”

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Ibrahimovic faces sanctions over outburst

Calls are mounting for action to be taken against Paris Saint-Germain’s temperamental star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic over comments he made about his host country which one French minister called “insulting”.


The French league will study the Swedish player’s latest outburst at a meeting on Thursday and could take sanctions.

Even though Ibrahimovic has already apologised for his outburst, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said he should leave France.

Ibrahimovic, who was controversially sent off in the Champions League game against Chelsea last week, had scored twice to level a key league game against Bordeaux on Sunday which Paris lost 3-2 to drop back in the title race.

Furious at decisions made against Paris, Ibrahimovic stormed off the pitch and said in front of television cameras: “In 15 years, I have never seen such a referee. In this shit country, this country does not deserve PSG. We are too good for this country.”

The 33-year-old Swedish international backed down after France’s Sports Minister Patrick Kanner called the remarks “insulting”.

“I would like to apologise if anyone felt offended,” he said.

“I want to make it clear that my remarks were not directed at France or the French. I was talking about football, I lost the match and I accept that but I don’t accept when the referee does not follow the rules.

“I expressed myself when I was upset and everyone knows that in these moments, the words surpass the meaning.”

But the apology did not calm the controversy.

Kanner welcomed the apology but said “if a personality as important as Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes such comments, we should not be surprised that there are such difficulties in stadiums.”

“Those who consider that France is a shit country can leave it,” Le Pen told the France Info radio station.

Jerome Guedj, a leading Socialist party politician, called the remarks “unacceptable”. “Let him play football and shut up, or at least be respectful of this country, the football supporters who were also insulted.”

Ibrahimovic, who has just returned from one two match suspension and will be suspended for the two leg Champions league quarter final for his sending off last week, could face a new ban which could see him miss the key French game against Olympique Marseille on April 5.

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