Over the past week, the DC Office of Human Rights has observed the 11th annual International Anti-Street Harassment Week, a program of Stop Street Harassment. In the District, street harassment is defined as any unwanted statement, gesture, or conduct that is disrespectful, offensive, or threatening and happens in a public space, a place of business or any location that is not a private residence in DC. 
OHR implements the Street Harassment Prevention Act (SHPA), which is a first-of-its-kind legal measure in the United States that: (1) creates a legal definition of street harassment; (2) establishes a community-based Advisory Committee to study street harassment and develop model policies and trainings; and (3) requires a public information campaign on street harassment. It was designed to uniquely focus on prevention through education instead of criminalization. You can find out more information on our website.  
Implementing SHPA
In the first year of implementing SHPA, OHR and the Advisory Committee on Street Harassment (ACSH) received and analyzed 1,621 responses to a city-wide survey, conducted ten focus groups, launched a public awareness campaign, and came together to recommend trainings, a reporting mechanism, and policies for District agencies. In the Fall 2019 survey, we found that 69% of respondents had experienced verbal street harassment in DC in the prior six months and 40% reported that they had experienced physical street harassment. You can read all the data from that survey and everything else from the first year of implementing SHPA in the report “The State of Street Harassment in DC”
Street Harassment During the Pandemic
Photo courtesy of Karolina Jonc Buczek (@jajonc on Instagram)
The pandemic has altered life in public spaces and the types of street harassment incidents. Street harassment is still happening and feels scarier with the lack of bystanders around – the fear increases with the isolation in public spaces. We’ve received story submissions and heard anecdotally about street harassment around real or perceived Asian appearance, mask-wearing, and political affiliation – in addition to street harassment experiences common to life before the pandemic. 
This week, L’Oreal Paris is releasing results from a survey on the effects of the pandemic on street harassment. In the global survey of 14,000 people, it was found that 75% of women avoid certain public spaces to avoid sexual harassment. Compared to times pre-pandemic, 78% of American respondents said they feel less safe in public spaces.  
The top reasons American respondents feel unsafe in public spaces in a pandemic situation: 
1) I cannot see people’s face behind masks (53%) 
2) I am afraid people won’t stop and help in case I have a problem (32%) 
3) There are a few people in the streets and transports (31%) 
Additionally, 74% of the American respondents think that wearing a mask allows the harassers to hide themselves and feel untouchable.  
From the Fall 2019 survey, we know that, pre-pandemic, District residents experienced street harassment frequently. Among those individuals who had experienced verbal street harassment in the previous six months, 22% experienced it daily and 37% experienced it weekly. For those who experienced physical street harassment in the previous six months, 25% experienced it daily and 30% experienced it weekly.
Share Your Story!

As always, we want to hear your street harassment stories. We want to gather information from the public in efforts better understand where street harassment most frequently occurs, how it’s changed during the pandemic, and to identify the best solution for tracking and addressing incidents in real-time. If you or someone you know has experienced non-violent street harassment in a public space, we want to hear from you.
DC Office of Human Rights | 202.727.4559 | ohr.dc.gov