Hands Off! State-By-State Guide to Harassment Laws

By Maggie Freleng

Ladies, it’s International Human Rights Day. You’re a human. You have rights.

Unfortunately, street harassment is so common in our society we have accepted it into our daily lives. We forget that we have a right to walk down the street free of fear, shame, guilt and assault.

In honor of today, Stop Street Harassment -- an organization dedicated to ending street harassment world wide -- has released their highly anticipated toolkit, “Know Your Rights: Street Harassment and the Law.”

Know Your Rights is a state-by-state guide detailing laws and how individuals can take action against street harassment. Obscene comments, up-skirt photos, following, flashing, groping--the toolkit has got you covered.

"The intent of this toolkit is to equip people with the knowledge they need to stand up for their rights to safe public spaces and to report harassers, if they choose to do so,” SSH founder Holly Kearl told VITAMIN W.

"Another purpose is to allow people to see what laws exist in their state, understand which ones address street harassment well, and learn what elements could strengthen the existing laws in their states so they can advocate for them."

As a sneak-peak example, Stop Street Harassment shared Connecticut with us.

According to the document:

“A variety of forms of street harassment are illegal in Connecticut, including abusive language, non- consensual photographing in restrooms, flashing, following, and groping. Here are the laws and reporting procedures you need to know.”

Have you ever had a creepy guy with a kid encourage him to harass to you? Yea, that happened to me. I wish I was in Connecticut that day. I think this law is pretty awesome:

Thanks Stop Street Harassment. It’s easy for us to forget that instances like the above are NOT OK.

Hopefully this toolkit will encourage us all to remember and utilize these laws.

“Deciding how to deal with street harassers is a personal decision that may change with each situation, but we want to make sure people know what their rights are so they can make an informed decision," Kearl said.

Ending street harassment  -- and consequently violence against women -- will not happen overnight. But if we empower ourselves with the tool of knowledge we can fight against it. We can show perpetrators we will not stand for their crap anymore, and we can let our officials know where their weaknesses lie.

"While laws will never be THE answer—and in some cases they can be problematic when they are applied disproportionately to low-income people and persons of color—they are important," Kearl said. "They can influence societal attitudes about what is and is not okay and create consequences to deter harassment. Also, as many harassers are repeat offenders, reporting incidents may prevent future crimes."

Maggie Freleng is a Brooklyn-based journalist and photographer focusing on social justice, women's issues, gender, and sexuality. Follow her on Twitter @dixiy89.
Maggie Freleng is a Brooklyn-based journalist and photographer focusing on social justice, women's issues, gender, and sexuality. Follow her on Twitter @dixiy89 - See more at: http://vitaminw.co/culture-society/street-harassment-cause-ending#sthash...