Gender-based Harassment On The Streets of New Brunswick

By Brittany Bone

While crime reports are on the rise in New Brunswick it seems gender-based street harassment is a seldom discussed issue.

Both the New Brunswick Police Department and the Rutgers Police Department do not have specific statistics on these incidents. There is no specification of gender-based harassment, but instead incidents are all treated as general harassment.

“I try to avoid eye-contact with most people if I’m walking alone and walk fast,” said New Brunswick resident Christina Daniels about her experience of walking down George Street at night.

Many New Brunswick women experiences with gender-based street harassment. These women have had obscenities and lurid sexual gestures directed at them. This type of harassment has lasting impacts on how these New Brunswick residents carry out their daily activities.

To avoid these unpleasant experiences, Daniels said she avoids walking home all together and instead takes public transportation, which is often an inconvenience.

“When I’m trying to get back to my residency, waiting for a bus kind of sucks when I could just walk down the street,” she said.

The perpetrators of gender-based street harassment are not confined to a single age range. Eunice Chang, a Rutgers junior said she has been harassed by men of all ages.

“Male students will drive past in a car yelling at you, especially when they’re in groups,” said Chang.

She says that group mentality is especially prevalent in these situations, and men are not likely to behave in the same manner when alone. However, Chang said she does not feel secure enough to confront them about their behavior, not wanting to bring more attention to herself or invite more “trouble.”

Daniels feels similarly about these interactions but makes some exceptions as to how she handles the situations.

“I’ve never physically confronted them,” said Daniels. She said she feels more comfortable responding when the harasser is in a car, because there is no imminent danger to her person if she responds.

She said the things men have said to her were too explicit to repeat. Neither of these women have reported these acts to local authorities, though they have often felt intimidated because they believe it isn’t that “serious”.

Gender-based street harassment is both a component of violence against women and a human rights violation. While these women questioned the seriousness of the occurrences, it remains that they’ve experienced limited mobility and access to public spaces as a result.

Sexual assault, which is another form of violence often towards women has been on the rise on the Rutgers New Brunswick Campus since 2012 according to statistics.

There have been various online videos published to combat gender-based street harassment– the majority of which feature fathers, sons and boyfriends reacting to footage of women in their lives being harassed on the street.

The aim is to expose men to first-hand accounts of these incidents in order to get men to empathize with women through the exploration of personal and emotional relationships.

These women expressed feeling vulnerable to harassment because they were unguarded by a male figure -similarly, this is how many New Brunswick women feel.

Street harassment is not a new occurrence yet it is now having a light shed upon it in the media throughout the country.