Want to learn more about street harassment? Read our FAQ.
- What is street harassment?
- Who is the “Street harassement : stop it. Witnesses, take action.” campaign aimed at?
- Why are we focusing on witnesses in this process?
- Is it a good idea to try and help when someone is experiencing street harassment?
- Is street harassment a crime?
- What is a criminal act?
- Which instances of street harassment do not constitute crimes?
- Why do victims of street harassment not report it when it happens?
- What should I do if I experience street harassment?
- How does street harassment affect the target?
- What is the Module des incidents et crimes haineux (MICH)?
What is street harassment?
According to a research report on street harassment in Montréal*, street harassment is part of a spectrum of violence that includes so-called “everyday” or downplayed forms of violence and other criminalized behaviours and statements that may have sexist, racist, cissexist, heterosexist, classist, ageist and ableist connotations. It includes any statement, attitude or behaviour that is demanding and unwanted and is perpetrated by strangers in public spaces, such as parks, bus stops, metro networks, bars and museums.
More information on the vocabulary used here** :
- prejudice or discrimination based on sex or on stereotypes related to gender, typically directed at women
- prejudice or discrimination directed at persons of a specific race or ethnic group
- prejudice or discrimination directed at people whose gender identity or expression does not align with their sex assigned at birth
- prejudice or discrimination directed at people whose sexual orientation differs from heterosexuality
- prejudice or discrimination directed at people with a disability
- prejudice or discrimination based on belonging or not belonging to a certain social class, often based on economic criteria (directed at poorer people, for example)
- prejudice or discrimination based on age (directed at older or younger people, for example)
- Cisgender person:
- a person whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth
- Transgender person:
- a person whose gender identity does not align with their sex assigned at birth (a transgender man or a transgender woman, for example)
- Non-binary person:
- a person whose gender identity does not align with a binary understanding of gender such as man or woman.
Who is the “Street harassement : stop it. Witnesses, take action.” campaign aimed at?
The campaign is aimed at everyone. Every single one of us should feel that we are a part of stopping street harassment in Montréal. We might experience it and want it to stop, but we might also witness it and do something about it. The campaign invites everyone to denounce street harassment and become active witnesses. Taking a few simple actions can make all the difference.
Why are we focusing on witnesses in this process?
Street harassment happens in public, and most of the time there are witnesses to it. But studies show that many people do not do anything about it. However, when witnesses do take action, it can make all the difference.
We all need to be aware of our role and take action against street harassment.
Witnesses have an important role to play in keeping our public spaces safe, welcoming and harassment-free. No matter what form it takes, street harassment has an impact on the target’s quality of life in public spaces. Witnesses can disrupt the climate of fear that has been created for those people and help them realize that action should be taken (by reporting it, for example).
Is it a good idea to try and help when someone is experiencing street harassment?
People who witness street harassment may be afraid to take action, fearing that it might make the violence escalate. First, remember that your safety must be your top priority. If you feel safe and confident, you can intervene by approaching the target of the harassment. There are several strategies that do not necessarily involve directly confronting the harasser. For example, you can work together with other witnesses, go and get help, document the situation or support targets after the fact.
Is street harassment a crime?
Whether or not it is a crime, street harassment has the impact of making the target feel unsafe.
Certain instances of street harassment do constitute criminal conduct, including assault, sexual assault, exhibitionism, voyeurism and hate crimes. If one of these happens to you, you can report this behaviour to the authorities by calling 911 or going to a police station.
What is a criminal act?
A criminal act is a deed or action that violates public order, the personal safety of individuals or the security of their belongings, or the safety of the general community. Criminal acts are serious infractions that constitute a crime, for which a person can be prosecuted on indictment.
A victim of a crime is defined as a person who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage, or economic loss as a result of a crime. Criminal acts are listed in the Criminal Code of Canada.
Which instances of street harassment do not constitute crimes?
Whistling, staring, disapproving looks, inappropriate comments, offensive sexual jokes, and insults are all examples of non-criminal actions that may be taken by strangers in public spaces. However, these behaviours are far from trivial. They have social, psychological and emotional effects on the people who are regularly subjected to them.
Why do victims of street harassment not report it when it happens?
According to a research report*, fewer than one in ten people reported the event or filed a complaint after experiencing street harassment in Montréal. Many people surveyed said that “it’s not serious enough,” or that they were “afraid of not being taken seriously”, “did not know who to report it to” or were “afraid of retaliation.”
What should I do if I experience street harassment?
If someone is harassing you, you can ignore them and move away from them. You can also work together with another person, ask for help from witnesses, document the situation or report the situation to an authority figure. There are organizations that offer listening and response services. They can also direct you to other resources to get the help that you need.
If you have been the victim of a criminal act, you can report it to the SPVM. Police staff can also direct you to specialized resources if needed.
How does street harassment affect the target?
Street harassment restricts the right to exist and move freely in public spaces at all times of day without fear. Frequent street harassment can have a significant impact on the target’s life. Research shows that street harassment makes people feel more unsafe, hypervigilant and mistrustful in public spaces. It can also have other psychological effects, such as causing fear, anxiety and stress. This can cause people to change their behaviour by going out less, not hanging around and/or avoiding certain public places to feel safe.
Source : Les impacts du harcèlement de rue sur les femmes à Montréal. UQAM/CÉAF. Mélissa Blais, Mélusine Dumerchat and Audrey Simard (2021). (in French)
What is the Module des incidents et crimes haineux (MICH)?
The Module des incidents et crimes haineux (MICH) is a specialized unit of the SPVM. The MICH serves to develop in-depth expertise, gain a big-picture view of current issues, monitor how these issues are changing and strengthen SPVM partnerships with various cultural communities.
The MICH deals exclusively with crimes and incidents that are motivated by hate, conducting investigations, analyses and prevention activities.
These can include threats and physical assault. To report a hate incident, fill out an online form here (in French)
Learn more about the MICH (Video) (In French).