Harassment is one of those things that people tend to not really think about until it happens to them. People are so busy these days that their attention is fractured in a million different directions ― they often aren’t thinking about the experiences that people on the street next to them are having, even though they’re ostensibly doing the same thing at the same time. If you haven’t been a victim of street harassment yourself, it’s easy to feel as if the problem isn’t as serious as certain people make it out to be.
But it very much is a serious problem. Now, thanks to one enterprising project, we have the hidden camera footage to prove it.

Female Harassment: By the Numbers

That women have to deal with harassment throughout their daily lives is certainly nothing new. The experts at Stop Street Harassment.org have compiled statistics that paint a fairly harrowing picture of the situation as it currently stands:

  • According to a 2,000-person survey that was conducted in 2014, nearly 65 percent of all women had experienced some form of harassment on the street.
  • Of those women, 23 percent had been touched in a sexual or inappropriate way.
  • 20 percent of the women who responded to the survey said that they had been followed in a way they felt threatened by.
  • Another 9 percent said that they had been forced at one point to do something sexual against their will.

It’s a problem that does not discriminate and that can be found almost anywhere ― whether you live in a major city like Indianapolis or California or another country like Canada or Egypt. Yet the thing to remember is that sometimes, facts and figures like these keep us at an arm’s length from the real situation. It’s easy to discount a statistic or to look at it as a mere number on a page.

Thankfully, hidden cameras are being used on a regular basis to give faces to these figures ― to paint incredibly vivid pictures of exactly what is going on and what women have to deal with in a way that is impossible to ignore, as harrowing as it may be.

The Power of Hidden Cameras

Hollaback is an anti-street harassment organization that recently enlisted the services of Rob Bliss Creative, a video marketing agency, to produce a video that detailed exactly what it’s like to be a woman walking alone on a city street. Even after reviewing the footage for only a few minutes, the thesis is clear: The experience is exhausting, demeaning and downright scary, often all at the same time.

Video marketer Rob Bliss hid a camera inside a backpack that was worn by actress Soshana B. Roberts. Dressed in a T-shirt and jeans and holding a microphone, Roberts then walked around New York City for 10 hours. She was completely minding her own business ― not going out of her way to do anything in particular or interact with anyone.

Despite this, the cameras didn’t just catch street harassment ― they caught it all. Men often approached Roberts, leered at her from afar or even followed her as she went about her day. Some men shouted seemingly innocent comments in her direction such as, “Have a nice evening,” while others took it a degree further and shouted things like “Sexy!”

Throughout those 10 hours, the hidden camera recorded more than 100 instances of street harassment. Note that this number does not include actions like winking and whistles.

In the end, this film goes a long way toward showing exactly what it’s like to be a woman on a daily basis. Remember that Roberts is just one person; at any given moment, thousands like her are experiencing these and other types of harassing incidents all day, every day. Thankfully, hidden camera projects such as this one exist to capture everything in stunning detail. The major lesson is clear: This isn’t a problem that can be ignored. This isn’t just people on the street being annoying or impolite; it’s an issue that needs to be addressed as a collective moving forward.