Skip to content

American Have No Idea What Do When Seeing Or Experiencing Harassment In A New Study

Over 70% of Americans agree the definition of harassment has evolved over the past 20 years in all shapes and forms.

A new survey has found four in 10 Americans have no idea what they should do when they see people getting cat-called.

Gretchen Carlson, left, a former Fox News host, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., talk after a news conference after the Senate passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, February 10, 2022. Carlson received a settlement after suing Fox News founder Roger Ailes for sexual harassment in 2016. TOM WILLIAMS/SWNS RESEARCH

The poll of 2,000 U.S. adults found 72% have either experienced harassment firsthand or have witnessed someone getting harassed. Half (52%) of them have been harassed in the past, while 37% have witnessed it happen to others in public.

Forty-six percent of those who have experienced public harassment said they’ve gone through more harassment in the past five years than “any other time in their life.”

A majority of harassment witnesses (57%) said they’ve seen it escalate into a fight or assault, and a similar amount (55%) are able to easily spot when it’s happening.

However, many can’t help but feel emotions of anger (75%), sadness (50%), being stunned (41%) and pure helplessness (32%) when they see harassment happening.

Commissioned by L’Oréal Paris Stand Up and conducted by OnePoll, the study found 73% agree the definition of harassment has evolved over the past 20 years and 64% believe it happens more frequently today than two decades ago.

Four in ten Americans have no idea to do when they see harassment while they experience harassment in all shapes and forms. ONE POLL/SWNS RESEARCH

Today, people defined harassment to include being touched without permission (67%), being made to feel uncomfortable (67%), being followed (55%), being racially profiled (52%) and being yelled at (49%).

Across the board, respondents believe harassment happens most often in the workplace (52%), in bars and restaurants (38%), on public transit (35%) and on college campuses (32%).

Over half (61%) feel like people in a position of power are more likely to get away with harassment.

“It is so important to recognize what harassment is and where it’s happening,” said Emily May, President, Co-Founder and Lead Executive Officer, Right To Be. “Yet so many people describe these feelings of hopelessness and not knowing what they should do or what options exist to prevent harassment from happening.”

While the results found 67% would be willing to intervene if they witnessed someone get harassed, 45% believe they could have done more to decrease instances of harassment if they knew how to properly combat it.

Many shared what they have considered doing to combat harassment: calling out bad behavior when they see it (45%), taking self-defense courses (39%) and learning how to contact the proper authorities (35%).

Over half (56%) said they’d be willing to take a short training course to learn what they should do against street harassment, and nearly as many (54%) said they would feel better equipped to defend someone experiencing harassment if they had the training.

Fifty-eight percent even believe it’s just as important to take anti-street harassment training as it is to learn CPR.

“Knowledge about how to address street harassment is true power,” continued Emily. “The best way people can take a stand against harassment is to learn the best ways to recognize it, address it, and prevent it from escalating.”


  • In a workplace – 52%
  • At a bar/restaurant – 38%
  • On public transit – 35%
  • College campuses – 32%
  • On the sidewalk – 22%
  • In a shared private space – 19%
  • While shopping – 17%

Produced in association with SWNS Research

“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”

Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.

Check out our free email newsletters

Recommended from our partners