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Street Harassment is Still a Problem in Houston, Despite Fewer Pedestrians

Street Harassment is Still a Problem in Houston, Despite Fewer Pedestrians

Hollaback bannerFrom an unwelcome passing remark from a stranger to more overt cat calls, we discuss street harassment in Houston, with area psychologist Dr. Michael Winters, and Hermie Escamilla, Director of Hollaback Houston, a local chapter of a global network of activists who seek to highlight what harassment looks like in public spaces.

While Houston isn’t the most active walking city, that doesn’t mean such harassment doesn’t happen here.

About the Author

Michael Hagerty

Michael HagertyMichael Hagerty is the Senior Producer for Houston Matters. He has a degree in journalism from Abilene Christian University and has served as news director for NPR and PBS stations around Texas and The West, including: KUNR-FM in Reno, Nev.; KNPB-TV in Reno, Nev.; and KWBU-TV/FM in Waco, Texas. He got his start on the air as a college student hosting Morning Edition at KACU-FM in Abilene, Texas. A native of the Chicago area and an avid Cubs fan, Michael spent four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.View all posts by Michael Hagerty →

  1. JoeJoe11-11-2014

    If we deserve to be protected from comments, then what about panhandlers (who can be aggressive at times), evangelists with pamphlets, and”offensive” activists (anti-abortion activists, Westboro Baptist Church toting around signs that say “God Hates Fags”)?

    Urban streets are free spaces—not gated communities with a rigid set of bylaws. And the First Amendment applies as well. According to Hollaback’s mission statement, the group is hoping to find a way to inspire legislators and the police to take action. They’re vague about what precise actions they have in mind. But Northwestern Professor Laura Beth Nielsen is not vague at all. She wants a law prohibiting, “uninvited harassing speech or actions targeted towards individuals in public spaces on the basis of sex,” because it would “weigh in on the side of equality.” Equality? Harassment can happen anywhere, but it is more common in economically deprived neighborhoods. Such a law could cause poor men, especially Latino and African American and working class white men—to be targeted by police.

    Thank you for alerting me that a chapter of this advertisement agency, Hollaback, exists in Houston. I will be fighting any of their actions they put forth in the court of law that inhibits the First Amendment, which I presume will be all of them.

    • kylejackkylejack11-12-2014

      You don’t seem to be very informed on Hollaback aside from what you just read in a mission statement. They’ve been engaged in an information campaign for a while now. Go ahead and check, they’re not putting forward legislative proposals that would violate the First Amendment. Professor Laura Beth Nielsen speaks for herself, not for Hollaback.

      • JoeJoe11-12-2014

        They aren’t but they wish to do so in the future. Perhaps you are the one who is not informed.

        A quick glance at their about page tells you all you need to know:


        ” Your story will redefine safety in your community—it will inspire legislators, the police, and other authorities to take this issue seriously – to approach it with sensitivity, and to create policies that make everyone feel safe.”

        and working with community members and legislators to develop responses to street harassment.

        Engage elected officials: We present collected and mapped data to elected officials and policymakers in areas experiencing high incidences of street harassment and will engage legislators to work with our trained leaders to address street harassment in their communities.”

        the professor mentioned isn’t a random professor, her books are promoted on Hollaback’s website. This is no coincidence, Hollaback and the professor’s views align.


        The problem with these laws is they can be abused to profile minorities like other similar types of laws do (not basing a stop on reasonable suspicion and so forth…).

        What is most alarming about the mission statement is the “mapped data” …”Hello officer, just calling to say that here is where all the minorities are please stop and frisk them before I go out to lunch through that area thanks officers!!”

        • kylejackkylejack11-12-2014

          There are many tools available to a legislator, not just bans on things. For just one example, a PSA could be funded in a particular area discouraging street harassment. The map is protected free speech, people just trying to coordinate to determine where the problem is most pervasive.

      • dickerindickerin03-24-2015

        Great video. I love strong, smart women.

    • CaraCara04-07-2015

      There is a line between free speech and harassment, which is too often ignored. I agree that any attempt to control the latter needs to be specific enough to avoid violating the First Amendment. Still, there should be a way to allow people to express their opinions, while protecting the right of innocent bystanders to go about their business in peace, without feeling threatened.

  2. MakenzieMakenzie11-12-2014

    Thank you for this segment and thank you Hermie for all the work you do to bring awareness to street harassment in Houston! I’m a runner and a commuter cyclist. I experience unwelcome comments, inappropriate looks, and had people follow me. Street harassment is scary and uncomfortable!

  3. dickerindickerin03-24-2015

    There are worthy causes out there… find one.

    • stopitstopitstopitstopitstopitstopit03-04-2016

      Yeah, like how about pedestrian safety? Biker safety? Heck, even driver safety?! Houston is a mad house!