Street harassment victims’ justice needs and desired justice responses


Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University,

Street harassment is a pervasive experience for many women, and people of diverse gender and sexual orientation. For many, street harassment is a routine occurrence in public and semi-public spaces. While street harassment can take many forms, in many instances it occurs as a strand of gender-based violence, or homophobic and transphobic abuse. Research to date illustrates that – contrary to popular opinion – street harassment can cause profound harm to victims. Despite this, many forms of street harassment are typically not responded to by the formal criminal justice system. Although this is in some respects disappointing, and can be read as a continuation of the historical exclusion and dismissal of gender-based (and homophobic/transphobic) violence by the criminal justice system, it also creates the opportunity to develop justice responses to street harassment from the starting point of victims’ justice needs.

This begs the question of what the justice needs’ of street harassment victims are, and what type of justice responses – whether formal or informal – do victims desire? This presentation will explore these questions drawing on the findings of a qualitative research project undertaken in Melbourne, Victoria. An online survey and focus groups were undertaken with 317 participants who have experienced street harassment. Emerging findings indicate that street harassment victims hold diverse, complex, and, at times, contradictory understandings of justice, and of what needs to occur for justice to be achieved. This suggests that there is unlikely to be one clear path to achieving justice for street harassment. Rather, a suite of justice avenues is required.


Dr Bianca Fileborn is currently a Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University.Dr Nicola Henry is currently a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the School of Social Inquiry, La Trobe University.Rachel Loney-Howes is currently a PhD Candidate in the School of Social Inquiry, La Trobe University.Tully O’Neill is currently a PhD Candidate in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.


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