Brainstorming ideas to improve resistance to street harassment re. the escalation paradox

Summary / Wish List

  1. Put a word or very short phrase into the language that means "smiling in the face of harassment to prevent escalation, while feeling threatened and wishing the person would go away." Perhaps: escalation paradox?
  2. Develop a memorizable way to phrase a request that someone leave you alone that is both non-escalating itself and clear enough that if you continue to talk smile and be gentle, you've still made yourself clear
  3. A startup-style project that provides anti-street-harassment techniques and technologies

{this is quiet personal blog; I don't know much, just starting to think about this}

I was reading this blog about a guy hassling a teenage woman soon after reading about giving out fake phone numbers rather than saying no for safety, and wondering how to improve resistance to harassment: the blog describes a guy harassing, then stalking, a woman; a traffic cop and witness were around; and yet there's not much to be done. It seems to center on a de-escalation paradox: Women are extremely often in a situation where stating flatly: "this is harassment, never speak to me again" seems more dangerous -- if a woman doesn't smile and say "no thanks, oh no thanks, gee no thanks" when "fuck off / I'm calling the cops" is what the harasser should hear, she faces increased risk of escalating the asshole.

I wonder if there could be some catch-phrase developed that was short, sweet and legal. Something along the lines of:

I want to make clear to you in a legally-binding way that I do not wish to talk with you, that continuation is harassment and/or stalking, that any witnesses should call police ... and if I continue to smile at you, it is only because I find you threatening and am attempting to avoid escalating the threat I perceive in you.

But it would need to be shorter and clearer than the mess above, and carefully designed not to escalate -- something you could say, yes with a nervous smile, that still draws lines.

It could then be pushed in education, so that men who continue to harass know damn-well that they have now crossed the line, and can no longer use the men-are-idiots defense. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like it could increase the ability to convict harassers and stalkers: basically a public safe-word. "No" should work, but because of the escalation-paradox, often doesn't. "Can I have your number, baby" seems to be most safely answered with things like "I have a boyfriend," which tells everyone with a clue to go away but isn't clear harassment in legal-land.

Run something through iterations with NVC folks and lawyers...

It could also hopefully make for more legally-viable harassment cases, in this age of video cameras. A key point to the phrase is to state clearly that from here on I'm smiling to de-escalate, and to put that into our language in a way that police understand it with one word (this is a framing issue, in a way -- police must currently understand not shouting "No" repeatedly in order not to escalate a threat, but it's not a single clean word, and so it comes across as as not the target's decision not to say "No/Go/This is harassment now." A way to make a morally and legally clear statement, then go back to de-escalating without giving up having made clear that stalking/harassing is occurring.

PS - I think someone could launch a tiny but effective startup with anti-harassment techniques. Give out phone numbers to give out to harassers that does data collection when they call. Hell, maybe even launch civil law suits. Finding information on good and safe ways to counter street harassment, and how to record it, and what to do when you've recorded it.

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