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Woman in viral street harassment video now getting death, rape threats

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(CNN) — What started as an expose of the harassment women face in public has turned into fodder for death- and rape threats against the woman in the viral video.

“There are people who’ve said a lot of things, but I’m not reading what they are saying,” Shoshana Roberts told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night. “We hit a nerve.”

Roberts didn’t say a word as she walked through the streets of Manhattan for 10 hours for the video. She didn’t have to.

Over 100 passersby spoke up with catcalls and phrases such as, “God bless you mami,” “Damn!” and “Hey, look it there!”

“My nonverbal cues were saying, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ No eye contact. No friendly demeanor,” she said. “But they were ignoring my nonverbal cues.”

Accurate depiction

Roberts said the video is an accurate depiction of what she faces daily. For instance, there was a time when her grandfather died “and someone told me that they liked the way I looked.”

“It is all day long. It is every day,” she said. “That’s a typical day… It doesn’t matter what you wear.”


The 10 hours of footage was edited down to a 1:56 public service announcement for the anti-street harassment group Hollaback! It was shot by filmmaker Rob Bliss, who was wearing a hidden camera in his backpack.

“I have multiple experiences of sexual assault, which is why I wanted to be involved in this project,” Roberts said in a separate interview with HLN.

Scary feeling

Perhaps the most nerve-racking part of the video was when a man started walking alongside Roberts and continued following her for five minutes.

“I have been doing martial arts since I was nine, and I have a black belt in tae kwon do … and I am scared,” Roberts told Cooper.

The video has been viewed more than 12 million times on YouTube. Despite numerous threats of violence against Roberts, many have been supportive.

“@ShoshanaBinya thank you for participating in that hollaback video, too many women go through the same thing,” @Andrea_Misho said on Twitter.

‘It needs to stop’

Street harassment disproportionately impacts women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals and young people, Hollaback! says on its website.

“Although the degree to which Shoshana gets harassed is shocking, the reality is that the harassment that people of color and LGBTQ individuals face is oftentimes more severe and more likely to escalate into violence,” the group said.

Roberts said she’s perplexed by why so many people harass when there is seldom a good outcome.

“I don’t know what they expect people to do,” she said. “I mean, this is happening to so many women, and my story is not unique.”

“It needs to stop,” she added. “We can change hearts and minds.”

CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.

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  • Melanie Moore

    The biggest mistake women of all ages make is truly believing that what they are wearing is not a factor in receiving comments. If men wore tight fitting clothes, even though all skin was covered, women would look and make comments, even though maybe not threatening comments. Its the total package: youth, body, face, hair, AND fit and style of clothes. And believe it or not, some men ARE projecting a complement. I’m 66 years old and have been in these situations MANY times. Men will always think figure snug clothes are a “come on.” Women, stop being naive about this.

  • pascaltcetran

    Not fair, if you live in Atlanta, it would be normal , ppl in the South just say hello to everyone, as of some harassment some yes, but nothing is bad, mostly just a compliment or say hello . Nothing wrong w that

  • Katy

    I know what she is going through . I have been going through this since I was 16, I’m 38 now. You can take some as a compliment. That you’re fine and have a nice figure or bootie. When it comes to being followed and harassed the there is something to be said. That is a very stressful situation. What makes matters worse, is because of this she gets threats? I say this grow the “f” up and learn when a woman does not show that she is interested in you leave her alone. Do not threaten her. That’s people being idiots cause they got caught. Deal with it!

  • Sara

    To see stupidity as blatant as hers does incite a reaction. Hard to believe that anybody can be as stupid as this woman (Gee, I walk down the street and men notice me and say something – what an outrage). I really cannot blame those who are making threats against her, she brought it on herself by being such an idiot and then asking for cash.

    • Mid Null

      …she was just walking. Doing nothing. And it brought about a horrible reaction. A few men FOLLOWED her! It was obvious she was just minding her own business, and some men didn’t stop…even when it was evident that she didn’t want anything to do with them. And when they noticed that she didn’t want anything to do with them they hollered back and asked her WHY she didn’t acknowledge them!? As if she NEEDED to? THAT, is what’s wrong…

  • Josh Abram

    Men will be men. It is natural for most men when they see a beautiful girl to at very least whistle or say something. It isn’t meant to be offensive or negative, it’s complimenting. How you take it is all on you, though there are situations during her video where it gets excessive or leans toward going overboard. I believe in being a gentlemen though there are women when I see them bring out the inherent animal nature. Also what a woman wears definitely matters if you wear snug stuff that shows off your curves I am sorry to say you are drawing attention to yourself. Not everything is common wear clothing for every person, body types dictate what your common clothing would be.

    • Mid Null

      …there is so much wrong with that “men will be men” comment. And then you go along and say “it will bring out an inherent animal nature”…you don’t eat your young, you aren’t a cannibal, those are also inherent animal instincts…
      And how dear you try to dictate what a woman can and can’t wear based on her body image?! I’m sure you’re going to say that it’s the females fault of getting raped just because she was wearing a skirt and a “man will be a man” so he couldn’t help himself!
      Those are all the words a rapist might say to defend themselves!
      I hope you don’t have a daughter, or gf/wife, or nieces…I’m sure if they get raped you’d tell them that it’s all their fault because they wore revealing clotting!

  • Terrence

    Rape and death, OK that’s a bit harsh. But this woman absolutely deserves to be ridiculed and ashamed over her total lack of understanding on how the world works. A good slap across her chops wouldn’t be so bad, maybe it would knock some sense into her

  • Nat.

    The comments on this article are primarily sickening. Yes, this is the way the world works. Men have been making cat calls in the streets for ages and women have been dealing with it for ages. Why do we deal with it? When this happens to me I feel utterly helpless because I know there’s nothing I can do about the man appraising my rear end without risking danger to myself. I want to bust this guy’s chops, but I don’t know anything about him and I’m not going to pick a fight. It would also be frustrating and time-consuming to explain to each and every one of these guys why it’s not appropriate or necessary to vocalize your opinions about every attractive woman who passes by. It’s okay to compliment strangers, but maybe save that for a time when you actually have a reason to talk to them. Like at a party, or when they’ve started a conversation with you. When the only people you randomly talk to in the street are attractive women you’re being a creep. Everyone deserves respectful treatment from strangers and treating a person like a sexual object is not a compliment. It’s gross. Asking women to grin and bear it, accept it with grace, take the compliment, etc. is so insensitive. What if she’s having a bad day, someone has died, she just received bad news, or her car was stolen, and there’s some guy saying ‘Would it hurt to smile?’ This woman is not an idiot who doesn’t understand how the world works. She’s pointing her finger at it, so of course she can see it. She’s calling for a change and the only one’s resisting are men with anachronistic views about women. I can’t imagine how slimy you would have to be to actually fight for your right to holler at women in the streets. Don’t you have something better to do. Like read a book?

    • Jack

      You’re right. You can’t really say that you’re throwing out a compliment if you aren’t considering the feelings of the person you’re throwing it to.

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