Sexual Harassment in Public Places: Experiences of Canadian Women


  • *The authors are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for funding this research (Grant #482–90–0021). They also wish to thank the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution and the Institute for Social Research (York University) for their support, as well as Aysan Se'ver and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The genesis of this paper is unusual. Michael Smith and John Fox worked on an earlier version. When he died, Mike led a nearly complete, but rough, draft, along with an indication that he wished his then-student, Norman Morra, to participate in the project. After Mike's death, John didn't have the heart to proceed with the paper, but eventually decided it would better serve Mike's memory to see it to completion. John also believed the data Mike collected are important and should be reported. Norman and John decided they didn't have the expertise in the literature on sexual harassment to complete the paper as Mike would have wished, and they consequently asked Rhonda Lenton to join them. The current version of the paper is substantially different from the version that Mike left, although we believe that it has been completed in conformity with his standards and expectations. The current order of authorship reflects our relativecontributions to the project. The manuscript ofthis article was submitted in February 1999 and accepted in April 1999.


Des chercheurs ont étudié les cas de harcèlement sexuel en milieu de travail et dans les universités. En collaboration avec des experts judiciaires, ils ont conceptualisé le harcelement sexuel et en ont fait une question de droits de la personne. Notre recherche, fondée sur un sondage effectue en 1992 auprès de 1 990 femmes canadiennes, réVéle que le harcèlement sexuel se produit aussi dans les lieux publics. Nous présentons des données inédites sur le sujet en exa-minant le type, la fréquence et la gravité du harcèlement, les carac-téristiques des femmes le plus susceptibles d'être harcetées, les implications pouvant servir à bâtir une théone sur le harcèlement dans les lieux publics, les réactions des femmes a l'égard du harcèlement ainsi que ses conséquences sur les plans émotionnel et psychologique.

Researchers have expended much effort studying sexual harassment in the workplace and universities. Together with legal experts, they have conceptualized sexual harassment as a human-rights issue: a form of sexual discrimination that typically occurs in relationships of unequal power. Our research, based on a 1992 survey o{ 1,990 Canadian women, suggests sexual harassment is also prevalent in public places such as streets, transit systems and malls. We supply rare data about sexual harassment in public places by examining the types, frequency, and severity of harassment; the characteristics of women most likely to be harassed; the theoretical implications of public harassment; women's responses to harassment; and its emotional and psychological effects.