Woman in New York street harassment video receives death, rape threats

Posted at 8:32 AM, Oct 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-30 08:32:53-04

(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.

Watch: What this woman heard walking around New York City for 10 hours will shock and disgust you

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 15 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.”