#SAFERsquares - the SAFER way to answer a street harasser and check disrespect

By Alexandra Voûte, SAFER: NYC Research Director

Most of us, men and women, deal with incidents of street harassment in the same wise way that we were taught to deal with the taunters and bullies of our middle school traumas: we ignore them. We walk on. We let it go.

But, sometimes, letting street harassment go, when in truth you want it to stop, can stick with you for a few blocks. Walking away from being harassed or witnessing harassment, how many of us have felt that bothersome gum on the bottom of our brains that says, “…I wish I had said something,” or, “That was not right.”

We at SAFER: NYC know the feeling –usually after something delightful like this:

But, of course, on the go, most of us don’t have time to explain to every catcaller why his casual sexism is not casual. Furthermore, without knowing how some might respond to the irregular act of standing up to harassment, we don’t want to put ourselves in possible danger by doing so.  

Street harassment is a complicated issue. But that doesn’t mean simple ideas cannot make an impact, which is why we listened when one SAFER staffer admitted half hypothetically: “Sometimes, I just wish I had a card to hand the catcaller whenever I get hollered at, respectfully saying everything I want to say but don’t have time to explain.”

After giving it some thought, we at SAFER thought it was a brilliant idea –a way to remove that stress people feel when contemplating how to respond. A way to stand up to harassment that doesn’t require a verbal altercation.

Today we’re proud to present SAFERsquares: a pocket-sized card made for use by men or women, targets or witnesses of street harassment as a respectful, non-confrontational, educational tool against catcalling. SAFERsquares are conveniently packaged in pouches of five, perfect for your purse or wallet so that, when you need them, if you feel safe to do so, you can simply hand one over and keep on your way.


Most important of all its functions, however, SAFERsquares can be a tool for change.

Sure, a fair number of catcalling SAFERsquare recipients may just toss the card, but will they really be able to completely forget the message? If enough women and men start to hand these out across NYC when they are harassed or witness harassment, we can, at the very least, spread the idea that disrespect is no longer going unchecked. SAFERsquares offer every one of us touched by street harassment the opportunity to deliver the anti-harassment message directly to those with the most power to end this harmful behavior.


To get your free five-pack of SAFERsquares, come join us at the Nuyorican Poets Café on Thursday, February 25th from 7-9pm for SAFER: NYC’s Street Harassment Speak Out! We will be distributing SAFERsquares at the show.

If you can’t join, a printable version will also be made available via the SAFER: NYC website and the SAFER: NYC Facebook page after the show.

Let us know how SAFERsquares helps you by using the hashtag #SAFERsquares on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook!