The Mediating Role of Perceived Safety on Street Harassment and Anxiety

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Objective: Despite the high prevalence rates of street harassment for women, few studies have examined negative outcomes of this distressing experience. The current study aimed to further this area of inquiry by investigating potential consequences of street harassment, including perceptions of safety and anxiety among college women. Specifically, this study introduced and tested a mediation model in which women’s experiences of street harassment may lead to less perceived safety in public spaces, specifically isolated and busy public spaces, which in turn may lead to more anxiety. Method: To examine the model, undergraduate women (N = 501) completed measures of street harassment, perceived safety, and general anxiety. Results: Most participants (57–88%) reported experiencing verbal street harassment whereas 11–33% reported experiencing sexual forms of street harassment. Significant correlations emerged among street harassment, safety perceptions in busy and isolated public settings, and anxiety. Consistent with the model, safety perceptions in isolated public settings emerged as a significant mediator of the relation between street harassment and anxiety. Conclusion: This study begins to fill important gaps in the current literature related to mental health and psychological outcomes of street harassment. Specifically, street harassment is shown to promote safety concerns and anxiety more generally among college women.

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