(Reuters) — A Jewish woman featured in a video in which she is harassed more than 100 times on New York City’s streets said on Thursday that she has received dozens of rape threats after the clip was posted on the Internet and watched widely.
The two-minute video posted on YouTube depicts 24-year-old Shoshana Roberts over a 10-hour period being accosted and at times followed by men who shout things such as “What’s up beautiful” and “Nice” as she walked by in casual jeans and a black T-shirt.
Roberts’ profile on the LinkedIn social media site says she is a member of Hillel and having a limited proficiency as a speaker of Hebrew.
In just two days, the recording has garnered more than 17 million views and 80,000 comments on the video-sharing website YouTube, shining a national spotlight on the problem of street harassment.
“Unfortunately I have sexual assault in my past, and unfortunately, I relive it when all of this comes up,” said Roberts, an actress who said the recording depicts a typical day for her. “Luckily I’ve built up a much thicker skin, but I am very fearful.”
Roberts said she has received numerous emails threatening rape and offering to help her commit suicide.
The number of threatening emails ran into the double digits in the immediate aftermath of the video going live and have been growing since then, with friends and family now handling them, she said.
Roberts plans on alerting the New York Police Department, she said.
During the shoot, a hidden camera captures the numerous catcalls, which Roberts ignores with a stern, and at times alarmed, expression on her face.
The group behind the video, Hollaback!, which works to end street harassment, said it had also received intimidating messages since posting the video.
“My job is working to address street harassment and when I first saw this video, even doing this all day long, my stomach still turned,” said Hollaback! Executive Director Emily May.
Verbal harassment or harassment in the second degree in New York can be punished by a fine of up to $250 and 15 days in jail, but it has to be a repeated act in order to meet the legal threshold, said Marjorie Mesidor, a lawyer with Philips and Associates.
Sixty-five percent of women in the United States have experienced street harassment, according to a study released this summer by the advocacy group Stop Street Harassment.