Why do girls stay silent : an exploratory research on young women's tolerance toward stranger harassment

  • Sui LAU

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


Stranger harassment has been a rising issue regarding gender equality globally. Nevertheless, this issue has been rarely explored in Hong Kong. This study aims at discovering its prevalence, the frequency of its occurrences, local women’s reactions toward it and variables that may determine women’s reactions in a local context. Both personal qualities, including gender-related belief, self-objectification and body image, as well as situational qualities, namely perceived situational norms, are examined.

350 self- administered questionnaires were collected from local women aged between 18 and 25, in either pencil-and-paper or online forms. Results showed that more than 80% of respondents reported experiencing stranger harassment at least once in their lifetimes. The frequency of experiencing certain types of harassment decreases as the severity of harassment increases. Unlike the results found by previous studies, active coping strategy has been reported as the most common reaction adopted by local young women, following by passive, self-blaming and lastly benign coping strategy. As for personal qualities that may determine women’s reactions toward stranger harassment, self-objectification has been found to be positively linked to benign and self-blaming coping strategies, whereas benevolent sexism, which was one of the measurements of gender-related belief, is positively linked to self-blaming and passive coping strategies. Situational qualities were also found to be related to women’s reactions toward stranger harassment. Among the three items that measure perceived situational norms, item B – ‘women should expect stranger harassment in that setting’ is positively correlated to all three nonactive coping strategies. Item C – ‘people nearby will help me if I experience stranger harassment in that setting’ was also found to be positively correlated to active coping strategy. Explanations to the relationships between these variables and women’s coping strategies as well as practical implications are discussed.

This study contributes towards a greater understanding of stranger harassment and women’s reactions toward it, and fills gap in the literature on stranger harassment in the local context.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Sociology and Social Policy
SupervisorHau Nung Annie CHAN (Supervisor) & Hon Fai CHEN (Supervisor)

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