#BBCTrending: The video that shows what street harassment is like

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Media captionShoshana Roberts talked to the BBC about her experiment

A video showing a young woman being pestered by catcallers has gone viral, re-igniting the debate about street harassment.

A woman walks along the streets of New York City, minding her own business. Men call out at her: "What's up beautiful?", "Nice!", "Hey baby!". When she ignores them, she is admonished ("Smile!", "You should say thank you more"). At one point a man walks alongside her in silence for over five minutes, despite her obvious discomfort. In total she encounters over 100 comments in 10 hours - not including many more non-verbal signals like winks and whistles.

For many women this experience may sound unremarkable, if depressing. But on this occasion Shoshana B Roberts, 24, was filmed by a hidden camera. A two-minute video, titled 10 Hours of Walking In NYC as a Woman, attracted hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube within hours. It was produced for Hollaback!, which campaigns against street harassment. "This is a typical day in my life," says Roberts. "People need to be aware that this is going on."

The aim of the video is twofold, says Emily May, founder and executive director of Hollaback!. It's intended to show victims of harassment that they aren't alone, and to demonstrate to those who have never experienced such treatment how intimidating it can be. Rob Bliss, who shot the hidden camera footage, said that as a man he was "really surprised" by the sheer volume of approaches Roberts received. He says many men like him simply don't realise how common this kind of behaviour is and the impact it can have. "I don't have an expectation of changing anyone's behaviour, but I wanted a guy to see what it's like from a neutral, third-person perspective what it's like to experience street harassment," he says.

The video has been widely circulated on social networking sites, adding further impetus to a long-standing debate. Roberts hopes it will make harassers consider their actions. She says: "I don't know what needs to happen, but clearly something does."

As a further demonstration of her point, Hollaback! today asked its Twitter followers to help report rape threats against Roberts which appeared in the video's comments section.

Reporting by Jon Kelly

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