Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Maureen C. McHugh, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Beverly J. Goodwin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Elizabeth A. Kincade, Ph.D.


Women have been plagued by gender-based public harassment since at least as early as 1875 (Bowman, 1993). Gender-based public harassment is harassment directed by men towards women. It occurs in public and semi-public places, can be verbal or non-verbal, often has a sexual component, and can be degrading, objectifying, and/or threatening (Bowman; Gardner, 1995). The current study presents information regarding the prevalence of gender-based public harassment, examples of harassment that fall into this category, possible explanations for the pervasiveness of gender-based public harassment, and the individual and societal effects of this form of harassment. There is relatively little research directly applicable to gender-based public harassment, and this study was conducted to explore how harassing behaviors that women experience, and their emotional reactions to these behaviors, are related to body image, self-esteem, objectification, and avoidance behavior. Statistically significant results indicate that experiences of gender-based public harassment, and particularly negative emotional responses, are associated with low self-esteem, dislike of and shame about one’s body, and preoccupation with one’s appearance. Negative reactions were also associated with avoidance of going places when alone. Additionally, the results indicate that women of color are subjected to more frequent gender-based public harassment than are white women. Self-esteem is also shown to be correlated with body image and explains a substantial amount of variance in the body image variables. The implications of all results, limitations of the study, and future directions for research are discussed.