Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2995: 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman - Catcalls, Street Harassment, Body Language, Personal Safety & Threat Assessment (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Rob Bliss of Rob Bliss Creative wanted to spotlight, in an objective manner, street harassment - which although many men are oblivious to, is a pervasive problem in every country in the World. Partnering with Hollaback, a nonprofit dedicated towards ending street harassment, and actress Shoshana B. Roberts, Bliss captured this video on the streets of New York City.

Several people followed her, but one individual - referred to below as John Doe, does so for five minutes. His behavior is more than catcalling or harassment - it is predatory. Had this street been less populated or if it were night, Ms. Roberts probably would have been assaulted. A partial nonverbal analysis follows: 

0:49 John Doe first comes into view

He's looking at his mobile phone.


He says, "Hello good morning" to a woman he does not know.

Immediately his attention focuses on Ms. Roberts.

Note at first his hands are out of his pockets and his arms are swinging with modest amplitude. This is normal for relaxed, low anxiety walking.  Notice also, Mr. John Doe has a normal foot plant (heel-to-toe movement for relaxed people with a normal healthy gait)


John Doe says, "God bless you, have a good day alright?"

His pace momentarily remains slower than hers, which affords him to look at her from behind also allowing him to ensure she is alone.  Then he increases his pace so that he matches her walking speed, yet he is about 1/2 a stride behind her. Maintaining this position is overtly predatory. Immediately and instinctively the person in front becomes quite nervous and on-edge.

0:54 seconds

John Doe drops even further back, still assessing a woman who he does not know. His gait is beginning to increase at this moment - his decision to follow her is made in this instant.

Less than a second later in the video (0:54.5 second mark, yet about 2 minutes later in real time of walking [video is edited]), John Doe has changed is body language. He is walking quicker to keep pace with her. Moreover his weight is now distributed significantly forward than earlier - more on toes - as is normal when preparing for physical action. Both of his hands are also in his pockets. This is another red flag, particularly when they were out shortly before when he was walking alone. Hands that aren't swinging while walking are very often seen prior to attack. He could be hiding and preparing to use a weapon, although even without a weapon, in this context it suggests preparing for physical action. Note also that his hands are not relaxed and resting in his pockets, but oriented forward and upwards - this is an amplifier & further nonverbal tell of the anxiety of readiness for physical action.

John Doe continues his position about 1/2 of a stride behind Ms. Roberts. With respect to potential violence, walking in this configuration relative to another person (particularly a stranger), for 2 minutes is extremely suspicious. His steps are intermittently synchronized with hers.

1:03 in video

Four minutes of walking beside Ms. Roberts, still a half a stride behind, and with both his hands remaining in his pockets, John Doe again assesses the immediate vicinity - as is often seen in animals or man just prior to attack. His steps here are more synchronized with Roberts' stride. 

1:06 in video

After five minutes of walking 1/2 stride behind her, his hands are still in his pockets - however stride in this moment is not synchronized.

He is walking even more with his center-of-gravity forward, on his toes.

Although his face is deliberately blurred here we can tell that his lips are pursed forward (displayed by a relative alpha with clandestine disagreement or clandestine plan with a believed high likelihood of success) and his jaw is also jutting forward (very commonly seen in anger and prior to sudden physical activity).


Again, he looks over to assess the situation (not looking at her body).


1. John Doe, an unknown, makes a catcall to a woman he does not know

2. He assesses the physical situation first from behind

3. Speeds up to match her walking speed

4. Walks 1/2 step behind her for 5 minutes

5. Hands changed from outside, swinging and relaxed to inside his pockets, common before attack   
    (Or to gain access a weapon). Moreover his hands are not relaxed in his pockets, but directed
    forwards and upwards - a further signal of anxiety for readiness and anticipating physical action.
6. Followed her for 5 minutes

7. No talking after initial catcall, only silence

8. Changing to anticipatory "Toe Walking", after normal relaxed gait

9. Jaw Jut

10. Forward Lip Purse

This is highly suspicious and predatory behavior is strongly suggestive that John Doe was impromptu planning an attack on Ms. Roberts. All of these signs are significant and particularly when taken together indicate the probability of attack was extremely high and most likely he decided against assault due to the constant proximity of Rob Bliss with the hidden camera, the relative crowd and/or daylight. There is also an extremely high probability he has a history of similar behavior.

Thank you to Rob Bliss Creative, Soshana B. Roberts and Hollaback for bringing attention and empathy to the profoundly under-addressed problem of street Harassment.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2994: Mike Jones to Barack Obama - "Mr. President, Don't Touch My Girlfriend"

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2594: Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin Harassment, Part II - Miami Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin's Body Language

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2462:  San Diego Mayor Bob Filner -  Sexual Harassment, Body Language and Foreheads

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2260:  'Top Chef' host Padma Lakshmi regarding  New Delhi's recent gang-rape,  Indian Culture and Sexual-Physical Harassment - Body Language Nuance

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2512:  Matthew Cordle's YouTube Confession  and the Death of Vincent Canzani  "I Killed a Man" - What His Body Language Tells Us ...  It's NOT what you think!

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2982: Politicians Should Never Do This If They Want To Be Elected - Hillary Clinton's Body Language Faux Pas

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2601: "Governor Christie, Are You a Tea Party Republican?" Why His Answer Tells Us Whether or Not He Will Run for President in 2016