Melanie Schmitz
Updated Aug 14, 2014 @ 4:31 pm

This week in street harassment: A man was knocked unconscious as he attempted to defend a group of women from street harassers. The 39-year-old Texas native was walking through downtown Philadelphia this past weekend, when he witnessed several men inside of a car pull over to the side of the road and begin catcalling some women. Rather than walking by silently, he stopped and began defending the women.

“The male victim took offense to something that the guys were saying to the girls and said ‘hey, watch what you’re saying,’” Philadelphia Police Captain George Fuchs, said in a statement to press. The men then exited the vehicle and began hitting the victim in the head, according to a report from NBC Philadelphia. The man was knocked unconscious as he fell and his head struck the concrete.

“This is a tragic, tragic story,” Fuchs added. “Here’s a guy trying to stick up for these girls and he gets victimized.” Police are still searching for the suspects.

Stories like this are extremely upsetting and serve as a harrowing reminder that street harassment is not only a serious issue for women, but for men as well. It also shows that harassment can lead to violent crimes.

In recent months, a viral backlash to street harassment has spread across the Internet, with hashtags like #NotJustHello and campaigns like Stop Street Harassment. Women are sick of being expected to withstand offensive and sometimes dangerous catcalls. The overall message is clear: catcalls are NOT compliments, they’re verbal assaults, and they can turn very ugly very quickly.

While it’s primarily a women’s issue, some men have joined in the campaign to stop street harassment, and their support is crucial. “Men who care about equality or who care about a daughter, mother, sister, aunt, cousin, girl friend, spouse, or friend should care about street harassment,” writes Holly Kearl, on the Stop Street Harassment website. “Women should not have to be the ones who work on this issue alone. We need men’s collaboration.”

So when a random guy on the street decides that this type of behavior is disgusting and degrading and tries to take a stand, it’s important that we acknowledge how awesome that is. Male allies are often faced with abuse of their own, slammed as “beta-males” and slandered with derogatory terms, simply for trying to support a growing movement of women who have decided not to put up with this inappropriate behavior any longer. And now it appears that they also risk being beaten for sticking up for what’s right.

Salon reports that some Redditors have criticized the Texas man’s actions—basically, saying he should have minded his own business—simply because he had the audacity to open his mouth in defense of his fellow human beings. If we can’t acknowledge and respect the significance of a simple act of courage, how do we ever expect things to change on a larger scale?

Street harassment is harassment, plain and simple, and it needs to stop. And if you’re a man who’s reading reports of this incident, please don’t feel discouraged from doing the right thing.

(Featured image via)