Construction Workers Harass Woman: What Would You Do?

Hidden cameras capture reactions as woman faces a barrage of sleazy comments.

ByABC News
January 13, 2011, 11:47 AM

Jan. 13, 2011 — -- It's a part of our society that has, unfortunately, affected many women for decades: sexual harassment. Politicians, businessmen, athletes and teachers alike have all been accused of the abhorrent behavior. But, it doesn't stop there.

According to a study by Northwestern University, 19 percent of women are targets of sexual harassment every day. In New York City, the Manhattan Borough President's Office conducted an online questionnaire on sexual harassment on the New York City subway system and found that 63 percent of respondents reported being sexually harassed on a subway platform or in a subway car.

In light of these startling numbers, ABC News' "What Would You Do?" rigged hidden cameras on a busy Hoboken, N.J., street corner and hired three male actors to portray construction workers on a coffee break and an actress playing the victim.

Our actors began the whistling and cat-calling in front of a busy food cart, prompting protests from our actress.

At first, passersby seemed to pay little attention and went about their business. But, as the verbal abuse continued, some people had had enough.

"You don't treat people that way. It's wrong," one man said to the construction workers.

As he stood next to our actress, he offered to apologize on behalf of our construction workers.

"Are you apologizing for men in general?" our actress asked.

"If I have to," the man said.

Later, as our actress was receiving a barrage of sleazy comments from the construction workers, one female bystander, hesitant to confront the construction workers, gave our actress a bit of advice.

"Just stop talking to them ... Just ignore them and they will shut up," she said.

As the breakfast rush-hour continued and dozens of people continued to walk by the scene, our actress was beginning to raise the volume of her pleas.

"Could you please just go away," she said

The three construction workers continued to laugh it off and harass our actress. We noticed some people watch, almost amused. And just when we thought no one would step in to defend our victim, suddenly, out of nowhere, a man appeared and immediately got involved.

"You are disrespecting this woman here. If you have a problem with her, you're going to have a problem with me. Anyone who wants to be tough just stand up," the man said.

"She's flirting," one of our actors said.

"She ain't flirting," the man shot back. "She's over here and you guys are bothering her. Leave."

When we caught up with this man he told us, "I don't know her. I don't know them. I was pretty annoyed the way they were treating her. You know, three guys, a female ... she's very distressed. No one else stepped up to the plate. I had to do something."

'Do Any of You Guys Have Daughters?'

"Why don't you get your lunch and take a hike" said one man.

He happened to be a construction manager who told us that he sees a lot of what he called "shenanigans."

"One, two, three of you picking on her?" he asked. "What are you guys doing? What is this?"

He told our construction workers that one day they might have a daughter and asked them if they would want somebody else to treat her the way they were treating our actress.

"I'm sure she has a father that wouldn't appreciate that," he said

"I don't have a daughter and until then I'm going to have some fun," one of our fake construction worker replied.

We noticed the man standing by the side of our actress, not allowing the construction workers to get any closer.

As the abuse continued from our workers, he decided the best thing to do would be to walk our actress away from the scene. When we caught up with him, he told us, "I saw one guy grabbing for her. If it went any further, I would probably have to lay him out," he said.

In the course of the day, many people witnessed our construction workers verbal assault on our actress. But we wondered; what would happen if our construction workers traded in their hardhats and boots for suits and ties?

Watch the scenario unfold on "What Would You Do?" Friday at 9 p.m. ET.