42 per cent of girls who have been sexually harassed didn't tell anyone about their experience, a new survey finds
A new survey by global children’s charity Plan International UK has revealed that 42 per cent of girls and young women who have been sexually harassed in public didn’t tell anyone about what happened to them.
Out of 1001 girls and young women aged 14-21, two thirds (66 per cent) said they had either received sexual attention, been touched, groped or grabbed, or experienced indecent exposure in public but only a minority spoke out about it.
Respondents gave various reasons for why they hadn’t told anyone about the abuse, with:
• A third (33 per cent) saying they felt too embarrassed to tell anyone
• 28 per cent saying they didn’t think they’d be taken seriously if they told someone
• More than a quarter (26 per cent) saying they didn’t know who to tell
• And one in seven (14 per cent) saying they didn’t tell anyone because they thought they were to blame for the harassment.
Atlanta, who’s 17 and from Manchester, was recently followed home when she was with a friend,
“We were on a tram and this guy was looking at my friend and my friend noticed it and told me. I just said to brush it off because we won’t see him again, but then he got off the same stop as us.
“I noticed he was following us so we started running home, but then he started running as well. We crossed the road and he was still right behind us. We ran round a corner and he must have lost us then.
She added, “I was really scared because this had never happened before and so I didn’t know what to do. Neither of us told anyone after that happened.”
Atlanta is not alone in feeling scared by her experience. Overall, 92 per cent of girls associated their experience of harassment with a negative emotion:
- 49 per cent said the harassment made them feel unsafe
- 44 per cent said it made them feel anxious
- 36 per cent said it made them feel embarrassed
- 32 per cent felt degraded by the experience
Last month, following Plan International UK’s ‘It’s not OK’ campaign, the government officially recognised street harassment as a form of gender-based violence in its refreshed Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy. Plan International UK is now calling on local authorities to address street harassment so that girls everywhere can feel supported in speaking out.
Tanya Barron, Chief Executive of Plan International UK, said, “Our latest survey reveals the worrying truth that girls are being sexually harassed in public and don’t feel confident telling anyone what’s happening to them. This is totally unacceptable.
“Street harassment has become so normalised that girls and young women think they won’t be taken seriously if they speak out when they are harassed, even when the harassment makes them feel unsafe, anxious and degraded. Some girls are even blaming themselves for the abuse and that’s not OK.
Ms Barron added, “When the government recognised street harassment as a form of gender-based violence earlier this year, it sent out a strong message that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated. But this is only the first step. Now we need to see local authorities introducing and implementing their own strategies for dealing with street harassment, creating real change on the ground for girls and women across the UK.”