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52 per cent of girls in Wales have been sexually harassed in public, new survey finds

52 per cent of girls in Wales have been sexually harassed in public, new survey finds

A new survey by global children’s charity Plan International UK has found that shockingly more than half (52 per cent) of girls and young women in Wales have experienced unwanted sexual attention, unwanted sexual or physical contact, or indecent exposure in public. 

The survey of girls and women aged 14-21 found that 32 per cent are receiving verbal harassment like catcalling, wolf whistling and sexual comments once a month or more, while 17 per cent are being touched, groped or grabbed every month. A huge 37 per cent of girls said they have been followed in public.

Trin, who’s 18 and from Cardiff, has experienced harassment on her bus journeys home:

“When I was 16 I was coming home after being at work in the evening and I had this regular customer who started following me. He came on the bus with me and started talking to me about how I was too pretty to not have a boyfriend.

“He must have been in his 50s because he started talking about his grandchildren. I was closed in because he was sat next to me, and he made me feel nervous all the way home. Luckily, he got off at a stop before me.

Trin added, “I feel like when this first started happening to me it wasn’t deemed as something huge enough to tell someone else. Now me and my friends share our experiences of harassment, but I think I still wouldn’t feel comfortable telling a figure of authority.”

41 per cent of girls in Wales who have been sexually harassed in public haven’t told anyone about their experience, despite 90 per cent saying they had been negatively affected by the harassment:

  • 37 per cent said it made them feel unsafe.
  • 40 per cent said it made them feel anxious.
  • 36 per cent said it made them feel embarrassed.
  • A quarter (25 per cent) said they felt degraded.

Last month, following Plan International UK’s ‘It’s not OK’ campaign, the UK Government officially recognised street harassment as a form of gender-based violence in its Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy. Plan International UK is now calling on the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, to include street harassment in its VAWG strategy so street harassment can be tackled locally in Wales.

Tanya Barron, Chief Executive of Plan International UK, said, ‘It’s shocking that on average girls in Wales are having their first experience of sexual harassment in public at the age of 14, and that this behavior is so normalised they aren’t even telling anyone what’s happened to them.

 “This survey reveals just how widespread harassment is for girls and women and highlights the need for more to be done at a local level.

“By recognising street harassment in the national strategy to end violence against women and girls in Wales, this will send a clear message that this type of behavior is not OK. It would also allow local councils to begin working with the police to tackle the problem, creating real change for girls and women.”

If you live in Wales, support Plan International UK's campaign by signing the petition.