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71 per cent of girls in the North West have been sexually harassed in public, new survey finds

71 per cent of girls in the North West have been sexually harassed in public, new survey finds

A new survey by global children’s charity Plan International UK has found that a shocking 71 per cent of girls and young women in the North West 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 47 per cent of girls are receiving verbal harassment like catcalling, wolf whistling and sexual comments once a month or more, while nearly a quarter (23 per cent) are being touched, groped or grabbed every month. A huge 41 per cent of girls said they have been followed in public.

Atlanta, who’s 17 and from Manchester, says she’s regularly harassed walking to and from the tram stop. Often it’s wolf-whistling or catcalling, but recently she and her friend were followed home.

“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 not telling anyone. 44 per cent of girls in the North West who have been harassed in public didn’t tell anyone about their experience on at least one occasion, despite 90 per cent saying they had been negatively affected by the harassment:

  • 40 per cent said the harassment made them feel unsafe.
  • 43 per cent said it made them feel anxious.
  • 29 per cent said it made them feel embarrassed.
  • 28 per cent felt degraded by the experience.

Last month, following a campaign by Plan International UK, the 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 Mayor for Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to include street harassment in his upcoming regional VAWG strategy.

Tanya Barron, Chief Executive of Plan International UK, said, ‘It’s shocking that, on average, girls in the region are having their first experience of harassment 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 including street harassment in the upcoming local strategy and recognising it as a form of gender-based violence, the Mayor of Greater Manchester will send a clear message that this type of behaviour is not OK. It will also allow local councils to begin working with the police to tackle the problem, creating real change for girls and women in the region.”

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