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 OUR PROBLEM 

Use this page to educate yourself, and others, about public sexual harassment.

Public sexual harassment (PSH) is the most common form of violence against women and girls.

Yet it is belittled, ignored and normalised.
We want to change that.

PREVALENCE

Public sexual harassment is widespread in our society. The majority of women and girls in the UK will experience this violence in their lifetime, and usually it will begin during their childhood. PSH has become a ‘normal’ part of being a girl in the UK. 

 ‘Sexual harassment affects the lives of nearly every   woman in the UK.’ 

 Women and Equalities Committee 

68%

of adult women have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15. (1)

2/3

girls have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public. (2)

 'Girls often first experience sexual harassment below the age of 18' 

(3)

over

1/3

of girls experience verbal harassment at least once per month. (4)

 'Sexual harassment of women and girls is so ingrained in our culture it is often hidden in plain sight'  (5) 

Resources

References

Plan International UK

A leading children’s charity striving to advance children’s rights and equality for girls all over the world. Published a report ‘Street harassment: It’s Not Okay’ outlining the prevalence and impact of street harassment on girls in the UK.

Women and Equalities Committee

Select committee examining the Government’s performance on equalities issues.  Published a report in 2018, ‘Sexual harassment of women and girls in public places’ to consider the impact and harm caused by this problem. The written submissions, provided by academics and women’s rights organisations, paint a detailed picture of public sexual harassment in the UK.

 

Hollaback! 

An organisation working to end street harassment. In 2014, they conducted the ‘Cornell International Survey on Street Harassment’,  showing the global nature of this problem.

 

Mental Health.

In the moment, public sexual harassment can evoke feelings of fear, anger and anxiety in the victim. In the longer term, it can lead to anxiety and depression (1).

 

90% of Our Streets Now Instagram followers said that public street harassment affected their mental health (2).

 

The Young Women’s Trust found that young women who endure sexism in the UK are ‘five times more likely to suffer from clinical depression(3).

 

This behaviour can start incredibly young, and as such be very confusing for victims. It is important to remember that it is never the victim's fault. 

 

 If you want to talk to someone about your experience, OUR STREETS NOW is always here to listen. 

IMPACT

Public sexual harassment has a massive impact on the lives of women and girls. It affects their day-to-day routine and can have damaging effects on their mental health.

 'I felt disgusted and dirty. I never told anyone.' 

 

 'I don't go running outside anymore.' 

Daily life.

Women and girls’ day-to-day lives are affected by public sexual harassment (PSH).

 

Cornell University and Hollaback! (4) found that because of it, women and girls change their clothing, take different routes home, can avoid socialising at night entirely, and may even consider changing their jobs or homes because of it.

 

The testimonies Our Streets Now has received reinforces this sad truth: every aspect of our lives is affected by PSH. Whether it’s deciding not to go for a run outdoors or being late to school, PSH can have far-reaching consequences.

Resources

References

Imkaan and EVAW UK

These two women’s rights organisations teamed up to produce the film ‘I’d just like to be free’ discussing the impact of sexual harassment on young women.

 

Plan International UK

A leading children’s charity striving to advance children’s rights and equality for girls all over the world. Published a report ‘Street harassment: It’s Not Okay’ outlining the prevalence and impact of street harassment on girls in the UK.

Women and Equalities Committee

Select committee examining the Government’s performance on equalities issues.  Published a report in 2018, ‘Sexual harassment of women and girls in public places’ to consider the impact and harm caused by this problem. Fiona Vera-Gray’s written submission to the commission details the impact of public sexual harassment on women and girls lives.

 

RIGHTS

Public sexual harassment infringes on women and girls right to public space. It restricts their freedom of movement and of expression.

' I DO NOT FEEL FREE' 

Resources

References

Girlguiding UK

Leading charity for girls and young women in the UK. ‘We See the Big Picture: Girls Attitudes Survey’ shows that alarmingly high 

 

Stop Street Harassment

A non-profit organization dedicated to documenting and ending gender-based street harassment worldwide. Their website explores many of the ways public sexual harassment impinges on women and girls’ rights.   

 

Hollaback! 

An organisation working to end street harassment. They are working to create a world in which all individuals are afforded dignity in public space. 

Freedom of Movement.​

‘I was once on a bus around 7 am heading to school and a man sat uncomfortably close to me and started touching himself over his jeans so I moved to the back of the bus, where he followed me and unzipped his pants and touched himself. I was 15.’ 


Harassment on public transport restricts our ability to get on with our lives, to travel where and when we want. Nearly a third of women who take public transport say they have been subjected to unwanted attention in the past year. It’s hardly surprising then that half of girls in the UK feel (or know a girl who feels) unsafe using public transport.

 

Freedom of Expression.

‘I was walking back from school and my friends and I were whistled at. A man shouted that we would look better without an abaya and headscarf. That we should take it off.’  

 

 

 

 

The way we dress, including for religious reasons, can be severely restricted by public sexual harassment. Veiled Muslim women are particularly at risk of facing abuse that is both misogynistic and Islamophobic in nature. Not wearing what we want to and fearing the consequences of certain clothing choices restricts our right to self-expression.

 

 

INTERSECTIONALITY

To be clear, public sexual harassment is a human rights issue that reflects societal discrimination. We do not all experience PSH the same. The problem of street harassment can be committed on multiple grounds, from race to disability to sexuality, and it is often due to several overlapping factors. Our focus is centred on the prevalence and impact of gender-based public sexual harassment in particular, but all forms of harassment are interlinked. 

 

 No matter the grounds, these intrusions are always about power and control.  

 

Intersectionality is at the core of our campaign. We want to  highlight the fact that interlocking forces of oppression make individual experiences of harassment differ significantly. Our Streets Now is absolutely committed to showing the full range of PSH and we use hundreds of different testimonies to show this. You can use the resources below to educate yourself about how the rate and type of public sexual harassment is affected by other forms of oppression.  


We wholly include trans* people within our movement and are passionate about trans-inclusive feminism. The harassment that trans women face in public is alarmingly violent and must be tackled as part of this problem.

Resources

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU EXPERIENCE PSH

There’s no right way to respond to street harassment. The most important thing is to put your own safety and sense of security first. Street harassment is never your fault and however you choose to respond to it is the right option for you. That being said, research (1) has shown that taking action can have a positive influence on your emotional response. So if you do, here’s three tips we’ve picked up from the testimonies we’ve received:

1.   Be firm - 

Speaking in an assertive tone of voice can help get your message through. 

2.   Shame the behaviour, not the person - 

Many testimonies describe how useful it can be to criticise the behaviour rather than the person. ‘Stop it. That’s harassment and women don’t enjoy it.’ can go a long way for example.

3.  Report it - 

If you feel threatened in the moment, you can call 999 for immediate assistance (2). You can also report after the event, so always write down the time, location and a description of what has happened in case you might want to do so. You can also write to local councillors or your MP about the incident. If it is carried out by an identifiable employee, you could also write to their employer asking for measures to be taken.

Resources

Stop Street Harassment

A non-profit organization dedicated to documenting and ending gender-based street harassment worldwide. Their website has a whole page dedicated to suggesting different assertive responses to public sexual harassment. 

 

Hollaback! 

An organisation working to end street harassment. Their website has excellent resources for different ways to respond to public sexual harassment, as a victim or a bystander. 

References

 

 IT'S NOT A COMPLIMENT. 

 IT'S HARASSMENT. 

 Your story is important. Share it with us. 

OUR STREETS NOW

A movement to end Public Sexual Harassment in the UK by making it a criminal offence and changing the culture that allows it. Join the movement, sign the petition.

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