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43 percent of young women experienced street harassment in London last year

In News stories | on 05.25.12 | by | Comments ( 0 )

In a recent poll conducted by the Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition in London, 43 percent of young women ages 18-34 had experienced street harassment just during the past year. The total sample size was 1047 adults and the poll was conducted in early March 2012.

In a press release, EVAW Coalition Co-Chair Professor Liz Kelly said:

“Our survey shows that sexual harassment in London is extremely common. Some survey respondents also said that this behaviour makes them feel uncomfortable and unsafe and makes them change their behaviour and decisions about when and where to travel.

“Despite this high prevalence and impact however, public sexual harassment is a form of abuse which generally goes unchallenged, creating an unsafe and unequal environment for women.

“We need investment in public campaigns on transport and elsewhere saying this behaviour is unacceptable, and training for transport staff about how to respond to it.”

Some of the comments made by survey respondents were:

“I feel safer on public transport than I do walking around, but I have still experienced several nasty incidents of sexual harassment on the tube where I have been forced to change carriage or leave the train a stop early to avoid harassment from men.”

“Feel unsafe at night if I am alone and travelling home. I often move carriages on the tube to feel safer or change buses.”

“Have had some issues when travelling on the top deck of a bus, especially at night, so don’t feel safe up there. Safer to sit nearer the driver.”

The EVAW Coalition has written to Transport for London with the survey findings and setting out its recommendations which are that there should be a public awareness campaign indicating that sexual harassment can be a crime and is not acceptable.

EVAW is also calling for training for police and transport staff in dealing with sexual harassment when it is reported. It is hoped that a combination of measures such as these will contribute to a longer term culture change where this behaviour becomes less socially acceptable and where bystanders for example are more likely to intervene when it occurs (some survey respondents reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault where onlookers did nothing).”

I hope that government officials in London will take action to address the widespread problem of gender-based street harassment now that there is data proving that this is a major problem, especially for young women. Everyone deserves to be in public places without experiencing or fearing harassment. Especially with the Summer Olympics taking place in London this year, it is important that everyone is safe and feels comfortable navigating the city.

Good job, EVAW for conducting the survey and bringing attention to this issue!

UPDATE: Here is a sampling of news stories about this poll: Guardian 1 | 2; The Independent; The F Word Blog; Huffington Post

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