European & International News

Four in 10 young women in UK experience sexual harrassment in public spaces

[Brussels, 29 May 2012] New government research in the UK has found that four in 10 young women have been sexually harassed in public spaces. The YouGov survey commissioned by the End Violence Against Women Coalition (Evaw) found that 43% women aged 18-24 had experienced unwanted sexual attention in public spaces last year, 31% of them on public transport.

The poll canvassed 1,047 Londoners. Separately, the London Crown Prosecution Service reported a 53% rise in the number of reported rapes over the last four years, to 3,334 in 2011-2012. [1]

Previous Evaw research revealed that one in three girls in UK schools as young as 12 had experienced unwanted sexual contact.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Holly Dustin, director of Evaw, insisted that dismissing sexual harassment – from unwanted comments on the street about appearance to groping – as "harmless fun" or complimentary was dangerous.

"Sexual harassment has a real impact on women’s lives, whether it is changing their behaviour or whether they feel safe on the streets," she said.

"It feeds into a fear of rape and sexual violence and has a harmful effect on broader issues of equality."

UK NGOs are calling for a public awareness campaign on transport networks, similar to signs that discourage passengers from eating smelly food or putting feet on seats. "We are asking for training for transport staff to help them deal with these incidents and serious police intervention when it is needed," said Dustin of Evaw, speaking to The Guardian. "But we are also asking for the wider community to recognise this is not acceptable and speak out against it when they see it happening."

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