More than 80% of 12-25 year olds surveyed report personal experience of some form of sexual harassment in public.
Just a week after NUS released a report finding many students experience verbal harassment and ‘catcalling’, as well as physical harassment and sexual molestation, Hollaback Edinburgh announced the results of their online survey, with 100 young people aged 12-25 responding.
Shockingly, over 80% of respondents had experienced some form of street harassment ranging from wolf whistling to indecent exposure and unwanted touching. The survey was sent out on social networks and through the YWCA, LGBT Youth, the Equality Network and Shakti Women’s Aid.
One respondent told Hollaback Edinburgh: “I was followed through the Meadows in school uniform – in broad daylight – and only one person did anything to try and stop the man who was following me, shouting and screaming at me, and trying to grab me. This was in spite of there being large groups of students all around me.”
The report also revealed that 70% had changed their behaviour in some way, raising questions around the defence that it’s just harmless fun. Ellie Hutchinson, Chair of Hollaback Edinburgh said: “Many of the young people told us just how intimidating and frightening street harassment is. The fact that so many of them changed their behaviour because of it tells us it’s not harmless banter, it’s sexual harassment”
One respondent told Hollaback Edinburgh “No streets feel safe to me as a gay woman, I am always on my guard.”
Raising questions about how safe the streets are for all of Edinburgh’s citizens, Hollaback Edinburgh hopes to bring these experiences into public debate, and change the culture that allows sexual harassment in public spaces to go un –noticed and un-challenged. As one respondent noted: “There’s a culture around this sort of behaviour being acceptable. People don’t always realise the effect it has on people and don’t fully think through their actions.”
Politicians echoed the need for cultural change: Marco Biagi MSP said “Hollaback’s report sets out both extremely serious incidents and the drip-drip effect of what some people might wrongly dismiss as ‘low-level misbehaviour’. Our streets should be safe spaces where everyone can go about their lives. Instead of women choosing not to go into certain places
– as the report says many now do – the responsibility should lie with the people who are currently making those places threatening. They should take a look at their behaviour and the effects it is having.
“I hope everyone can support Hollaback’s vision of a changed culture where this kind of persistent harassment is a thing of the past”
Callum Hendry, Campaign Co-ordinator for White Ribbon Scotland said “’the research shows just how much of an impact street harassment has on people, with many respondents feeling that their safety is under threat. Street harassment is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men with
the encouragement of their peers, whilst other men watch on as neglectful bystanders or even encourage this behaviour. Our Get Savi programme with SWA gives people the skills and confidence to stand up against all forms of gender based abuse, including street harassment, and we’re working hard to empower others to safely stand up and speak out against such abuse.’”
City Councillor Alex Lunn added “Firstly I would like to congratulate Edinburgh Hollaback for putting in the energy and drive required to provide such a valuable report. Edinburgh is a fantastic city which deserves to be enjoyed by everyone. Sadly the behaviour of certain
people is continuing to let us all down. Any form of harassment especially to women is completely unacceptable to myself and the vast majority of people who live, work and visit Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a very progressive city with no place in it for any form of harassment to citizens.”