Two-thirds of young girls have been sexually harassed in public

Two-thirds of girls in the UK aged 14-21 have been sexually harassed, a landmark new survey reveals. Despite the incidents occurring in public places, 20% of the girls said nobody tried to help during or after their encounters with harassers.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Two-thirds of young girls have been sexually harassed in public - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

"It can be scary, especially if it’s at night and someone approaches you quite a few times,” says Malikah, a 19-year-old from Birmingham who experiences street harassment frequently.

But girls at least five years younger than her are enduring sexual harassment regularly.

According to a new survey by girls' rights charity Plan International UK, more than one-third of girls are catcalled, experience wolf whistling or are on the receiving end of sexual comments in public at least once every month.

Girls are being harassed publicly with such alarming regularity that they are taking matters into their own hands. To avoid harassment, 43% of girls pretend to be on the phone, 22% walk a longer route to avoid a certain place and 17% dress differently, according to the survey.

Most women likely remember the first time they were catcalled. I was fourteen and wearing a school uniform. A friend was eleven and with family members. I'm sure others were even younger.

The figures revealed in this survey are unlikely to be surprising or shocking to most. But they do give us a chance to put to the forefront the fact that devastatingly young ages girls are being harassed in the street.

As Labour Party MP Stella Creasy told me in a recent interview, “It’s not on young girls to hide away, but our society to make sure they are as free as their male counterparts to lead their lives."

She said the survey should be a “wake-up call” to make street harassment history.

Details from the story:

  • 38% of girls are harassed at least once a month, revealed a survey of 1,002 girls aged 14-21
  • 43% of girls pretend to be on the phone when walking home to avoid street harassment
  • 22% walk a longer route to avoid a certain place and 17% dress differently, according to the survey
  • 20% of the girls surveyed said they had not received helpful responses during or after their encounters with harassers
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