When will we ever talk about sexual harassment?
Updated: May 4
After UN Women UK research revealed that 97% of women aged 18 to 24 have been sexually harassed, social media has been flooded with mixed reactions and opinions of the research and women have begun to share their stories on their platforms. Deborah Odumosu looks at how accurate the research is, and why women hadn’t spoken about it before.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault are different but both of them should be taken seriously by both the police and us as a society. Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour involving the use of the explicit language of a sexual nature, this varies from catcalls, unwanted sexual comments and jokes, unwanted deliberate touching, unwanted pressure for sexual favours and attempted rape or sexual assault.
Sexual harassment is very common in the workplace, a 2016 TUC research revealed that over 1 in 2 women are sexually harassed in the workplace. If sexual harassment is so common in the workplace, why don’t we report it? According to a Harvard Business Review research, they pointed out three potential reasons why we never report sexual harassment: fear of retaliation, the bystander effect and masculine culture.
The masculine culture is also known within education as ‘banter’ and ‘lad culture’, 6 out of 10 girls in the UK have been sexually abused at school and the saddest part is that young people just ignores the implications of the disgusting behaviour. The normalisation of sexual abuse/harassment in school comes from the verbal abuse that you would hear in school’s ‘slut’ and ‘slag’ and also attempting to pull others clothes in public.
The reactions on social media about the research had me creating my own research, I questioned 20 young people across the UK from the age average of 14-19 and 81% of them disagreed that their school addressed sexual harassment with a proper investigation with the majority being girls.
72% of them say that they are part of the 97% but only 36% of them: being open to share their story.
Here’s some of their opinion on the outcome of the research:
· “Some people are weird and cannot respect a woman’s boundaries.”
· “It’s inaccurate, however it is still a disturbingly high statistic, but demonising males does not aid in awareness, instead it just creates more enemies.”
· “I think that it so sad that in today society women can’t feel safe walking down the street & it takes the tragic death of Sarah Everard for people to realise that this is an issue that needs to be spoke n about. I think this statistic was needed to let people face the reality and start to think about the issue”
· “I think that unfortunately there are some people who don’t understand that sexual assault comes in different variations”
· “It's disgusting to believe that people think this number is false, purely because it hasn't happened to them.”
· “Some people (in general, not specifying which gender) do often lie that they have been sexually harassed to blackmail the other person they are accusing. However, majority could be true, but it also could be false to an extent.”
· “I believe the percentage is high but not 97% and I think they may have been lenient in what is classed as sexual harassment”
One student from University of Kent told me her experience where a boy from her church groped her and attempted to take her clothes off.
“One Sunday, he pulled me into another room where my mum wouldn’t see us and began to grope me in places, I knew it felt wrong but I was confused. He was my friend, I assumed that’s how he played with his other friends. But when he attempted to pull off my clothes in the places, I knew this was wrong and I had to get out of there. I fought with all my might and ran out of the room, I sat next to my mum frightened and he eventually came out of the room with the most terrifying look on his face, it felt threatening.
I couldn’t tell her, till this day I can’t. Thinking about it makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin, knowing I couldn’t even protect myself torments me. If only I told someone. I remember what he wore, how he smelt, even the haircut. But I’m going to take control of my own life, I won’t allow him destroy what I have. Speak out, it’s never too late. Although, it may seem like it. I promise, it’ll get better and you will never be the victim. You’re a survivor. I’m a survivor.”
Social media has had a huge influence on the research, spreading the word that women should start reporting sexual harassment more and we as a society should be taking It more seriously. There are many hashtags on social media that are in support of survivors and also raises awareness of sexual harassment.
If you were sexually harassed/assaulted and need someone to talk to, contact these numbers.
(Information from the NHS)
a doctor or practice nurse at your GP surgery
a voluntary organisation, such as Women's Aid, Victim Support, The Survivors Trust or Survivors UK (for male victims of sexual assault)
the 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247
the Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year)
a hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department
a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic
a contraceptive clinic
a young people's service
the police, or dial 101
in an emergency, dial 999