In news to no woman who has ever walked on concrete, street harassment is a huge often-ignored problem, accepted as normal in certain countries. A massive new study has found that 84% of women experience catcalling on the street before they turn 17.
That’s a pretty stark figure. That’s a lot of girls growing up in a world that gives men almost automatic permission to objectify them before they even reach the age of consent.
The study was conducted by Cornell University in New York, in partnership with Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment grass roots group with international chapters, including one in Dublin. The study comprised of 16,000 women from 22 countries, with the findings almost inescapably grim. Across the world, women are being subjected to harassment. 50% say they were groped or fondled in public. In Ireland, this figure is 64%. 71% claim that their harassers followed them. Another disturbing finding was that most women experience catcalling for the first time during puberty. Women across the world have claimed that this kind of harassment has led to them changing modes of transport and even dressing differently.
On an anecdotal level, none of this news surprises us. Gather a group of women across all ages and backgrounds for a coffee and terrifying stories will be unleashed at a steady pace.
Last year a video depicting a woman walking through New York while being subjected to a relentless pace of catcalling went viral.
Can anything be done to quell this trend of men thinking that harassing and scaring a woman in a public space is okay?
In 2013, the Union of Students in Ireland launched a report, entitled Say Something, about students’ experiences of harassment and assualt. At the time 16% of students said they had experienced some form of unwanted sexual experience while at college. 3 out of 10 women said they had experienced comments with a sexual overtone that made them feel uncomfortable.
Annie Hoey is the USI VP of Equality and Citizenship and says that the “only solution to this worrying trend is education. We need to educate people about what consent is: a verbal and active affirmation.” Hoey says that the current sex education in schools is not enough. “We need to move away from sex education only being about teaching the basic facts on procreation,” she explains. :We need to educate people about positive relationships with their body and with others; how to explore sexual intimacy with someone in a consenting, healthy manner.”
Hoey says that while students are becoming more aware of issues surrounding harassment and becoming more vocal about raising their concerns “not enough is being done to address them” the USI is responding to the growing crisis, hoping to work organisations on promoting consent culture in a bid to change attitudes among college students.
How do these figures make you feel?
Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun
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