35% of girls in school uniform sexually harassed in public

Merseyside / October 10

Merseyside's Deputy Police Commissioner is supporting the launch of a new national campaign highlighting the harassment girls face in the street every day in the UK.

Cllr Emily Spurrell is attending the event hosted by girls' rights charity Plan International UK today (Wednesday 10th October) at which they will launch a new survey which found that more than a third of girls in the UK have received unwanted sexual attention or contact such as being groped, stared at, catcalled and wolf-whistled while wearing their school uniform in public.

One in eight girls said their first experience of unwanted sexual attention or contact in a public place was when they were 12 years old or younger.

The survey, of 1,004 girls aged 14-21, also found that one in seven girls had been followed while in uniform, while eight per cent said they had been filmed or photographed by a stranger without their permission or someone had taken a photograph up their school skirt.

Jess who’s 16 and from Glasgow said, “When I was 15, I was in school uniform and sat on a train and this guy kept trying to put his hand on my leg. I was like, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ I ended up getting off the train at the next stop and just being completely lost.”

She added, “It was such a horrible experience. I was going to see my biology tutor and I arrived at the library in tears, I was really upset about it. I think the worst part was feeling guilty because I was wearing a skirt, which is stupid because it shouldn’t matter what I was wearing, but in the moment it did.”

The disturbing findings come as the charity launches a new report into the impact of street harassment on girls and women in the UK. The report is the result of in-depth interviews with girls from across the UK about their experiences of sexist behavior in public and how it compromises their freedom.

Plan International UK is calling on the government to recognise harassment in public as a form of gender-based violence in its strategy to end violence against women and girls.

Merseyside’s Deputy Police Commissioner Cllr Emily Spurrell said: “It is simply unacceptable that 38% of girls are experiencing verbal harassment like catcalling, wolf whistling and sexual comments at least once a month, while 15% are being touched, groped or grabbed every month. This is not harmless banter, nor should it be considered a normal part of growing up. It is an attack on girls’ sense of safety.

“I welcome Plan International UK raising this issue of the harassment girls are facing on our streets and public spaces and I am delighted to be supporting the launch of this report in the House of Commons today, representing Police and Crime Commissioners who take this issue very seriously.”

Tanya Barron, Chief Executive at Plan International UK, said, “It is shocking and deeply concerning that girls, many of whom are clearly of school age because they are in uniform, are being targeted and sexually harassed by perpetrators in the street.

“It’s simply not acceptable that girls as young as 12 are being wolf whistled at in public, touched against their will, stared at or even followed. This disgraceful behaviour needs to be called out and stopped.”

Ms Barron added, “Despite great progress for women and girls in some areas, street harassment is too often considered to be a ‘part of growing up’ and is widely normalised. 37 per cent of girls have been sexually harassed while travelling to or from school. Girls have told us that they find this situation unacceptable, and they want to change it.”

To find out more about Plan International UK’s ‘It’s not OK’ campaign please click here.

You can also support the campaign on social media using the hashtag #ISayItsNotOK