STATISTICS from YouGov reveal that 85 per cent of young women in the UK have experienced some type of street harassment during the past year.
A student safety study by the University of Manchester Students’ Union has also revealed that almost all students have been victims of crime with 9 out of 10 students suffering attacks while studying in Manchester.
Our reporter Mihaela Iscru has more information about the subject and an exclusive interview with Simona Chirciu, the correspondent for Stop Street Harassment.
Street harassment is a topic that lately has been under research and different studies showed that it is a significant problem in the nowadays society.
Leering, honking and whistling, making sexist or sexual explicit comments, vulgar gestures, kissing noises, following, path blocking and assaulting are some of the forms of the street harassment that women experience every day while they are on their way to work, to do shopping, to grab a coffee with a friend or while running.
Simona Chirciu, 26, spoke about her reasons to join the campaign and the impact it has on women and their daily life.
— StopStreetHarassment (@StopStHarassmnt) February 27, 2017
What made you join the Stop Street Harassment campaign?
For Simona, who has been experiencing harassment from the age of 12 onwards, this type of conduct from guys and later from men, the SSH campaign does not represent only a campaign, “It is a dream and an aim”, she said. She started getting involved in Stop Street Harassment in 2014 after she conducted her first survey of young women who experience street harassment.
“This subject is completely absent from both public and political point of view and I want to change that”, Simona confessed carrying on by saying that she would like the public space to be as safe and secure for women and sexual minorities as it is for men. “I have been myself a victim of this type of harassment and this is why I want to get involved in diminishing this phenomenon”. Everything Simona wants is for girls and women not to go through what she and other women went through.
What is your advice for women who suffer this kind of experience?
Simona considers that there is no universally applicable advice because it depends on the type of harassment and on the harassers’ intentions. She said that the first step is not to feel guilty of being in a certain place at a certain moment, “women need to know that it is not their fault, the harassers are to blame”.
If women do not support each other, then who does? Simona advises women to give up on competing with one another and to discover the sisterhood that can exist between them. “It is amazing to witness how women react on the street when they are witnessing some sort of harassment. They defend each other.”
How should women react when something like this happens to them?
Even though women ignore or they pretend to ignore the harassment because they are scared or they have no control over that situation, Simona recommends them to make sure that they are safe first before deciding whether they will confront the harassers or not. “No matter what they choose, it is right”, she said.
“In that particular moment, if they decide to confront the man, they should look into their eyes, talk clearly and be confident even though they actually are really scared”, Simona said.
Through numerous suggestions, Simona mentioned that women should not answer harassers’ questions or threats, they should not offend the men, they should threaten the harasser that they will call the police and actually do it and that they should start talking about what happens to them while they are on the street.
In your opinion, what kind of impact has this on women?
Street harassment is a discriminatory behaviour and it is a gender violence which breaches human’s rights (the right to public space, to safety, to dignity).
Even if there are not that many studies that talk about the impact of street harassment on women, international researches and the study that Simona carried out showed that women blame themselves for what happened to them, they change their clothing style, their walking route and the local transport to avoid the harassers.
“Moreover, they get to the point in which they shorten their time spent in the public space, the hours avoiding especially evening hours, the areas where they go and different cultural or leisure activities they want to get involved into”, Simona said.
Why do you think men have this type of behaviour regarding women?
“It is not because of the sexual attraction for sure as some people say”, Simona clearly mentioned. According to her, street harassment is a manifestation of the uneven power between men and women. The main reason is that men have a desire to exercise their power on people who they think are inferior to them, women and also LGBT people.
“Both men and women associate the ‘masculinity’ with ‘power’, ‘control’ and ‘intelligence’ and femininity with elegance, sensitivity and with looking after kids and husband”, Simona concluded in her research.
The issue of street harassment is not a new problem. However, nowadays many girls and women started talking about this topic. For example, Nikola Bartosova, 24, shared with me her experience.