Yesterday’s final Youth Zone panel consisted of Plan International, Stella Creasey MP and the Police and Crime Commission discussing sexual harassment and offering up solutions for how to stop it.
With street harassment and sexual harassment falling into a broad category of actions, it can be confusing and hard to define what has happened to you and what you can legally report to the police. For the purposes of this article and Plan International’s work, street harassment can be defined as: catcalling, whistling, unnecessary touching, upskirting and following someone. For many women, this is just called day-to-day-life.
According to the latest crime statistics, one in five women in the UK have experienced a form of sexual assault from the age of 16. Which is shocking in and of itself. Yet when we look at young girls, children and teenagers, the stats show that this is a daily occurrence for them from as early as 11. Plan International’s numbers show that 28 per cent report daily harassment and 37 per cent report sexual harassment happening in schools.
The stats are shocking and disheartening, yet yesterday’s panel sought to discuss concrete solutions to this problem. A hands-on approach was suggested in order to change how street harassment is perceived and tackled.
Lucy Russell, from Plan International explained that yesterday’s forum was ‘the first steps in building this campaign’. She discussed the nine actions needed to help end street harassment of young girls. These nine points will later be made into a new report of recommendations released later this year.
What struck me was the proactive approach of these actions. A central part of that consists in taking the blame and need to act away from young girls and placing it with others. Another aspect concerns recommending new sexual health and relationship education that is based on the idea of consent. It was also agreed that through education, support needs to be given to young men and boys to help them make the decision to not harass and to call out sexual harassment themselves.
By education young people, women and men alike, that such behaviour will not be condoned, we are establishing a basic understanding amongst future generations of the problem. This understanding will hopefully create a gradual shift in attitudes towards women on what is acceptable behaviour, helping them feel safer both in the classrooms and on the streets.
This ties with the idea that more people need to call out harassment when it happens. Part of this consists in asking bystanders to start reprimanding street harassment. Again, this goes back to the arguments that the responsibility of dealing with harassment should shift away from the victim and be placed in the hands of society at large.
Plan International and Stella Creasy MP, are also looking for legal solutions to bring street harassment under a common legal definition of assault and discrimination, and gender-based violence. This will, hopefully, see a shift in women reporting problems, ensuring that the police and the courts can act on cases brought forward.
Plan and the Policing & Crime Commission (PCC), recommended the Nottingham method. This involves having the police take a more active approach. The result is that a form of deterrence is created and a feeling of greater safety amongst women is fostered.
Yesterday’s panel was a place of positivity when discussing a topic that is negative. By taking a more practical approach, both Plan and Stella Creasy are setting a new trend of ending violence against young women. This approach means not just talking about it or using #s, but pushing for change in practical, physical ways that will, if done diligently, see a shift in responsibilities, actions and attitudes within society.