Sexual harassment

During the May 2012 London Mayoral elections EVAW commissioned a YouGov opinion poll asking women Londoners about their experience of sexual harassment. We wanted to expose the issue while election candidates were making pledges on transport and policing.

tube

We asked about women Londoners’ experience of sexual harassment on the transport system and in other public places. We found:

In public places, such as the street/parks/shops:

A staggering 43% of young women in London (aged 18-34) experienced sexual harassment in public spaces over the last year.

The survey asked women Londoners about their experience of unwanted contact or attention (eg wolfwhistling, sexual comments, staring, exposure) of a sexual nature in public spaces over the last year and found that:

  • 41% of women aged 18-34 have experienced unwanted sexual attention
  • 21% of all women have experienced unwanted sexual attention
  • 4% of all women have experienced unwanted sexual touching

On public transport:

Almost twice as many women in London as men say they do not feel safe using London public transport at all times of day and night (28% of women as to 15% of men). When asked women say they want action on transport staffing, lighting & policing.

More detailed survey results are here.

EVAW Coalition Co-Chair Professor Liz Kelly said:

“Our survey shows that sexual harassment in London is extremely common. Some survey respondents also said that this behaviour makes them feel uncomfortable and unsafe and makes them change their behaviour and decisions about when and where to travel.

“Despite this high prevalence and impact however, public sexual harassment is a form of abuse which generally goes unchallenged, creating an unsafe and unequal environment for women.

“We need investment in public campaigns on transport and elsewhere saying this behaviour is unacceptable, and training for transport staff about how to respond to it.”

Some of the comments made by survey respondents were:

“I feel safer on public transport than I do walking around, but I have still experienced several nasty incidents of sexual harassment on the tube where I have been forced to change carriage or leave the train a stop early to avoid harassment from men.”

“Feel unsafe at night if I am alone and travelling home. I often move carriages on the tube to feel safer or change buses.”

“Have had some issues when travelling on the top deck of a bus, especially at night, so don't feel safe up there. Safer to sit nearer the driver.”

Next steps

Following publication of the poll we were invited to meet with Transport for London and with Assembly Members at City Hall.

In July 2013 British Transport Police announced they were stepping up action to tackle sexual harassment on London's transport system.

Watch this space for action to tackle sexual harassment in London. And – look up the excellent ongoing work of London-based activist groups Hollaback London.