By Lavinia Troiani
The proportion of women who claim to have been victims of sexual harassment in public transport is higher than ever. In fact, most of us, will or have already experienced it in our lifetime. Unfortunately, this proportion is much lower when you asked men. Simple numbers and statistics put into light the fact that harassment, especially in public spaces, are becoming the norm. And unfortunately, girls and women are more likely to experience more than one event of sexual harassment in their lifetime than men.
Harassment in public spaces can take various forms. Usually, harassment is considered anything that can make the victim feel uncomfortable, which make the list very long. Some of the more common ones include catcalling, which is the action of making sexual comments to a victim who might be walking by for example. But occurrences such as rubbing, groping and staring are also considered sexual harassment. Some are more likely to happen in crowded spaces whilst others in any public space.
These events take a great toll over the mental health and the confidence of those who experience them. It reduces them to a sexual object and makes one feel as they are not in control over their own body. On a similar note, victims of harassment experience episodes of self-doubting and/or self-blaming where, as said in the word, blame themselves and their behaviour for causing the assault or harassment. A good example of this would be to question the way they were dressed. But, most people try to rationalise and find logical explanations to why this has happened to them which discredits the events in their eyes and those of others. When we say others, this may be the victims’ close ones but also authority figures such as the police that they believe have the power of making a difference to the situation. Whoever this may be, the misunderstanding and dramatizing of the situation often lead victims to simply ‘let it go’ and not bother reporting it.
Other reasons could lead victims to not report these incidents such as the fear of retaliation from the harassers. But whatever the reasoning may be, the fact is that the vast majority of sexual harassment incidents will be left unreported.
However, this should not be the norm. As women, we should feel free to express ourselves without fear of others’ reactions and to feel comfortable enough to report any actions or behaviours that are making us feel uncomfortable. In an ideal world, there should not be any type of sexual harassment. For now, they can for sure be diminished and here are some tips to help avoid such incidents from happening so frequently.
If you notice that someone is experiencing harassment, please be helpful, as well as maintaining your own safety. Help the victim by taking them to a safer place or by putting yourself between them and the harasser, especially if the harasser is becoming physical. Speaking up and asking about the situation you are witnessing can sometimes be enough to make the harasser stop. It is also important that the wider public becomes more aware of these situations so that everyone can be educated on the consequences and gravity of harassment on the victims. Moreover, if we all become more aware of these situations, we will have more knowledge and ability to observe and act on situations accordingly. Finally, to those that are a victim of harassment: please, report it. Speaking up is the best way to ensure that something is being done to tackle the issue. The more it is reported, the less a normality it will be seen as. Everyone should understand that the effects of sexual harassment on its victims is highly damaging and is not something that women especially should have to endure.
Lavinia Troiani is a final year Politics and Economics student at the University of Surrey.