In October, the NUS released results of a survey which found 17% of students are the victims of some form of sexual harassment during their first week at university.
Some may say this percentage isn’t a lot, that they expected it to be higher. Isn’t it good news that this result is so low? No, there’s still a problem. It is still happening.
The study asked about behaviours such as wolf-whistling, inappropriate comments about someones body, jokes about rape and heckling, whether on nights out or even in lectures.
A major problem is that these behaviours may seem to be every day experiences for many people, so much so that they feel they aren’t worth reporting.
The study also found 12% of students felt they wouldn’t be taken seriously if they were to report harassment.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this type of behaviour and didn’t even think about reporting it. Maybe you wanted to and felt it wasn’t actually worth it.
Ultimately, any level of sexual harassment is worth reporting if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Institutions are working to improve their sexual harassment policies. The NUS are working with Student’s Unions across the country to ensure they have the right services available. If you report it. you will be taken seriously.
I can say that every one of my housemates, myself included, have experienced sexual harassment in one or more of the forms explained above.
One day I’m on the way home and as I walk up the hill, a cyclist rides down, heading towards me. I look up in just enough time to see him making a sleazy kissing gesture towards me as I go past. No thank you.
My housemate is heading to work and has to walk past some temporary road works. As she does, two middle aged men standing by make sexually suggestive and inappropriate comments about her body. She’s half their age.
Another housemate is walking along with her friend. She’s wearing a dress, her friend wearing a skirt. A guy walks past and yell ‘slut’ at them. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
None of these are okay.
All of these made us feel uncomfortable.
And that’s all it takes for you to report it.
If someone’s behaviour or comments towards you make you feel uncomfortable, report it.
Report it to someone at your university, school, work, union, whatever.
Get people talking about it and passing on the message that even the simplest type of harassment is not okay.
If you’re the type of person to address this kind of behaviour, do it. The people who show these types of behaviour often don’t expect to be confronted. Just ask them simply and calmly if they’d like to repeat what they just said. It might take them by surprise and make them think twice about doing it again in the future.
Mia Matsumiya is doing just that, confronting those who have made her uncomfortable. She runs an Instagram account called perv_magnet where she posts screenshots of all the inappropriate messages she’s received. And it’s a lot.
Now, I’ll finish this post off with this.
If you’re someone who might wolf-whistle as a girl in the street, take a look at this video. How would you feel seeing some sleazy guy whistle at your mum in the street?