Have you ever plucked up the energy to go for a run, only to face a barrage of catcalls as you jog up the main road? Have you given your friend a hug goodbye, only to be shouted to “kiss her” by a man driving past in his van? Or even had a man slow down to take a photo of you whilst you walked back from the gym in your activewear? The disturbing and saddening reality is that you most likely have – in fact, two thirds of women, girls and non-binary people have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public.
Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that 68% of adult women have experienced Public Sexual Harassment (PSH) since the mere age of 15. A number of countries have already taken steps to illegalise street harassment: Portugal, Peru and Belgium, to name a few, however it still remains a prevalent issue in the UK’s modern-day society. Notably, since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the UK’s first lockdown, Plan UK has discovered that 28% of women and girls feel less safe now than they previously did when going out in public. With public spaces now quieter as a result of lockdown, studies have indicated that PSH has, unfortunately, become more common.
Anger, frustration and helplessness were the emotions felt by sisters Gemma and Maya Tutton, as they become aware of the impact of public sexual harassment.
This is where Our Streets Now comes in. Founded by the sister duo, Our Streets Now has one singular mission: to end public sexual harassment. Working with the children’s charity, Plan International, their petition for the illegalisation of PSH has generated overwhelming public support in the form of 220,000 signatures, with 94% of girls – unsurprisingly – agreeing it should be criminalised. Highlighting the need of an awareness of PSH and educating people about the lasting mental effects of PSH on its victims, the movement is now working on a national level. Our Streets Now provides support and resources for people that have been victims of PSH, as well as a platform to share their personal experiences. Through their vibrant, outspoken Instagram page, brimming with incredibly powerful illustrations and heart-wrenching accounts of PSH, it is clear that Our Streets Now is not going to stop until their goal is reached. They have also just introduced a new ambassadorial system, with the aim of stopping PSH in university campuses and on a more local, city-wide scale.
Ready to do more? If you are part of a University community, contact your Student Union about the plans and legislation they have in place to tackle harassment in their public spaces. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, however, talk to Our Streets Now’s ambassadors for your campus to find out what more you can do. As I previously highlighted, education is a fundamental part of the pushback against PSH; if you’re a student, do an assembly on tackling PSH in your area. If you’re a teacher reading this, address it in your classroom. Whilst legislation is the primary way in which we can end the constant harassment of women, girls and non-binary people, education allows us to tackle the issue at its root. Talk to your local Member of Parliament and start to spread the word in your community. In the meantime, get active on social media; don’t be afraid to make noise. Follow Our Streets Now on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms to join the fight. Public Sexual Harassment should not be a ‘rite of passage’, neither is it a compliment (exaggerated in the movement’s slogan #crimenotcompliment). PSH is a criminal act that, with the public’s help alongside Our Streets Now, can be ended for good.
To find out more about Our Streets Now’s mission, and to read resources in case you have been affected by the issues discussed in this article, please go to:
All figures were found on the Our Streets Now website – check that out to find source evidence! All image rights go to their rightful owner: Our Streets Now. We do not claim any ownership.