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  • Writer's pictureFarah Benis

Breaking the Silence: Speaking Out Against Public Sexual Harassment



Sexual harassment in public spaces is a problem that affects people of all genders and ages. Despite its prevalence, it is often shrouded in silence, with victims reluctant to come forward and speak out about their experiences. This can make it challenging to address the issue and create change. In recent years, however, a number of campaigns and initiatives have arisen to break this silence and raise awareness about public sexual harassment.


One such campaign was launched by myself, Catcalls of London, which encourages women to share their experiences of street harassment and catcalling in the UK capital. By collecting these stories, chalking them where they happened, we reclaim the spaces and then share them on social media for a broader education. To date we have taken over 20,000 stories of public space harassment from Londoners alone. Catcalls of London aims to raise awareness about the issue and encourage change


Another initiative is Chalk Back, an international organisation represented on every continent with "catcallsof" accounts which encourages young people to speak out against street harassment by writing messages in chalk on sidewalks and public spaces. The messages aim to raise awareness about the issue and make it clear that such behaviour is unacceptable.


Cheer Up Luv, is a project launched by Eliza Hatch that showcases stories through photography. The initiative provides a space for women and girls to share their experiences.


Our Streets Now is a UK-based organisation that campaigns for safer streets for women and girls. The organisation works to raise awareness about public sexual harassment and advocates for policies and practices that create safer public spaces for women and girls.


These campaigns are essential in breaking the silence around public sexual harassment and raising awareness about the issue. They provide a platform for survivors to share their experiences and connect with others and help create a sense of community and solidarity in the fight against public sexual harassment. By working together, these campaigns aim to create a world where everyone can feel safe and respected in public spaces.


Public sexual harassment, including catcalling, is a widespread issue that affects women and other marginalised groups. Despite its prevalence and impact, it is often dismissed as a non-serious crime, leading to significant underreporting and a lack of action to address the issue.


One of the main reasons public sexual harassment is dismissed as a non-serious crime is that it is often seen as an isolated incident or harmless behaviour. However, the reality is that public sexual harassment is a form of gender-based violence that can have severe psychological and physical effects on its victims. It can create fear, anxiety, and a loss of trust in public spaces, and it can also serve to reinforce gender-based power imbalances and contribute to a culture of gender-based violence.


Another reason that public sexual harassment is often dismissed as a non-serious crime is that it is not always recognised as a form of violence. For example, catcalling is often seen as a compliment or a harmless expression of interest rather than a form of harassment. This can make it difficult for victims to come forward and report incidents, as they may feel that they will not be taken seriously or that their experiences will be dismissed. The "boys will be boys" excuse is prevalent here.


The lack of recognition of public sexual harassment as a serious crime also contributes to a culture of victim blaming and a lack of accountability for perpetrators. This can make it difficult for victims to seek justice and discourage them from reporting incidents.


The dismissal of public sexual harassment, including catcalling, as a non-serious crime is a serious issue that contributes to underreporting and a lack of action to address the issue. By recognising public sexual harassment as a form of gender-based violence and taking it seriously, we can work towards creating safer public spaces for everyone. This requires a shift in cultural attitudes and a commitment from individuals, communities, and the state to address the issue and provide support for survivors.

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