If you are or have ever been a school girl in the UK, it’s likely you’ve had your body commented on by a complete stranger. Whether its about the length of your skirt or the fit of your blouse, many of us will have lived through some sort of uncomfortable experience while wearing an outfit designed to not make you stand out. The irony, ey?
In fact, a new report from children’s charity Plan International UK has now revealed around one third of girls at school age have been on the receiving end of street harassment. They polled over 1,000 teenagers and young women aged 14-21 earlier this year, as well as interviewing girls and academic staff, concluding that sexual harassment begins at a very young age.
The responses found that 66 per cent of girls in the UK had “experienced unwanted sexual attention or sexual or physical contact in a public place”, while 35 per cent said they’d received “unwanted sexual contact such as being touched, groped or grabbed”.
More than one in three of the girls questioned said they’d been on the receiving end of cat calls, wolf whistles, staring or gropes from strangers while in their school uniform, while some girls as young as eight could recall witnessing or experiencing harassment.
Most cases of harassment seem to take place while travelling to or from school, with 37 per cent recalling experiences happening outside of their school gates. Even more worryingly, a quarter of girls noted they’d been “filmed or photographed by a stranger without permission”.
With so many girls and women on the receiving end of unwanted attention, the charity is now urging the government to recognise street harassment and assault as ‘gender-based violence’, so it can be tackled as part of its commitment to end violence against women.
Speaking about the report, Plan International UK’s chief executive Tanya Barron said: “It is shocking and deeply concerning that girls, many of whom are clearly of school age because they are in uniform, are being targeted and sexually harassed by perpetrators in the street.”
“It’s simply not acceptable that girls as young as 12 are being wolf-whistled at in public, touched against their will, stared at or even followed. This disgraceful behaviour needs to be called out and stopped.”
If you’ve been a victim of harassment or assault and are not sure what to do, read our full guide here.