The case of Sarah Everard has sparked a huge discussion revolving around sexual harassment and how it affects women everywhere. In light of these discussions, various women have taken this time to share their stories where they have been victims of sexual harassment in hope to bring awareness to it. Sexual harassment doesn’t just stop at adult women, but also largely affects teenage girls. I conducted a survey to see how teenage girls are affected by this and what they believe should be done to reduce the amount of harassment that occurs.

First of all, what is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment can occur in a real-life environment, or online. One common example of sexual harassment that occurs in person is cat-calling, which is an unwanted sexualised comment, gesture or wolf-whistle. Some other examples are groping, stalking, prolonged staring, being sent non-consensual sexual images and being harassed to send sexual images of oneself. Sexual harassment can make someone feel extremely uncomfortable or even scared for their own safety.

I conducted a survey with a sample of seven girls of the ages between sixteen and seventeen. 85.7% said that they had been sexually harassed, and 14.3% were not sure. For many, it was a weekly or monthly occurrence. When I asked at what age they had first experienced sexual assault, four respondents said it was at the age of twelve and one even stated that their first experience was at the age of ten. From this survey, we can gather that these girls have had to take on this burden from a very young age.

When it comes to sexual harassment, it is common that the teenage girls are the ones who are told to take precautions in order to stay safe. Some examples of this are being told to wear modest clothing, to not go out at night and to not go out unless you are with a group. Of course, it is important to try and keep safe, but why has the burden of sexual harassment been put onto teenage girls instead of the harassers? When I asked the respondents if they had been told to take precautions to stay safe from men, 100% said yes. I also asked if they had been made to feel that sexual harassment was their responsibility, and 100% also said yes. From this survey, we can gather that teenage girls have been made to feel responsible for their own sexual harassment, which is a big burden to take on at a young age. How do we change this?

In the survey, I asked the respondents what they felt could be done by men and the government so that women can start to feel safer in public spaces. Here is what respondent, Sienna Carnell, had to say about this matter:

‘Sexual harassment that occurs in public should be made a crime. We should also be educating men about how to make women feel safe in public spaces and emphasise how sexual harassment can make women feel.’  

The other respondents also believed that there should be harsher punishments for those who sexually harass someone in hope to reduce the numbers of sexual harassment cases that occur. They also believed that we should educate men the difference between harassment and complimenting someone, so that they are aware on how to make a woman feel comfortable in public.

From the survey, we can conclude that sexual harassment is a very real and prominent problem for teenage girls. We have also been made to take on this burden and responsibility to try and reduce the harassment we experience, despite these precautions not always being effective. These teenage girls want to shift the responsibility to the harassers, and through effective laws and education we hope to make this change.