Home | Australia | Australian women living in 'fear and vigilance' due to street harassment

Australian women living in 'fear and vigilance' due to street harassment

Survey finds a quarter of women in Sydney harassed on the street once a month or more

Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

<!–[if IE 9]>

<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>
Young woman walking on a street at night alone



Women were afraid to walk home alone, but did not feel much safer on public transport or in taxis, the survey found.
Photograph: lechatnoir/Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than three decades since Australia introduced the Sex Discrimination Act, women are still living in “a climate of fear and vigilance”, gender researcher professor Catharine Lumby has said.

Her comments follow the release of a report on Tuesday by the development and humanitarian organisation Plan International that found one-quarter of women surveyed in Sydney said they were harassed on the street once a month or more, while 69% said they sometimes or always avoided going out at night out of concern for their safety.

Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

[embedded content]

Plan commissioned the research agency Ipsos to survey 500 women aged 18 to 25 from across metropolitan Sydney and ask them about their perceptions of safety and personal experiences of street harassment.

Four out of five respondents said they first experienced street harassment when they were under 18. More than one-third were first harassed between the ages of 11 and 15. And one in three of those harassed once a month or more reported experiencing anxiety, depression or ongoing mental health issues as a direct result.

“Young women are very much the targets of sexualised comments, unwanted touching and intimidation,” said Lumby, who has been researching women’s experiences of safety and harassment. “Men often do it in groups, a common and cowardly form of harassment which is as dangerous as it is intimidating when a woman is walking along or on a bicycle and men in a car driving past call out to her or startle her.

“It’s physically dangerous as it may scare her and distract her attention from the footpath or the road. It’s pervasive and there is a real impact on a woman’s sense of safety.”

The Plan report also found 90% of girls sometimes or always felt unsafe in Sydney after dark and 16% felt this way all the time. Of those who said they had experienced street harassment, 57% said it usually happened at night. Women were particularly fearful on public transport. Almost half – 46% – said they felt unsafe using Sydney’s public transport alone.

“They’ve reported experiences such as having men expose themselves and leer at them on quiet daytime trains, being groped, being brushed up against inappropriately during peak hour and men whispering inappropriate comments in their ears,” the report said.

The report found 12% of young women completely avoided going out at night in Sydney because they did not believe it was safe. Lumby said she was not surprised.

“We haven’t got our act together as a society to allow women the basic human right to feel safe in public,” she said. “When you ask a room full of men about everything they do daily to avoid being sexually assaulted they will stare at you in disbelief. If you ask a room full of women, each one will be able to rattle of a list of at least 10 things they have done to avoid harassment and to stay safe, like taking a taxi instead of walking home alone on a nice night, or walking to their car or to the train with their car keys clutched between their fingers [ready to use as a weapon if they are attacked].”

Plan found that women felt unsafe even in taxis or on public transport at night instead of walking home alone. Of survey respondents, 92% said they felt unsafe on public transport at night, which is almost on par with reports from women in developing cities such as Delhi and Lima. Slightly fewer – 81% – felt unsafe using taxis and ride sharing services alone at night.

One of the survey respondents, 16-year-old Milly, told researchers that she was in year 4 the first time she was catcalled.

“I was walking home after ballet practice, only a few streets away from home, when a car with P-plates slowed down next to me,” she said. “In it was a group of men who started honking, wolf-whistling and shouting comments I didn’t understand. I was alone and terrified and ran the rest of the way home. Still I am scared to walk the streets of Sydney.”

Click here to Read from the source

x

Check Also

Malcolm Turnbull says media makes China-Australia relations look bad

Australian politics Prime minister says issues are being settled respectfully but journalists are reporting ‘a ...

Shares