Girls as young as 12 sexually harassed in street

Cammy Day says people have the right to walk through the streets without fear. Picture: Kenny Smith
Cammy Day says people have the right to walk through the streets without fear. Picture: Kenny Smith
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SEXUAL harassment on the Capital’s streets of girls as young as 12 has become an endemic problem, according to a new survey.

The study, carried out by campaign group Edinburgh Hollaback, found more than 80 per cent of respondents aged between 12 and 25 years reported personal experience of sexual harassment in public.

It also emerged that girls wearing school uniforms were targeted.

Ellie Hutchinson, chair of Hollaback Edinburgh, said: “Many of the young people told us just how intimidating and frightening street harassment is. The fact so many of them changed their behaviour because of it tells us it’s not harmless banter, it’s sexual harassment.”

Hollaback leaders said around 100 young people were contacted in the survey, which was sent out on social networks and through the YWCA, LGBT Youth, the Equality Network and Shakti Women’s Aid.

They said the results raised serious questions about the safety of the Capital’s streets and confirmed the need to address a culture in which sexual harassment often goes unnoticed and unchallenged.

Survey participants said their experiences had often been traumatic.

One respondent told Hollaback: “I was followed through the Meadows in school uniform – in broad daylight – and only one person did anything to try and stop the man who was following me, shouting and screaming at me, and trying to grab me. This was in spite of there being large groups of students all around me.”

Another said: “No streets feel safe to me as a gay woman, I am always on my guard.”

Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s community safety leader, said: “People of any age or gender should have the right to walk through our streets without the fear of harassment or intimidation.

“There is no room for this unacceptable behaviour in our society and I would urge anyone who may be a victim to contact police.”

Councillor Alex Lunn, Labour member for Craigentinny and Duddingston, said: “Any form of harassment, especially to women, is completely unacceptable to myself and the vast majority of people who live, work and visit Edinburgh.

“Edinburgh is a very progressive city with no place in it for any form of harassment to citizens.”

A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police are ­committed to keeping our ­communities safe from harm and treat any reports of threatening, harassing or abusive behaviour ­extremely seriously.

“Whenever an offence of this ­nature is reported to police it will be robustly investigated to bring those responsible to justice.

“Victims can report a crime through various mechanisms including remote reporting, which allows a third party to make the complaint on their behalf – via the charity Crimestoppers in complete anonymity – or by contacting their local policing team.”

‘Driver was leering and laughing’

Women of all ages across the city can share their stories of harassment on Edinburgh Hollaback’s website.

Here is just one of the recent submissions.

“I was sitting waiting for a bus yesterday at 1pm across from Festival Square. As it was lunchtime there were loads of people around. I heard someone tooting their horn loudly and instinctively looked up to see a guy leaning out of a van. He was waving a condom filled with water at me whilst leering and laughing. I was kind of shocked so I just rolled my eyes and looked away – but I could still hear him shouting things before they drove away.

“The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Why should I be singled out and embarrassed in the middle of the day on the busiest street in Edinburgh? Because I happened to be a girl sitting at a bus stop?

“I was also pretty shocked that they were driving around behaving like this in a very clearly branded van, and I’m considering making a complaint to the company about it.”