I was terrified. I couldn’t walk alone. I called a friend. I needed someone with me even if only on the phone. I got home. I was so scared. For weeks, I kept questioning myself. I couldn’t even wear a skirt.
This was how Laurene Becquart, a London-based photographer felt after she was “cat-called” at a park in London. The man who seemed younger than her then grabbed her hand and pulled her towards him.
“The worst part is that as women, we are programmed to blame ourselves, rather than blaming the perpetrator,” Said Laurene
Two in Three women in the UK experienced sexual harassment
Laurene is not the only girl in London who has been receiving unneeded sexual attention in public spaces. A recent YouGov survey commissioned by the “End violence against women coalition” showed that almost nine in ten women aged 18 to 24 have experienced unwanted sexual attention.
Even more, the report has found that almost one in two women have had experienced unwanted sexual touching in public.
A Woman Being
As a photographer, Laurene decided to get over her trauma by producing a Photography book about Street harassment.
She believes that a big part of the problem is the fact that more often than not women are seen as sexual objects hence, she called her book “woman being”.
She collected the stories of around twenty women from different ages, backgrounds and jobs. The only thing they have in common is living in London.
In her book, many women expressed how unsafe they feel in public spaces. A sentiment that is shared among almost seven in ten women in the United kingdom as per the report.
For Laurene one of the most memorable interviews was with a girl who was standing at a bus stop when an old man offered her money for sex.
The end violence against women coalition has found out that Nearly nine in ten young women have been sexually harassed in public. Only one in ten has someone intervening when they experienced unwanted sexual touching.
Almost half of the women interviewed for the report are doing conscious “safety planning” if they go out in the evenings, like paying for taxis to avoid public transport, taking a different route and sometimes just leave as early as possible.
Harassment is Harassment
Sara, a twenty-six-years old woman who has been living in London for few years, thinks that one of the hardest things about being harassed on the street is the reaction of her friends and colleagues when she told them. “I am always told that maybe I’ve misunderstood or I am over-reacting,” she added. She was once groped at Soho on a Saturday night, to be told that it wasn’t harassment, it was just a drunk guy. “To feel violated on the street is one thing but to be told off when you talk about it, is a whole different level of disappointment,” She said.
What should be done?
In the YouGov report, women were asked what they thought should be done about sexual harassment in public places. Some thought about increasing the police presence, others thought public awareness is the way to go. None of them thought harassment should go unnoticed.
The most recent awareness campaign was launched by The Women’s Equality Party to speak out against sexual violence and harassment in London. It is called #WeCount
A film featuring Pavan Amara, known for building the “My Body Back” project after being sexually attacked and for helping hundreds of women who have been assaulted, is supported by a selfie campaign with the hashtag #WEcount.
The hashtag went instantly viral on social media.
With women across London, sharing their experience.
— Alysia Judge (@AlysiaJudge) March 8, 2016
— Poppy_Corbett (@Poppy_Corbett) March 8, 2016
— Jackie Holland (@skallagrigg66) March 8, 2016
The #WEcount campaign is also calling on women to mark the location of their assault on a live map, to help highlight the scale of the problem in a visual way.
The Women’s Equality party told Westminster World that they are committed to ending violence against women and girls. They will be funding more community action by police in rape hotspots around London, as well as introducing preventative campaigns.
“WE will show that women all over London are affected by these events every day and that every one of us counts. That is why we chose the hashtag #WEcount.” said the Party’s leader and mayoral candidate Sophie Walker.