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Globally and locally street harassment has reached epidemic proportions, yet is one of the least-talked about or legislated against forms of violence. Thanks to the sponsorship of Girls Action Foundation, Hollaback! Winnipeg has completed the city’s first survey to analyze the experiences of girls, women, trans, two-spirit and gender nonconforming individuals with street harassment. “Street harassment is unacceptable, women and LGBTTQ individuals shouldn’t have to pay the price of harassment just to move through public places. The results of our survey show that the sad state of our streets.” says Hollaback! Winnipeg Director Jodie Layne.
In Winnipeg, 94% of those self-identifying as female, trans, or genderqueer has experienced sexual harassment, with 63% of respondents reporting incidences of street harassment occurring once a month or more frequently. The forms of harassment are varied, with the most common form of harassment indicated as honking(73%) followed by: leering(66%), whistling(66%), comments on your body(59%), sexist comments(54%), and sexually explicit comments(44%). Although verbal harassment is the most common, we also found alarmingly high numbers of respondents who indicated physical forms of harassment including following, masturbating, blocking path, assaulting, and groping.
Street harassment is defined as any unwanted attention in a public place, but the vast majority of reported harassment(96%) against the targeted group happened on the street with 63% reporting incidences at a bus stop, 39.2% happening on a Winnipeg Transit bus, and 30% experiencing harassment at a shopping mall. “Our respondents are from girls as young as 12 and women up to the age of 77. It’s heartbreaking that this is a behaviour that follows them their whole lives,” Layne says.
Perhaps the most alarming figure and the one most telling of our attitude towards harassment is that only 14% of incidences of harassment were reported. And of those who did report their experiences – there was no result. One respondent even says that Police made matters worse telling her that when she was harassed in the hallway of her apartment building it was because she was a sex worker and “she was asking for that kind of attention”. Another woman, who identified herself as a newcomer, said that when she reported a neighbour sexually harassing her she was told she would “have to learn to get along with the people here”. Layne says she’s disappointed by these outcomes and hopes that the police will train officers in how to react to street harassment, “When people experience street harassment, it’s isolating and reaching out to someone and feeling victimized further makes it worse. Street harassment is an obvious problem in the city and things like this result in non-reporting a lack of awareness. We need to realize this isn’t acceptable and demand respect as we go about our daily lives.”
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