Girlguiding Advocate Panel speaks out: End sexual harassment of girls and young women and empower girls to take action

11 August 2017

Girlguiding Advocates speak out in outrage today of the rising incidents of sexual harassment of girls and young woman and the resulting pressure for girls to change their behaviour. This follows reports today of evidence being given by singer Taylor Swift in a sexual harassment court case.

With increasing reports in the media on cases of ‘catcalling’, ‘upskirting’ and other forms of sexual harassment on the street, public transport and in schools, the panel makes a call for girls and young woman to feel both safe and empowered to take action.

The Girlguiding Advocate Panel said: “The incident involving Taylor Swift is totally unacceptable and it’s right that it’s in the public eye, but this is something happening to girls every day at worrying levels. Instead of feeling empowered to make a stand, many girls feel they have to change their behaviour to prevent harassment from happening. We need to be working towards a society which is equally outraged and supports girls and young women to take a stand against sexual harassment.”

Girlguiding’s 2016 Girls’ Attitudes Survey makes it startlingly clear that there are extremely high levels of sexual harassment that girls and young women are being exposed to as part of their everyday lives:

  • Half of girls aged 11 – 21 (50%) have experienced sexual harassment on the streets with 44% changing their behaviour to avoid this
  • 17% of girls aged 13 – 21 have experienced unwanted touching on public transport with 31% changing their behaviour to avoid this
  • 41% of girls aged 18-21 experience unwanted touching at a nightclub with 51% reporting they have changed their behaviour to avoid this
  • As part of the report one girl aged 13 – 16 said: “Some people are ashamed to open up about being harassed and they need to know that it isn’t their fault.”
  • Another aged 7-21 said: “If women feel safe in their environment they will feel freer to express themselves – say, do, wear what they want!”
  • When asked what the three most important ways to improve girls' and women's lives are, 50% of young girls aged 7-10 included making sure that girls are safe.  

As the UK's leading charity for girls and young women, Girlguiding has been part of the successful coalition to see Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) made compulsory in schools in England. Now girls are calling for that curriculum to include teaching on consent, health relationships and violence against women and girls.