MPs have warned that sexual harassment is widespread in the UK. I wish I could shield my daughter from it—but in reality, I know I have to prepare herby Hannah Storm / October 23, 2018 / Leave a comment
A report published this month revealed that one in three girls have experienced harassment while in their school uniform. Sadly, the figures came as no surprise to me.
It’s something I am trying my best to shield my daughter from. But the truth is I won’t always be able to protect her, so I need to help her understand how to avoid, respond to and deal with the gendered abuse she’s likely to face.
Plan International UK, which authored the report, found that one in eight girls first experienced unwanted sexual attention when they were 12 years old or younger. This month, my daughter turned 12. To some she’s another statistic, to me she’s my world.
In 2016, a TUC study in conjunction with the Everyday Sexism Project, found that more than half of women had experienced sexual harassment at work and almost four-fifths of them did not tell their employers about it.
I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg. I know from my own experience that many women and girls who suffer sexual harassment and abuse never report it. Others only do so after many years. The resultant shame and silence can have a devastating effect.
One of the hardest things about being sexually abused is the power that the perpetrator wields over you, sometimes even years later. Sexual abuse is about power and therefore those who are young, vulnerable and marginalised are often most at risk.
I was sexually assaulted as a freelance journalist. It took me many years to gain the courage to write about my experiences, which I finally did in a piece published earlier this month. I knew I needed to explain what I had been through to my daughter in an age-appropriate way before others read it.
The week my story came out, the #metoo movement saw its anniversary and in the United States, the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanuagh was confirmed despite being accused of sexual assault by Dr Christine Blasey Ford, whose brave testimony recounted the abuse she says she suffered when she was still a teenager.
The conversations related to #metoo and recent events in the States have created a breeding ground for confusion and mistrust. It’s one that has led…