21 Apr 2021
1.6 million women have experienced sexual harassment when accessing a public service.
Women are being sexually harassed in places where they should feel safe – in their homes and in public services such as benefit offices, mental health units and hostels. As a result, some of the most marginalised women, who should be receiving support from public services in times of need, are instead being re-traumatised and left at greater risk of harm.
A nationally representative poll carried out by Opinium on behalf of Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, found that over 1 in 10 women who experienced sexual harassment said it happened in a public service setting, while 92% of people we surveyed agree that women should be able to access public services without being sexually harassed.
- Over half of women have been sexually harassed in their lifetime
- 72% of young women (18-25) (compared to 41% of young men) reported that they had experienced sexual harassment at some time in their lives.
- Over 1 in 10 women who have experienced sexual harassment said it happened whilst accessing a public service such as the job centre, a hostel or a mental health hospital. This rises to 17% amongst women aged 25-34 who have been sexually harassed.
- 13% of women experienced sexual harassment from someone coming into their home who they do not live with.
- 92% of people surveyed agree that women should be able to access public services without being sexually harassed.
- 82% of people surveyed think that staff in public services should be trained to identify and prevent sexual harassment.
- 87% of people agree that the government should work with specialist women and girl’s organisations to develop effective solutions to prevent the most disadvantaged women and girls from experiencing sexual harassment.
Amanda, a woman who experienced sexual harassment in hostels, says:
“When I lived in a hostel, I stood there crying trying to push a man out of my door. I didn’t report it because I didn’t feel safe to but this type of harasssment should be recognised by other staff. I think because mental health and homelessness and drug and alcohol services are so male dominated women get ignored. Often staff will dismiss your experience – that dismissive element puts you on the back foot. It’s a bit like gaslighting.”
It’s time that the most marginalised women facing sexual harassment are no longer overlooked. Public services should not be unsafe spaces.