A massive 83 percent of girls and young women in the Netherlands have been sexually harassed on the street. 63 percent report that this type of sexual harassment restricts their freedom, making them avoid public transport, their sports club, or even school or work, according to research by Plan International. That is absolutely unacceptable, said Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius (Justice and Security). “The streets are ours.”
Plan International surveyed 1,087 girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 25. Thirty percent of them have been sexually assaulted, 26 percent have been chased, and 46 percent have been subjected to sexual remarks while walking down the street or using public transport. Six percent have experienced sexual violence, including rape.
For fear of being harassed, 61 percent of girls pretend to use their phones, 30 percent clench their keys between their knuckles, and 30 percent have changed how they dress when going out on the street or using public transport. They protect themselves by not traveling alone (53%), avoiding certain locations (47%), not exercising outdoors (15%), or not using public transport (15%).
Only ten percent of victims went to the police, and 27 percent said the police did not take them seriously. Fifteen percent said the police advised them not to file a report.
Sexual harassment on the street can lead to fear, trauma, and profound changes in girls’ self-image, Plan International director Garance Reus-Deulder said. It also contributes to normalizing violence against girls and women.
“Girls worldwide teach themselves, consciously or unconsciously, to minimize unwanted experiences while it inhibits their development. The study shows that unwanted sexual behavior prevents girls from practicing a hoppy or sport because the road to get there is unsafe. And how, in extreme cases, fear of harassment prevents girls from going to school or applying for a job. That has to stop. Girls and young women should be able to develop fully, free from harassment,” Reus Deulder said.
Justice Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius s shocked. “Absolutely unacceptable that women and girls feel unsafe on the street,” she said on Twitter in response to the study. “The streets are ours. They don’t belong to people who think they have the right to harass others.”