Understanding the impact of harassment and sexual assault

Challenge female harassment and understand the impact of sexual assault and violence against women

This resource explores the stories of those who have shared their experiences online to inform others of sexual harassment and discrimination and ways that we can be effective allies and supporters of others.

This resource contains stories of sexual harassment that some may find upsetting. The supporting organisations listed at the bottom of this page can offer you more support on this issue.

According to a UN Women report in 2021, 71 per cent of women have received some form of harassment in a public space. In the wake of events such as the murders of Sabina Nessa, Sarah Everard and other women experiencing violence, debate started online as to whether sexual harassment of women was a common problem.

Wider dialogue has begun about gender inequality and how some genders are disproportionally affected by risk and this form of discrimination. For many people this was the first time that they became aware of the fear that has become a daily part of some women’s lives. 

Stories of the harassment of women

Exploring people’s stories can be an effective way of understanding more about their perspective. Twitter has become a platform for anyone to interact to discuss news and events and publish their thoughts. Read the tweets below and reflect on the impact these experiences have had on the authors. 

Reflect on which other groups might also feel especially worried. 

  • Why might this be? 
  • What other factors might make someone feel more vulnerable? 

Some women may be more at risk to harassment or violence. Factors such as race, disability, socioeconomic status, sexuality and immigration status, among others, may increase the likelihood of someone being a victim of sexual or gender-based violence. Transgender women are even more likely to encounter prejudice and face violence and hate crimes. 

Think about this situation from both perspectives.

  • How did David and the other person experience the same situation differently?  
  • David suggests giving tips to help understand the impact of actions on others, where can he find this information? 

How men can become better allies to women

It is likely that we have all witnessed abusive or discriminatory behaviour. It can be challenging to know what to do. Consider the role someone might play to safely help another. This might start by them recognising their own position, what their voice, or experience can add, and what to do to ensure everyone feels safe.  

Being humanitarian is at the heart of what the Red Cross Movement stands for. This can mean making choices to safely enable and empower others who need it the most, even in situations that might feel challenging.

The United Nations #HeForShe movement shares some of the ways we can support one another. Their suggestions range from how to appear less threatening to challenging discriminatory behaviour in others. We can help support others effectively by taking some simple steps:

  1. Listen
  2. Don't be a bystander
  3. Highlight the behaviour rather than challenging the person
  4. Work together to overcome this challenge

Listening is an important skill that can help us see where someone else is coming from, by listening effectively and believing them we can understand what their unique challenges may be.

Don’t be a bystander, we can all make a difference by doing something positive, even small actions are better than nothing. Feel empowered to safely call out inequality.  

Highlight the behaviour rather than challenging the person this can be a way of creating an opportunity to have discussion. Change can start to happen right then and there when you speak up. It can feel difficult to disagree, think of a way that works for you and remember why you are doing it.  

Work with people to safely overcome this challenge together. Remember we are not authorities on other people's experiences. Raising and amplifying their voices is more effective and respectful than speaking on their behalf.  

Reflect on what you have just read, what might you do to support others? 

Kindness is about meaningful human connections created by supporting one another, putting kindness into action is what connects our communities. 

Where can you find out more information?

UN Women www.unwomen.org.uk
UN #HeForShe movement www.heforshe.org

Organisations that can help if you are experiencing abuse or harassment

  • Galop (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people) 0800 999 5428 www.galop.org.uk