“When I was younger, men who were much older than me would often come up and talk to me. They would give me compliments and say things like I looked good, I had a great bum, they’d love to get to know me better, etc. I always found it very unpleasant and wanted to get rid of the men. I always started with the argument that I was underage and in any case far too young for them. But only very few were scared off by that. They would wave my arguments away, say they were only just forty or whatever, it wasn’t really that big an age difference, we could get to know each other and then see in a year or two. Then I would say that I already had a boyfriend, although it wasn’t true. That didn’t generally make any difference either. The men would say something like, oh, he’s not the right one for you, I would be much better. Sometimes they’d be walking along following me the whole time. The only thing that would help in that kind of situation was to run away.”
Zero tolerance for harassment!
This kind of thing sadly happens all too frequently. It’s also sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can happen in all kinds of different places and take many different forms – it could be inappropriate looks, sexist gestures or suggestive remarks or even unwanted touching. Nobody has the right to harass you verbally or physically. You do not have to tolerate anything you do not want! Sexual assault violates a person’s mental and physical integrity and is a criminal offence.
If you have been assaulted, get in touch with a victim advice centre. They will help you understand your rights, the advantages and disadvantages of reporting the incident and what happens in the criminal process. Victim advice centres can help you deal with the incident and organise ongoing support.
If you are addressed by someone who simply won’t go away:
- You have the right to defend yourself however you can. Tell the harasser loudly and clearly that their behaviour is not acceptable and you do not want to talk to them.
- If you feel someone is becoming too pushy, stop the conversation immediately and move away.
- Call someone you trust and explain the situation.
- If something does happen, seek help, for example from a victim advice centre. You will be offered free and confidential advice about your rights and options.
- If you are harassed, threatened or physically attacked, call the police on 117.
If you see someone being harassed:
- Don’t look away. Go to the aid of the victim, even if it’s someone you know who is responsible for the verbal or physical harassment, perhaps even a friend. Speak to the victim directly, offering help.
- Avoid putting yourself in danger by asking people around you to come with you to help the victim.
- Call the police on 117.