Letchworth councillor speaks out against sexual harassment of young girls

Councillor Helen Oliver has spoken out against sexual assault and harassment. Picture: Courtesy of H

Councillor Helen Oliver has spoken out against sexual assault and harassment. Picture: Courtesy of Helen Oliver - Credit: Archant

A Letchworth councillor has spoken out against sexual harassment and assault of women and girls after data revealed that one in three female pupils wearing school uniform had been sexually harassed in public.

Women and girls have been using the hashtag #WhenIWas – highlighting the age they were the first time they had experienced unwanted advances – since children’s charity Plan International UK revealed the disturbing statistics on Monday

Letchworth Grange district councillor Helen Oliver shared her experience of sexual assault by a family friend when she was just 13.

She tweeted: “No-one said a word and I couldn’t work out how to feel about it, but I knew it felt wrong.”

Ms Oliver told the Comet: “The emergence of Monday’s #WhenIWas, alongside reports about the number of female children suffering sexual harassment while in school uniform, was sad – but to many women it’s really not shocking.

“By sharing my own experience, along with others, I hoped to help girls – and women in general – realise it isn’t their fault when they’re sexually harassed or assaulted. And that they have no reason to feel guilt or shame.

“North Herts District Council Labour group are intending to respond to this raised awareness by writing to local schools directly. The women in the Labour group will be reaching out to engage in cross-party support from female district councillors in addressing the issue – making sure it isn’t forgotten, and that girls and young women aren’t left unsupported.

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“Additionally, we’re writing to Herts County Council to seek feedback on the next steps at that level.”

The survey revealed that 35 per cent of girls wearing school uniform have been sexually harassed in the street, 66 per cent of girls aged 14 to 21 have experienced sexual harassment in public, and every month 38 per cent are experiencing verbal harassment like catcalling, wolf-whistling and sexual comments.

The study said that 15 per cent are being touched, groped or grabbed every month. Despite this happening in public, only 20 per cent of girls asked said someone had responded in a helpful way. To find out more, go to plan-uk.org/act-for-girls/street-harassment.

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