Violence against women and girls report launch

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A major new survey and report, commissioned by Crimestoppers, has revealed that one in six children face unwanted sexual harassment in public from the age of 10.

The report, by the University of Suffolk, sheds light on general attitudes to sexual harassment and the age at which victims are targeted, and follows the impact of the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment. Whilst 1,800 people participated in the survey, none of the questions were mandatory due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.


Key findings are:

  • Around one in six participants’ (16.8%) first experience occurred when they were aged 10 or younger (3.7% aged 0-5, 13.1% aged 6-10)

  • 30.9% of participants first encountered unwanted sexual behaviour between the ages of 14-16

  • Almost the same percentage (29%) first experienced unwanted approaches between 11-13 years

Age at first experience of unwanted sexual behaviours or interactions in public spaces.Age at first experience of unwanted sexual behaviours or interactions in public spaces 

These shocking findings demonstrate that the majority of those who experience sexual harassment encounter it for the first time during adolescence or childhood

Alarmingly, the survey also found that that 10% of women said they had been raped, with 23% saying they had been ‘forced’ to have sex.

We’ve launched a national campaign to challenge attitudes and increase reporting on those responsible.

More findings:

  • In a clear message to the culprits, less than 1% of victims said they felt flattered, attractive or desired after their most recent harassment experience

  • Strikingly, around 78% of female participants spoke of experiencing unwanted questions about their sex life, and two thirds experienced staring (leering) and comments on their clothes, body or appearance. The research found that respondents change their behaviour or activities to avoid a repeat incident, with nearly 10% shunning outdoor areas where they had previously encountered unwanted sexual behaviours

  • More than a third (38%) have been followed and nearly a quarter (23%) have witnessed flashing/genital exposure. Whilst the largest group of perpetrators were strangers, they were closely followed by classmates during their younger years, then acquaintances and colleagues in later life

Graph showing lifetime prevalence of unwanted sexual behaviours in public spaces: female participants.Lifetime prevalence of unwanted sexual behaviours in public spaces: female participants


“This research confirms that all forms of sexual harassment begin at a shockingly early age, which is completely unacceptable. 

“It raises the question to those men involved: would you accept this behaviour towards those closest to you, such as a partner, female friend, or your daughter? 

“Crimestoppers is taking its part in the conversation as these normalised behaviours can escalate, with some perpetrators going on to commit the most serious of crimes such as rape and child abuse.”

Lydia Patsalides, Crimestoppers Violence Against Women and Girls sexual violence lead.

“As a father of two daughters, and an ex-police officer who dealt with the tragic circumstances of violence aainst women and girls, I totally understand the impact unwanted sexual behaviour has on victims. 

“It’s important that we all understand the issue and take steps to educate ourselves on what is and is not appropriate. Our research shows that a large number of very young girls are being targeted, and therefore we must all ensure we take positive steps to protect them.”

Mick Duthie, Crimestoppers Director of Operations. 

Remember that if you are feeling upset, or would like to talk with someone, you can find support at the following links:

If you have used harmful or abusive behaviours towards a partner, you can reach out for confidential support here: 

  • Respect (specialist resources for those using abusive behaviours) 

If you are experiencing sexual thoughts or feelings towards children that concern you, you can reach out for confidential support here: