Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

'It made me feel dirty': The young teens sharing their stories of being catcalled as they campaign for it to be a crime

  • By Aspel Brown and Natalia Jorquera, ITV News

'It made me feel scared. He almost ran me over while blowing kisses. I am 15'

'It made me feel naive. I thought it was a compliment. I was 13'

'It made me feel ashamed. I was in school uniform. I am 14'

These are some of the stories teenage girls have shared about the street harassment - or catcalling - they have faced. And it is on the streets where a group of campaigners as young as 13 are taking their calls for a change in the law.

Patrycja Wrobel got involved after she was harassed on public transport.

The 'It Made Me Feel' campaign, led by Lambeth Youth Council in south London, collect stories of harassment anonymously submitted by email and Instagram - using the hashtag #ItMadeMeFeel - and chalk them onto pavements - showing to others the long-lasting impact that catcalling can have on young girls.

One of the campaigners chalking messages on the street is 15 year-old Patrycja Wrobel. She got involved after she was harassed on public transport which made her feel "disgusted" and "annoyed".

She said: "Sexual harassment should not be happening in 2019 and it especially affects young girls."

"I have been personally affected a few times and I know many people who have as well around me."

Most of the stories are submitted from young people aged between 14 and 16.

Youth worker Maria Taylor has read stories from those as young as 10 which she describes as "terrifying".

She said: "A lot of the sexual harassment stories that they're bringing up are on public transport, they can be on the street and a lot of them are around older men winking at them, making very weird comments at them that aren't inherently sexual but they are just slightly off.

"Young people care, it's affecting them. It's something that's in their everyday lives and just as an adult might get involved in a political issue that concerns them, young people are the same and if anything are more angry because they're taken less seriously," she added.

13 year-old Maria Bellinfantie attended her first chalking session and wants catcalling to become a criminal offence.

According to a global survey by Cornell University and campaigners Hollaback! in 2015, 90% of women in the UK experience harassment before they turn 17 compared to the 82% recorded for Europe as a whole.

Attending her first chalking session, 13 year-old Maria Bellinfantie said: "I've experienced street harassment on public transport and it's been something along the lines of lip biting and gestures like that."

Street harassment has left her so "uncomfortable" when travelling that she wants the Government to act.

She said: "I want it to become a criminal offence, I want catcalling to be taken more seriously by adults because a lot of the stories we have collected are all from young people."

The campaigners are now asking for the Government to bring in laws against catcalling.

As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Government aims to eliminate sexual harassment of women and girls by 2030 but currently there are no specific laws against catcalling in the UK.

Countries like France have introduced on-the-spot fines of up to €750 (£650) to combat sexual harassment on the streets - something the campaigners think should be adopted to prevent more teenagers from being targeted by strangers.

Miss Taylor suggested that developing more efficient report methods and monitoring could help the issue. "Realistically if I'm catcalled, I'm not going to go to a police officer, there is no point", she said.

"We hope that we can make a real cultural change to the way that young girls are sexualised, we hope the Government takes it more seriously, perhaps in a Paris-style law change where a catcall is a fine on the spot," she added.