The recent revelations in Hollywood and the #MeToo campaign have given rise to a global conversation led by survivors of sexual harassment and sexual violence. It has shone a light on the abuse that permeates workplaces, schools, streets and homes worldwide. From degrading comments to unwelcome sexual advances and touching, to rape and sexual assault, #MeToo shows just how common this behavior is – and the devastating affect it has on a large part of our population. Indeed, 64% of women across the UK have reported that they have experienced sexual harassment in public places and 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year.
Sexual harassment is about power. While some of those who have spoken out have been men, the overwhelming majority have been women. That is because sexual violence is a form of violence against women and is experienced disproportionately by women and girls by men because it is a consequence – and cause – of gender inequality. Perpetrators’ behaviour stems from a sense of entitlement supported by sexist, racist, disablist, homophobic or other discriminatory attitudes, behaviours and systems that maintain and reproduce inequality. The stories from Westminster and beyond have demonstrated just this.
We know that women will be affected by sexual harassment and assault in Welsh public life, as with all other areas of Welsh society. 1 in 3 women in Wales experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Women have told us that they can be nervous about speaking up about their experiences due to concerns about what the response will be. We need to ensure there is support for women to feel able to talk about their experience in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Action must be taken if we are serious about making sure that everyone in Wales can live free from sexual harassment and abuse.
Anyone affected by sexual harassment, sexual violence or any other form of violence against women in Wales can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800 for 24-hour confidential information and support, and help to access local services.