Campaign tackles sexual harassment

April 7, 2017

Campaign tackles sexual harassment

Dear Em editor Rebekah Sherriff is helping empower young women. Photo: Melanie Earley

A not-for-profit trust is launching a web campaign, ‘Say This Instead’, to try and combat sexual harassment.

Dear Em is a website founded by HELP Auckland, which provides counselling services for sexual abuse survivors.

The Say This Instead campaign aims to help young women deal with street harassment, as well as raise awareness of the problems women face every day.

Dear Em editor Rebekah Sheriff said young women have had enough of sexual harassment and want change.

“Cat-calling and sexual harassment is something that all women have had to put up with at some point in their lives. The attitude towards women in New Zealand needs to change, and we need to get men to understand that this is a women’s reality.”

Sexual abuse statistics released by HELP Auckland show one in three New Zealand girls experience sexual abuse before they turn 16.

Miss Sheriff said in a lot of cases, girls were still reluctant to seek help.

“A lot of young people who are sexually abused retreat into themselves; they don’t want to go to face-to-face counselling. So that’s where creating a place on the internet where they can be themselves can help.”

A recent survey of young women aged 16-25 found that out of 83 participants, all but one had experienced sexual harassment while out in public.

A Facebook survey on sexual harassment Source: Melanie Earley

Student Petra Veico said her first recollection of cat-calling was when she was 12.

“A fully grown man started shouting at me. I was a child in jeans, and a T-shirt that said ‘I love my friends’ on it. It’s terrifying.”

The Say This Instead campaign aims to help young women come up with responses or quips to cat-calling and harassment that will de-escalate a situation without putting girls at risk.

Miss Sheriff said Dear Em also wanted to establish focus groups before the campaign launch where women can share experiences and tips for dealing with unwanted advances.

“There’s so many creative ideas out there that we haven’t even thought of. I think if we crowdsource that and do it in a Kiwi way it could be a really powerful campaign.”

The Say This Instead campaign is hoping to launch on May 1 to coincide with Rape Awareness Week.

Any woman who wants to be involved in the focus groups can register here.

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