Girls’ rights charity Plan International Australia, together with six of its inspiring youth activists, have today joined L’Oréal Paris to encourage all Australians to stand up against street harassment.
The Stand Up Against Street Harassment campaign and intervention is part of a global movement across 40 countries and is focused on raising awareness about street harassment, and providing training in the 5Ds – Distract, Delegate, Document, Direct, and Delay – to support bystanders to safely stand up to street harassment when they see it.
Plan International Australia through its partnership with L’Oréal Paris and the Stand Up campaign, will deliver free one-hour virtual training sessions available to all Australians, uniquely designed for an Australian audience and led by six of Plan International Australia’s inspiring youth activists who have campaigned on, researched and have lived experience of street harassment.
The organisation’s groundbreaking Free to Be and Safer Cities research over the last five years found that street harassment is largely condoned by society with bystanders usually doing just that – standing by. This forces girls and young women to adjust their behaviour to protect themselves.
The trainings come as a new study released today has shown the power that effective bystander intervention can have for victims of street harassment. More than 2,000 Australians were surveyed on sexual harassment in public places by Ipsos, with more than 8 in 10 reporting that their experiences of street harassment were vastly improved when a someone did intervene.
Still, only 36% of people surveyed said they had intervened when they had witnessed street harassment, and 86% said they lacked the training and education on how to do so.
The research, commissioned by L’Oreal Paris, also underscores the heightened and often more severe intersectional experiences of street and sexual harassment. First Nations women, Black women, women of colour, women with disability, women with low income, trans women, and gender diverse and nonbinary people, are disproportionately impacted. 78% of Australian women (almost four in five) have experienced street harassment in public spaces, with that number soaring to 90% for women who consider themselves as part of at least two minorities.
Sexual harassment was the most important issue faced by women and girls according to Australian women under 35 who took part in the survey.
“Women, girls and gender diverse people have normalised and internalised street harassment for far too long,” said Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia.
“Unwanted sexual behaviour is not a compliment, it is a crime. Every person – especially young people – deserves to be free, safe and equal in their city, and that will only happen when we can eliminate street harassment for good.”
Through their advocacy over the last five years on this issue, the Plan International Australia youth advocates have already helped make cities like Sydney and Melbourne safer, with their work leading to the formation of the Greater Sydney Women’s Safety Charter and more recently, Victoria Police’s StopIt reporting tool (for public transport) They are now excited to be able to deliver the tools and training to help educate and empower women and bystanders to stand up safely to street harassment.
The Stand Up campaign has the support of four L’Oréal Paris ambassadors: multiple ARIA Award-winning artist, songwriter and actor, Jessica Mauboy; swimmer and musician Cody Simpson; former Miss Universe, presenter, and advocate Maria Thattil; and writer, academic and activist, Tarang Chawla.
“Safety should be a priority for bystanders to street harassment – and there is almost always a way to intervene safely,” said youth advocate and Stand Up trainer Elizabeth Payne. “The 5D methodology gives bystanders a range of intervention techniques that aren’t just about directly confronting the perpetrator.”
Street harassment significantly reduces women’s freedom – it changes the way we live our lives,” said fellow trainer and advocate Angelica Ojjnnaka. “Some of us stop going out at night, or only go out with another person, some avoid public transport, some change the way we dress, or carry our keys gripped tightly in our hands. Most of us – especially those of us from other minority groups –are hyper-vigilant in public spaces. This takes up a huge amount of mental and physical energy,” she said.
The Ipsos survey found 97% of women use strategies to avoid situations of street harassment, with 65% of women under the age of 35 avoiding certain means of transport.
Ms Payne believes all and any experience of street harassment is serious and deserves to be called out.
“I’ve had a lot of people come to me with disclosures of street harassment. I’ve experienced street harassment myself that made me fear for my safety. I’ve seen and felt first hand the confusion and anger people feel and the overwhelming sentiment that their experience ‘wasn’t significant enough’ to report.
“As a society we have fallen into the trap of assuming if we can’t prove it, if there is no evidence other than our internal hurt, it’s not worth reporting because what are they going to do about it. We need to start standing up for each other and not brushing this off as a normal experience. We need to be better bystanders. No one deserves to feel unsafe, period,” she said.
Notes to editors:
Find full Ipsos survey on street harassment in Australia here.
About Plan International Australia’s street harassment work
Plan International Australia began to sound the alarm on this issue in Melbourne as early as 2016, with youth leaders calling on police and other authorities to take action for girls’ and women’s safety. In 2018, a Plan International survey of leading safety experts across 22 cities globally found that street harassment was the number one safety risk facing girls and young women across the world. New research from Plan this year revealed the issue has only been exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdowns and less footfall in our cities. Plan International’s Free To Be campaign uncovered the places that made women feel safe or unsafe via a mapping tool across five continents and found that the majority of unsafe places were around public transport.
About L’Oreal Paris
L’Oréal Paris is committed to empowering women with the knowledge that they are not alone – street harassment is never their fault, and it is serious and harmful. The Stand Up campaign continues L’Oréal Paris’ almost 111-year commitment to be a force for good in the lives of women, which is at the heart of the brand’s DNA. That’s why L’Oréal Paris is committed to supporting the community to stand up safely to street harassment.
 Minorities included Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander, another racial minority, LGBTQI+, people with a very low income, people with a disability.