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Being young and being a woman highest risk factors for sexual harassment

Published: Monday, March 08, 2021

Young women (18-34 year old) in Ireland are twice as likely to be subjected to sexual harassment and violence than women on average. They are also almost twice as likely to have experienced sexual harassment than their male counterparts (21% and 12% respectively) according to the latest RED C research published today, on International Women’s Day, as part of the 2020 WIN World Survey (WWSS).

Responding to these findings, the National Women’s Council (NWC) called for urgent targeted responses to combat sexual harassment, in particular amongst young women. Marking the second anniversary of Ireland’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention on violence against women in 2019, NWC also called for a full and speedy implementation of the convention. 

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWC said,

“The data published today is a clear reminder that age and gender are the highest risk factors for violence and harassment. Although those experiencing sexual harassment and violence is marginally down from 2018 figures, all indicators reveal that violence and sexual harassment remain steadily the same over time in Ireland. This is particularly striking as 2020 was a year like no other. The public health restrictions considerably impacted movement, social interactions and physical work environments. Despite this, the numbers reporting violence and sexual harassment remained on par with 2019, and in some cases had actually risen. In spite of lockdowns and restrictions women and girls are still subjected to violence and sexual harassment suggesting that this behaviour has continued online or within the domestic sphere.”   

She continued,

 “As we mark International Women’s Day today, we are calling for urgent, targeted initiatives and responses to overcoming the gendered nature of violence against women and girls and a full and speedy implementation of the Istanbul Convention which Ireland ratified two years ago on this day.

Actions must include greater awareness-raising and targeted prevention programmes, in particular in primary and secondary schools that address gender stereotypes and myths, healthy and unhealthy relationships, domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

In our justice system, the focus must be on holding perpetrators to account for their actions. We need a more responsive justice system that is trauma-informed and victim-survivor centered. Frontline services should be resourced to both provide and engage the supports for victim survivors. Increased and expedited multi-annual funding to frontline specialist support services to ensure they can offer victim-survivors support services.”

Highlighting the particular role third level institutes play in tackling sexual harassment and violence on campus, Orla O’Connor said,

“Many young women will be students which makes them less likely to report these crimes when compared with other groups. Sexual harassment and violence, offline and online, have a significant impact on their lives, yet many women experience an ongoing atmosphere of silence.

Recognising this reality, NWC has been working for many years to end sexual harassment and violence in higher education.  While sexual harassment and violence are not unique to higher education institutes, they are uniquely placed in showing leadership on this issue. The #MeToo movement has encouraged more women to speak out but they need our support. Through NWC’s Ending Sexual Harassment in Higher Education (ESHTE) project we are showing an effective way forward to ensure women are safe and can study free from violence and harassment.”


For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, NWC, Tel. 085 858 9104.