Written by Alyssa Whelan. Alyssa is a first year fine art student at Manchester Met.
Hello! I’m Alyssa and I’m a first year Fine Art student at MMU. My activism is centred around intersectional feminism, which Is why Our Streets Now is a campaign I’m proud to represent. I believe in the importance of sharing diverse stories of public sexual harassment (PSH), as all students deserve the right to feel safe in public spaces. I’m eager to work alongside other students at MMU to provoke permanent change.
Our Streets Now is a national campaign demanding an end to public sexual harassment through both cultural and legislative change. How did Our Streets Now start? Our Streets Now began with Maya and Gemma Tutton, two sisters inspired by their own experiences of PSH as young women. How they feel scared walking home at night. How they feel anxious in an empty train carriage. How they feel sexualised in their school uniform. They raged about the fact that public sexual harassment is belittled, ignored and normalised. And they decided to do something. The Higher Education campaign, #StudentNotObjects, aims to raise awareness of the prevalence and impact of PSH on higher education students, and demand action from institutions directly.
According to the ‘OSN Higher Education survey 2020’ 84% of students are subjected to some form of harassment. Students do not only have to navigate a new city, and institution when going into higher education, but also face the constant threat of PSH. Whether we’re being groped on our way to campus or verbally harassed within its confines, our right to a free and equal education is being fundamentally denied.
Our priorities for the initial launch of our campaign are:
• To promote awareness of the experiences of students facing PSH
• To provide safe and clear support networks for students who experience PSH
• To establish a clear and consistent zero tolerance policy in HE institutions
• To educate the remaining student body to become uplifting allies, active bystanders and vocal denouncers of PSH
• To encourage the institution to monitor reports of PSH off campus and develop strategies to tackle it, for example working with transport providers to reduce harassment on university buses.
Shockingly, according to our survey, only 37% of students had knowledge of existing schemes and policies at their universities relating to PSH (OSN, 2020).
Here at MMU, you can report incidents of public sexual harassment:
• Directly to the Police. Call 999 if it is an emergency or you are in danger. Otherwise, report the crime online call 101, or visit your local police station.
• Via our Report + Support website allows you to report an incident online, and you can choose to report anonymously if you wish. Our Wellbeing Advisers monitor incident reports and will be in contact within one working day to discuss the incident and offer you support.
• Via our hate crime reporting centre on campus, located at the Students' Union Advice Centre, whereby trained staff can report a hate crime on your behalf and also provide you with advice and support.
It can sometimes be unclear what constitutes a crime, due to incidents of sexual harassment being so normalised. So here is the gov.uk definition of sexual harassment:
“Sexual harassment is any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that makes you feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended.”
Incidents of this nature are not to be trivialised, if you feel able to, you should report any incident which makes you feel such way. We are listening.
Follow this link to become a part of online community. Here you’ll find links to our Instagram page, the Manchester Students Against Public Sexual Harassment Facebook page, ways to submit testimonies, take part in surveys and show support for the work we are doing to make Manchester safer.
Saint Mary's Sexual Assault Referral Centre Tel: 0161 276 6515
MASH a local charity that supports female sex workers Tel: 0800 1830 499
Survivors Manchester for men who need support after experiencing sexual violence, Tel: +448088005005
Counselling Service (at MMU) Tel: 0161 247 3493
Manchester Rape Crisis Tel: 01612734500
National Aids and Sexual Health Line Tel: 0300 123 7123
Victim Support Tel: 0808 1689 111
The Hathersage Centre, contraception and sexual health services to everyone. Tel: 0161 701 1555