On March 10 the United Nations published findings that showed 97 percent of women between the ages of 18 to 24 in the U.K. had experienced some form of sexual harassment in public. This sparked a hashtag on TikTok, where women shared their experiences that make them part of the #97percent. Although this statistic was from the U.K., it can safely be assumed that this number is just as high in any given country. This being a college campus, there are plenty of women aged 18 to 24 that have stories similar to the ones from the women in this research. Here are some of their stories.
Charlotte Kacprowicz was walking to the mailroom on a Saturday morning during the fall 2020 semester to pick up a package. Due to the warm fall weather Kacprowicz was wearing an oversized red hoodie, some black shorts and, of course, a mask. As Kacprowicz walked back to her dorm holding her package and enjoying the sunny weather, she heard a guy shout “Hey!” Kacprowicz instinctively turned around and a man she perceived to be in his 40s told her, “You have the hottest legs I have ever seen.” Kacprowicz said, “I remember feeling uncomfortable and having to pick up my pace even though he was 100 feet away from me.”
Kacprowicz has another experience from her freshman orientation in which she was walking around campus with some friends in mint green crop top with a high waisted skirt. Kacprowicz says that a bunch of upperclassmen guys from an off-campus house shouted, “Whose girlfriend is that?” and other comments along the lines of calling her hot. Kacprowicz said that she no longer owns this outfit because she is too concerned about wearing mini skirts in public anymore for fear of her own safety.
Kacprowicz also said that the metro is the worst place in terms of catcalling and harassment, where she has had firsthand experiences with during her commute to and from work. This lines up with another story from a woman who asked to remain anonymous. She was taking the metro back to campus from Canalside with two of her friends in the fall of 2019. They were “all nicely dressed” as they sat down in their seats and chatted when they were approached by a man, who singled out one of the girls. He asked if she had a boyfriend, among several other personal questions, and continuously made comments about her clothes and body. He then decided to get off at the next stop because he “didn’t get the answers he wanted out of us.”
Another anonymous woman has an experience that happened just this week. On Monday, March 22, she was using the crosswalk from Science Hall to the library. She was approached by a man in a silver Nissan who rolled down his window and asked for her number. She said that she “was thankfully able to turn right and avoid the situation.” She said that she was wearing a pair of jean pants and a long-sleeved top like she often does. She wanted to reach out for this story to “create a system of support for fellow girls on campus.”
I have several stories of my own, but I’ll only share one for now. In fall of 2019, I was walking back from the mailroom with a package from my grandma. It was raining, so I had an umbrella, and I was wearing a yellow plaid jumper dress with a long-sleeved undershirt and some tall boots. As I was walking back to Frisch, a white van pulled up next to me with two older men in the front two seats. They rolled down the window and made comments about my body and outfit as well as asking for my name and number. I quickly put my head down and picked up my pace. I entered the Student Center as quickly as I could and — after taking a few moments to collect myself — I went back the rest of the way through the tunnels and carried on with my life. I thought about reporting it to Public Safety but I felt that no one would take me seriously. Make no mistake: this is not due to a distrust of Public Safety on campus. No, the culprit is a society that constantly benefits from women not trusting their instincts and doubting themselves.
If you were paying attention, you noticed that I included what each woman was wearing when these incidents occurred. This was intentionally done to clearly illustrate that it does not matter what women do or don’t do, and what they do or don’t wear; it can happen anytime and any place and that is the worst part. Stop blaming the victims and start holding the people that you know accountable. In the #97percent hashtag on TikTok, a user wrote, “It’s not all men, but it’s almost every woman.” Take these feelings and insights with you as we wrap up Women’s History Month.