Anti-harassment campaign launched

Photo courtesy of Flickr user "myrmi"
Photo courtesy of Flickr user "myrmi"
Photo courtesy of Flickr user “myrmi”

Wolf-whistlers may have to refrain from voicing their approval, after a campaign to curb ‘street harassment’ was launched in Hackney this week.

Targeting behaviour that “intimidates women on the streets,” Hackney resident Vicky Simister started the London Anti Street Harassment (LASH) Campaign.

After moving to Hackney over a year ago, Ms Simister, 25, who works in finance, found that she was on the receiving end of street harassment on an almost daily basis.

“Pretty much every day I’ve been tailed by cars or had comments made about me, and I’ve even been assaulted a couple of times,” she said.

“I spoke to friends who live nearby, or people who came to visit me and it seemed like a common occurrence.”

Ms Simister is concerned that street harassment – including physical contact, making derogatory comments or even wolf-whistling – is not taken seriously enough in our society.

“It really got to me that most women think it’s just a fact of life,” she said. She spoke to Hackney Police about the issue, but received a mixed response. “A lot of people think it’s acceptable.”

“Women are told to accept harassment as a fact of life, or to ignore it.”

The LASH campaign seeks to reduce street harassment by empowering women and educating the perpetrators.

Ms Simister said: “The purpose of the campaign is to generate interest from women. It’s about getting women to say: ‘I don’t really want to live with this.’”

She wants women to feel comfortable enough to stick up for each other if they witness street harassment, but also advocates an education-based approach. “People need to learn at a young age that this is not acceptable behaviour,” she said.

The campaign has already attracted support from the local Liberal Democrat party. In response to the campaign Keith Angus, Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Hackney North, wrote: “Street harassment is unacceptable – whether it’s a sly comment or something more sinister.”

Not everyone thinks the campaign is a great idea. A builder on Hackney Road, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “What a ridiculous idea. What will they ban next? Honestly, some people need to lighten up.”

Ms Simister is now keen to launch a viral campaign, including a Youtube video and possibly a poster campaign.


  1. The photo and the first paragraph make me feel uneasy.
    I have been followed, spat in the face, assaulted and called all the names under the sun from men in Hackney and not a single day goes past without it happening.

    Calling such men..'wolf whistlers' makes them sound like something from a Carry-On film and they are not 'voicing their approval', but using their gender and aggressive sexuality to intimidate women. My experience tells me that wolf whistles rarely occur in isolation, but are often accompanied by shouting, name calling and worse.

    It is interesting that the Hackney Post has chosen a picture of a woman wearing a short skirt to acompany this. I hope they are aware that no matter what a woman is wearing, she in no way invited or deserves this abuse. The worse incidents have actually happened to me whilst I have been wearing a parka or sweaty jogging is not the issue! Attitude towards women is. Aggression is.

    Whilst I am happy that they are giving time to this issue, I don't think the article adequately reflects the reality of this issue for many women who face this every day and each time they leave their homes.

  2. I think compliments or wolf-whistles should be taken with a bit of humour, if they don't bother you or are meant in a non-threatening way.
    Lewd and inappropriate comments can be very frightening and I've once been approached by a man who asked if I wanted sex, with the intention to scare me.
    I've been lucky to have only had one bad experience living in Hackney, but other women should be protected against sinister comments or gestures that could potentially lead to a serious incident.

  3. Hi Churchill, thanks for your comment.

    I'd just like to clarify that this campaign is not for middle class professional women, it's for all women.

    Whilst any kind of harassment, towards any individual, is unacceptable, women are sexually harassed on a much larger scale by men, and this is the demographic that I feel best able to represent. In future I would not rule out expanding the campaign to include men.

    I wasn't involved in the selection of the photo, but I can comment that I have experienced harassment from builders, shop keepers, passers by, youths, older men – there is no typical profile of an harasser.

    Best wishes

  4. How about anti street harrassment for everyone not just middle class professional women

    I also do not agree with the photograph you have used either. It is a thing of the past on building sites and frowned upon by site managers.

    Edited by moderator

  5. As an addition to my first comment, I'd also like to add that I hope the pictures used for this article don't suggest to anyone that builders are the specific target of complaint. In my experience, the old stereotype of builders wolf-whistling is less true now, as companies are often not tolerant of such behaviour if it's complained about (I have made a complaint in the past about an employee's inappropriate conduct and the company took it very seriously indeed). Most of the harassment I have experienced has come from the 'innocent' passing man in the street.

  6. I agree with Jen – this issue is often trivialized (usually by the men who make the comments) and the women on the receiving end are told to stop being so uptight, or to take harassment as a compliment. I have been regularly followed and hassled by a guy on my way to work in the mornings, had lewd comments made at me, and also been verbally threatened for reacting negatively to these comments. Why is this still acceptable? Hopefully, thanks to VIcky's campaign it won't be for much longer.

    I wholeheartedly support any campaign that makes being a woman in a busy, sometimes intimidating city such as London, a safer place.

  7. This campaign is sorely needed. To those people who think that harassing women in the street is a trivial issue, I challenge them to explain how my experience of asking a young man who thought it appropriate to greet me with 'Alright, bitch' why he thought he could speak me to like that, responded by screaming that he was going to '******* kill me' for daring not to respond positively to his disgusting advances.

    No one would argue that making offensive or intimidating comments to strangers on the basis of their ethnicity was acceptable or just 'a bit of laugh', and it is a sad indictment of our society that we think it is 'fair game' to harass a woman on the basis of her gender or appearance.

    Get a grip, guys – you're not animals and no one is impressed.

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