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Women protest sexual harassment
via Flickr / R4vi

Men are underestimating how much women are being sexually harassed

How do you tackle a problem when people don’t know how big it is?

Seemingly no one understands the level of sexual harassment women face in their own countries – including women.

Following the #MeToo campaign this year which aimed to show the prevalence of sexually abusive behaviour towards women, Ipsos Mori wanted to gauge the gap between the public’s understanding of issues and reality. They asked people in several European countries and the US to provide an answer to the question: “Out of every 100 women in (your country) how many do you think say they have experienced any form of sexual harassment since the age of 15?”

The Danish were furthest away from reality. Many of them underestimated the level of harassment, especially men who were wrong by a margin of almost 50 per cent. But, women were also still 40 per cent away from the real answer too.

Following not too far behind were the Dutch with 35 per cent. Over in the UK, however, it seems we’re a bit more in touch with reality when it comes to this issue, where most respondents guessed that half of women had been harassed. The actual figure is 68 per cent.

French men estimated that 41 per cent of women had been sexually harassed, when in reality the figure was a whopping three quarters. Last year, the country announced plans to fine men for aggressive catcalling and lecherous behaviour towards women in public. The plans were revealed by France’s women’s minister, Marlene Schiappa. Speaking to RTL radio she said: “We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street.”

“That this survey comes a year after #MeToo, suggests that we have a real problem believing women and taking them seriously,” Laura Bates told The Guardian. She set up the Everyday Sexism Project that aims to tackle and document the staggering frequency of misogynistic acts. “We need a critical mass of men to stand up and get involved to tackle this problem and become part of the solution.”

Apart from Spain and Romania, where women almost got the figure spot on, the fact that most women report being harassed but don’t realise how common their experiences are shows the validity of the #MeToo movement. Hopefully seeing more stories will continue to raise awareness of the issue.