According to a recent survey, 100 percent of women in the Paris area are victims of sexual harassment or assault in some form or another while using public transportation.
Because women in many cultures are taught from an early age to accept some low-level abuse as normal, many assaults go unreported. Some women don’t even realize that what has happened to them qualifies as sexual assault.
It can also be very hard for women to prove they have been assaulted, or to identify their attackers in public situations like a crowded train.
France is taking the issue seriously and working on programs to help stem sexual assault and to educate people on what qualifies as sexual assault, both for victims and harassers.
The government is pushing to get bystanders involved, as there have been several notable cases in recent years where other passengers simply looked on as women were assaulted in France.
Of 600 women surveyed, half of them stated that they were under the age of 18 the first time they were harassed or assaulted. These kinds of actions can have a devastating effect on individuals. They often force women to develop ways to avoid such problems, such as changing their schedule or routes, their attitudes or clothing, in order to minimize the threat of harassment, none of which is guaranteed to work.
Modifying behavior in this way makes it harder for women to live in public. It’s estimated that nearly 60 percent of French women are afraid of being assaulted or harassed, compared to only 30 percent of men.
The end result is that these kinds of actions result in women being effectively barred from existing in public, which is a fundamental right that all people should be able to enjoy.
Thankfully, the French government is actually taking the problem seriously. Hopefully other nations, like the United States, will follow suit.