Women's Network P.E.I. 'surprised' by results of street harassment study
'This really isn't a problem just for adults. This is happening to children as well.'
Women's Network P.E.I. has finished a study that looked at street harassment on the Island and said it was surprised by what it found.
Executive director Jillian Kilfoil said the #ItStopsHere campaign involved focus groups and an online survey, which heard from 83 people.
Of those 83 people, five identified as male, four identified as non-binary and 74 identified as female, woman, transgender woman or non-transgender woman.
The project launched last year and finished this summer. Kilfoil said the average age of respondents was 25 to 35.
Kilfoil said the youngest age reported for a first instance of street harassment was nine years old and the average reported age was 14.
"So this really isn't a problem just for adults. This is happening to children as well," she said.
Another thing she was surprised by in doing this research was the amount of backlash the group received.
"We didn't think it was something that was going to be a contentious issue," Kilfoil said.
"I think it's not a reason to stop and often it's a reason that shows that you need to engage in this work even more. But we were a little bit surprised that some people, really kind of felt a little bit offended that we were even doing this work in P.E.I."
It definitely affects the way we move through the world, how we interact with the world and how we are able to feel safe in our homes.- Kari Kruse, student
She said the goal of the campaign was to get a sense of what street harassment looks like in P.E.I.
"Obviously gender is a big part of people's experiences in street harassment," she said.
"We heard from people who identify as women that they do hear a lot of sexist comments while they're in public spaces. But, we also heard that people who are in same-sex relationships also face discrimination," she said.
"They might be less likely to hold their hands in public or to have any public displays of affection with their significant other."
She said they also heard about instances of racism and harassment targeted more at people of colour.
'I've actually been stalked'
UPEI student Kari Kruse participated in the survey and said she's experienced street harassment on the Island.
"It usually happens at night, although it's not always the case," she said.
"It has happened in broad daylight where [passersby] will try to talk to me and I really, I'm not there to be spoken to. I'm just trying to get through the day, or it's gone to the extreme where I've actually been stalked."
She said it sometimes feels like there's a curfew for women at night.
"We can't really go outside and do whatever we want because of fear that we'll be followed home, or spoken to, or yelled at."
Kruse said the #ItStopsHere campaign is important to show the scope of this problem in P.E.I.
"There are a lot of people who deny that these experiences happen," she said.
"It definitely affects the way we move through the world, how we interact with the world and how we are able to feel safe in our homes."
Social media campaign
Kilfoil said despite some of the negative feedback, the group will continue to explore this issue.
"We're here to engage in conversations that aren't always popular but they're always important. And so I think it just goes to show that we do need community groups engaging in these conversations."
Kilfoil said the group plans to eventually turn the report into a social media campaign and hopefully speak to younger people on the Island about their experiences.