SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Women from 13 Cities Across Europe Reveal What They Do Daily - To Avoid Harassment

VERSE Staff

#MeToo

To see how women from different countries in Europe deal with sexual harassment, the VERSE team asked women from 13 cities what they do to avoid harassment and their general feel towards the male culture in their city.

LONDON, ENGLAND

LONDON, ENGLAND

Elena, 22, Sales Assistant

Is there anything you've had to do to avoid being harassed? 

I wear headphones when I'm walking or on public transport, though I don't necessarily listen to anything. It does stop some people from talking to you, they tend to give up if I pretend I can't hear them calling out to me. I don't wear as many short skirts as I used to, I wear longer skirts and dresses. If wearing jeans, I wear long shirts or jumpers to cover my bum.

How would you define the way British men behave towards you? 

I think it depends on where you are in London and what kind of demographics you're looking at. London is such a diverse city, full of different cultures, so it's impossible to stick all men in a single box.

Have you been harassed in a workplace?

I have yeah, I was harassed whilst working in TK Maxx by the security manager, he said some really disgusting things to me. Actually I've been harassed in maybe all the jobs I've had, by both co-workers and clients.

ROME, ITALY

Jessica, 20, Student

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What have you had to do to avoid being harassed?

Often I have to change the way I dress so I won't be bothered. I wear earphones too, but it doesn't stop men from harassing me. In fact many times they force me to take them off.

In this context, how would you define the Italian male culture? 

Between the men I know only a few avoid harassing women (they mostly catcall) and when you point it out they don’t even get where the problem is. Perhaps we should start educating the new generation in schools on which behaviours to avoid.

At work have you been harassed by colleagues? 

I have been harassed in my workplace, this made me feel really uncomfortable because I had to choose between keep or quit my job, and I needed money. At the end I decided that my health was more important and quit my job.

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND

Maria, 31, Writer / Journalist

Is there anything you've had to do to avoid being harassed?

I have done what most women can likely connect to, taken a "safer" route home, I've put keys between my knuckles, fake called someone etc. I have even changed my own appearance and not worn the dress or shirt I wanted to cuz I just didnt want to drag strange men's attention. It shouldn't be my responsibility to make men stop harassing me or other women.

How would you describe the Icelandic male culture towards harassment?

The male culture in Iceland is the same as in any white, rich western society, I guess. The men look out for each other, women are not invited to their club. I’m not saying Icelandic men are bad. They’re just not better than other men even though the world media portray otherwise, and Iceland as feminist utopia.

Have you been harassed at work?

Yes I have been harassed in every workplace I've ever worked for and that's completely unacceptable.

BERLIN, GERMANY

Anna, 24, Business 

Anna, 24, Event Manager

What have you done to avoid being harassed?

I change the side of street and walk with my keys in my hand when I feel unsafe. I activate an alarm on my phone that sends messages including photos a short voice mail and my GPS Data to my boyfriend when I press the off button of my phone three times in my row. I also take cabs for short distances during the night on the weekends.

Have you been harassed whilst working?

Not exactly harassed, but sometimes I have clients who wanna talk to male colleagues because they do not take me serious. They dont wanna work with a woman. They don't accept me as the person in charge.

LISBON, PORTUGAL

Sónia, 43, Brand Manager

What have you had to do to avoid being harassed? 

I avoid walking alone at night and I'm careful where I sit/stand on public transportation. I also avoid wearing revealing clothes in both those situations. Lisboa is a peaceful town but the culture is still very sexist, with the macho latino figure still very much alive, and street harassement being perceived as "normal". 

Have you been harassed in a workplace?

On my first serious job, my then boss was always very nice and complementing, which was ok but a little too much. Until one day we had to go out of town to an event, and he decided to go knock on my hotel door late at night. Of course I didn't open, then he proceeded to call my room, I disconnected the phone, then he wrote a note and slided it under the door. I didn't move. Eventually he gave up but his intentions were crystal clear. The next day I pretended I didn't hear or noticed anything. I believe I developed this fake dumb facade just to able to get away from tricky situations such as this one. It wasn't the only occasion I was harassed in a workplace but it was certainly the worst.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Denise, 20, Student, Part-time Waiter

Is there anything you've had to do to avoid being harassed?

Yes I pretend that I'm listening to music or that I read on my phone so they think that I can't hear them. Ignoring some coments, getting out of someone's way, and standing up for myself. 

Have you been harassed in a workplace?

Yes! I was at my old job and I'm kinda now too. For example getting weird questions about myself no one would ever aks or comments that are inappropriate. It seems innocent in the beginning, but when I think about it later, it's disgusting. I get really uncomfortable when a guy twice my age asks hopefully if I don't have a boyfriend then we should go on vacation together...!

PARIS, FRANCE

Estelle, 24, Artist

What have you done to avoid being harassed?

I've tried EVERYTHING. Having a really long coat, wearing sweaters if I need to go out, avoiding public transports, only taking my bike, douchebags are daring. In every club I go, I make sure to always have a good relationship with the bouncer or bartenders. That's something I started to use more and more. In addition to "If you can be loud and have people noticing it. Do it.

Have you been harassed whilst working?

I have been. I didn't go to the police because of my abuser's high status and his multiple lawyers and threats. He told me to shut my mouth because "there is no proof" and "he'll make sure that everything coming from my mouth will be ridiculing and used against me", "he knows where I live" "If I tried to sue him, he'll be the one able to make me pay way more money than I can ever imagine for diffamation".

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND

Elena, 22, Sales Assistant

Ciára, 18, Fashion Student

Is there anything you've had to do to avoid being harassed?

I've had to pretend to know people to stop someone from following me or trying to talk/ touch me. I've also had to avoid going certain ways to stay in public so I feel safer. I've also had to change my Facebook name to stop people from finding me online.

Have you been harassed in a workplace?

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

Hanna, 27, Business Developer in Tech

What have you done to avoid being harassed?

Previously when working in another industry when I am out meeting clients I always feel I have to go on the offence to set the record straight and prove my competence some how the first thing I do. To claim my "spot at the table" and show why I deserve to be there.

How would you describe Swedish men with regards to harassment?

I think that Sweden has gotten really far in their equality work compared to many other countries, and we have great laws and regulations in place to ameliorate the effects of inequality. But cultural nuances are more subtle and harder to regulate, and there are underlying structures that still remain which still affect women.

Have you been harassed whilst working?

Yes, in the past. I am a captain, and working in events, often with drunk older clients who both wanted to literally "take the wheel" and who suggested I should stop doing my job and join them for "some fun".

BARCELONA, SPAIN

Iris, 29, Translator

What have you done to avoid being harassed?

Dressing more "manly" just to make sure I was not going to be harassed. Some days you don't care, but there are other days you are going out at night and don't want to take any risk (because we feel it's us taking the risk!!), so you choose the "safe" way, you choose trousers and no cleavage instead of a dress or a skirt.

How would you define the male culture in Barcelona?

Patriarchy is very present in their culture and the way they see society, and there's still too much acceptance towards harassement and sexism and I think that's because most men are simply not aware of the issue. They don't have to live with it in all areas of daily life, and they are not aware this is been happening to all of us for generations and it's still happening today. 

Have you been harassed whilst working?

Fortunately, I've not. Altough some close friends of mine have. The closest to harassement I've been in a workplace has been receiving unwanted compliments or comments on my looks or my body by professionals from other companies (e. g. the courier, the driver).

 

WARSAW, POLAND

Elena, 22, Sales Assistant

Katarzyna, 35, Senior Global Comms Manager

What have you done to avoid being harassed?

Before I was married I never used public transport at night, only taxis and only from a legitimate taxi company. Also I used to wear a ring on my ring finger, even if I was single, sometimes it helped to avoid uncomfortable behaviour. But the sad truth is that you can’t really avoid it.

How do you feel every time a man harasses you?

Once I was kissed on the beach by a guy I’d never seen before. I was wearing long dress and walking with my mother. He just run towards me and kissed me. The shock on his face when I started to scream at him and call for police was 100% honest. The most horrible thing is that he was expecting me to laugh and be happy about what he had done, he totally didn’t expect me to react the way I did.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

Erin, 32, Principal Designer

What have you done to avoid being harassed?

If I'm walking alone or with other women past a group of men, I'll cross the street so as to avoid them. I've recognized that men congregated in groups tend to feel pretty threatening and the chance they'll say something is greater than if it's one or two men standing alone.

I've stopped proactively smiling and saying hello to male shop greeters and security guards because of an incident where after a brief chat about the weather led to the man cornering me and kissing my neck.

How would you describe the male culture in Amsterdam?

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

Sandra, 43, Occupation IT Project Manager

What have you done to avoid being harassed?

It’s mostly the way I act especially at work – when I started my professional life it quickly became obvious that to succeed in business you need to toughen up and become part of the game. It feels like either that or you miss out on opportunities. I’ve even ended up changing to the IT businees as it seems to suit me better. Where I started out with PR and Marketing it was a different ball game – and the respect for women was not as high as it is where I’m at now.

Have you been harassed whilst working?

Mostly when I first started out – Summer / Christmas Parties etc. Where a boss thought is was fine to try for a kiss or make sexual comments about a dress, seeing my tattoos and if I was a real readhead. Now I’m very aware of letting people know from the get go that I’m a no bull kind of worker.

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