Women's rights - Haggai Freid - 11.11.2011
A women's rights protest in Haifa last year. Photo by Haggai Fried
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A resounding 83% of Tel Aviv women report being sexually harassed at least once in their lifetimes, according to a new survey sponsored by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality's committee for advancing the status of women, in conjunction with assistance shelters for the victims of sexual assault, and the Shatil organization.

The survey was undertaken ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, observed on Friday. It examines the scope and characteristics of sexual harassment of women in the public sphere.

Conducted by the Rating Research company, the study surveyed a sample of 500 women aged 16 and over who live in Tel Aviv. Among other things, it examines what is considered sexual harassment.

Before various forms of harassment were described to them, 45% of the women surveyed reported being harassed by a man in the public sphere. However, when they were asked directly about whistling, knowing looks and suggestive remarks, the number almost doubled and reached the 83% finding regarding women attesting to having been sexually harassed. According to researchers who carried out the survey, the numbers suggests that some acts of harassment are not thought of as such by women in the city.

The group reporting the highest incidence of harassment included women aged 22-39. The most common forms of harassment are whistling in the street (64% of all respondents reported experiencing this ), cars beeping horns (61% ), knowing looks (45% ), suggestive remarks (40% ), inappropriate proposals (22% ), touching (21% ) and stalking (18% ). Also, 6% of respondents reported that they were victims of sexual abuse.

The most frequent venue for harassment is the street. 96% of women who report being harassed refer to harassment experienced on the street. 45% say they were sexually harassed on public transport; 30% on the beach; 20% in a park or public garden; and 19% in an open market area.

95% of respondents who report being harassed say the harassment occurred at least one time during daytime hours, and 64% reported incidents occurring after dark.

Tamar Zandberg, chairperson of the Tel Aviv Municipality committee for the status of women and municipality council member, says that these survey findings are disturbing, but also not surprising. "We deliberately checked the topic of harassment on the street; up to now, this form of harassment has not been considered serious. As in any campaign, the first step is to learn all the facts, and see what picture they create," she explains. "The big picture here is clear - the street is neither safe, pleasant nor comfortable for women. The days when this could be ignored are over," Zandberg declared.

Miriam Schler, director of the Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center, says that in 2010 the center received over 10,000 complaints. Most such complaints, she noted, did not deal with sexual harassment. This fact, she explains, attests to the gap between the experience of daily harassment in the public sphere and the ability of women "to give this a name" and do something about it.