Op-ed: The 97 Percent


The recent death of Sarah Everard set off a global movement. Women are voicing their experiences regarding sexual harassment and raising awareness through various platforms, including Tiktok.

Samhitha Katuru, Reporter

The past two years have been life-changing in both a positive and negative way. The world has faced a pandemic, racial injustice, LGBTQ+ civil issues, and more. Now, another issue has been added to that list: sexual harassment. For centuries, women have been the target for potential harassment. As victims of abuse, many have been unfairly dismissed as being promiscuous or ‘leading abusers on’. Countless men have been excused from facing punishment for the fact that women “deserved what they got.”

However, a new study has brought these harassment issues to light. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women revealed results showing that 97 percent of women aged 18 to 24 in the United Kingdom have faced some sort of sexual harassment in public spaces.

One woman took to Twitter to state that “most women would assume that every woman in the room has been in some way or another sexually harassed, it is (of course, wrongly) just something we expect in life”.

These results help support reasoning that women are not the problem, they are the victims. The shocking revelation has inspired and encouraged millions of women around the world to share their own stories online through the trending hashtag #97percent.

The motivation behind this study was the disappearance and eventual murder of Sarah Everard. The 33-year old woman disappeared on her walk home from a friend’s house on March 3 in London. The search and mystery behind her disappearance garnered worldwide support and acclaim, drawing attention to the fear of harassment when venturing outdoors. Her eventual murder brought down millions of women to rain fire on governments, requesting change and restitution. They protested the very cause of such a disappearance, bringing questions such as why women should have to worry about going home or outdoors at night.

News and media group The Guardian interviewed Claire Barnett, executive director of U.N. Women UK who told them: “This is a human rights crisis. It’s just not enough for us to keep saying ‘this is too difficult a problem for us to solve’ – it needs addressing now,” 

“We are looking at a situation where younger women are constantly modifying their behavior in an attempt to avoid being objectified or attacked, and older women are reporting serious concerns about personal safety if they ever leave the house in the dark — even during the daytime in winter.”

Social media has helped spread these newfound issues and protests of women regarding sexual harassment. Teen apps, especially TikTok, have taken this trend to a whole new level. Inspired by the internet movement and public acknowledgment, victims of sexual harassment are speaking up about their own experiences.

“Women are finally opening up about an issue that happens to many women. This trend encourages other women to come forward. It helps to expose and show how major of an issue this is. So, it’s definitely a more positive social media trend,” believes Junior Kamala Sairaman.

 This online movement of progress has provided an opportunity for women previously scorned. Numerous women have admitted that they did report their experience with sexual harassment to authorities, but due to no evidence or ignorance, no action was taken. They claim that through social media they finally have a voice, specifically one that can be heard.

“In society women may become more open and want to talk about their experiences in order to get justice for what happened to them. Hopefully, in the government, specifically the judicial system, more people will be charged for the crimes they committed because more women will be comfortable coming forward,” expresses IB sophomore Caitlyn Estright.

All in all, victims of sexual harassment have finally gained the attention and acknowledgment they deserve. The 97percent hashtag is a reprieve for women everywhere who have been dismissed. Offering a voice and gaining rapid attention from those who make a change, it is about time changes occur.

If support or help is needed, The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-656-4673 or visit RAINN.org to chat online with a support specialist at any time.