What is catcalling? GMB study shows this type of sexual harassment is rife among school pupils

A new Good Morning Britain survey has found that over half of teachers have observed verbal sexual harassment like catcalling or wolf whistling

‘When I walk home, I want to feel free and safe - not brave’.

This is the view of one of the hundreds of women who have been subjected to catcalling and shared their experience on Catcalls of London’s Instagram page.

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The death of Sarah Everard in London has prompted a surge of women talking about their experiences of walking alone and, at times, feeling unsafe.

But it’s not just on the streets where women experience verbal sexual harassment.

A new study by Good Morning Britain and Tes has found that verbal sexual harassment is rife in schools too.

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What is catcalling?

The issue surrounding the safety of women has featured in the headlines and public discussion since the death of Sarah Everard who was walking home from a friend's house in March when she disappeared (image: Shutterstock).

Catcalling is the act of often shouting degrading, sexual slurs or threatening comments at someone publicly.

It has led to campaign groups calling for a change to the law.

Activists - including Maya and Gemma - from Our Streets Now are campaigning for public sexual harassment to become a criminal offence.

The pair have even created free lesson plans and resources for teachers to educate girls and boys on sexual harassment.

What did the Good Morning Britain survey find?

The exclusive survey by Tes – once known as the Times Educational Supplement – for Good Morning Britain found that 73% of UK teachers had come across a range of behaviours including verbal sexual harrassment, sexual assault and rape.

Over half had observed verbal sexual harassment like catcalling or wolf whistling.

More than a third had seen children watching or circulating pornography - including 16% of primary teachers.

“I’m sure it has always gone on in schools, I think the difference we have picked up on is the extent of the language which has almost become normalised,” said Charlotte Santry from Tes.

How many women have experienced street harassment?

Labour’s Harriet Harman and Caroline Nokes, the Conservative chair of the women and equalities select committee, have formed a cross-party team on how to tackle anti-misogyny crime.

They also want men who harass women from vehicles to face criminal charges and have urged to see a change in law featured in the police, crime, courts and sentencing bill.

A recent UN Women survey, commissioned with YouGov in March, shows that over 7 in 10 women in the UK experience sexual harassment.

Just 3% of women aged 18-24 hadn’t experienced behaviours including aggressive comments shouted at them, to violent assault.

And over 95% of women aren’t reporting it because they don’t believe it will change anything.

Catcalls of London on Instragram is trying to stamp out street harassment by writing sexual slurs shouted at women in chalk on the pavements of the city - to show the scale of the problem faced every day.

Currently, catcalling offences are recorded as either harassment or public order crimes, depending on the nature of the incident.

This means there is no easy access to records specifically for each catcalling offence - making it hard to pinpoint misogynistic motivated incidents.

So, nationally, it’s hard to build a picture of the scale of the problem.