Girlguiding Scotland calls for action after new findings show sexual harassment ‘normal’

Girlguiding Scotland is calling on politicians to act to end sexual bullying as new UK-wide Girlguiding research released today (Tuesday 2 December 2014) reveals girls are growing up with sexual harassment as a ‘normal’ part of their everyday lives.

The call from Scotland’s largest youth charity comes as UK charity Girlguiding launches its sixth annual Girls’ Attitudes Survey which finds girls as young as seven are victims of routine sexual taunts from boys. This behaviour too often intensifies into sexual harassment during their teenage years.

Girls also describe battling a casual attitude to sexist remarks and harassment from society at large – with girls being urged to shrug off abuse as a bit of banter.

Girlguiding and Girlguiding Scotland believe no girl should have to tolerate gender-based violence or any form of sexual harassment.

Ahead of the next general election, young women in guiding are calling on politicians to make real commitments to ensuring the wellbeing of girls by signing up to the Girls Matter campaign. The campaign includes a call for schools to take a zero tolerance approach to sexual bullying and harassment.

Amy Callaghan, 16, a Girlguiding Scotland member from Glasgow who was part of the panel that developed and analysed the research, said: “Every day, many girls’ lives are made a misery by sexist comments, sexual harassment and abuse at school.

“What’s worse is that it’s not being treated as a serious issue.

“We need politicians to take action and sign up to our Girls Matter pledges.

“We need them to send a message that this kind of behaviour towards girls and young women will not be tolerated.”

Denise Spence, Girlguiding Scotland Chief Executive, said: “This shocking research shows we must act to stop sexual harassment being normalised by our society.

“We want to ensure all girls live in a safe, fair and equal society that lets them reach their full potential.

“We’re calling on all politicians to take a stand and sign up to Girlguiding’s Girls Matter campaign.”

The Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2014 report reveals:

  • One in five girls aged 7 to 12 has experienced jokes of a sexual nature from boys.
  • 59 per cent of girls and young women aged 13 to 21 have faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college.
  • One in five girls in this age group has experienced unwanted sexual attention (20 per cent), or unwanted touching (19 per cent), or seen rude or obscene graffiti about girls or women (18 per cent).
  • Yet more than half of girls aged 11 to 16 say that teachers and staff sometimes or always tell girls to ignore incidents of sexual harassment or dismiss it as a bit of banter.
  • 70 per cent of those aged 13 to 16 think that those who report incidents of sexual harassment may be bullied or teased.

The report also finds that the media is reinforcing negative attitudes about violence against women:

  • More than half of girls aged 13 to 21 are critical of media coverage when a woman is attacked or raped.
  • 58 per cent feel the media often blames the victim’s behaviour or appearance for the attack.
  • More than half don’t like the way music videos present women because it is disrespectful.

Girls also report worrying levels of control and bullying among their peers relationships:

  • Over a third of girls aged 11 to 21 know girls and young women their age who have experienced control or bullying from a partner (35 per cent)
  • A quarter know someone who has experienced violence from a partner (25 per cent).


Notes to editors:

  1. Girls’ Attitudes 2014 is a survey of 1,405 girls and young women aged between 7 and 21 inside and outside guiding across the UK.
    • The research is carried out by ChildWise on behalf of Girlguiding and fieldwork took place in March and April 2014.
    • Girlguiding’s youth panel, Advocate, leads the development of the survey each year and analyses the results.
    • All the results from this and the previous surveys can be found of Girlguiding’s website
    • Join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #GirlsAttitudes.
  2. Girlguiding’s Girls Matter campaign calls on politicians to make real commitments to improve the lives of girls at the next election. Girlguiding members have developed eight policy asks to make life fairer for girls. For more information on the report, visit or follow #GirlsMatter.
  3. In 2013, Girlguiding’s report Care Versus Control revealed that many girls accept jealousy and controlling behaviour as a “normal” part of relationships – reframing it as genuine care and concern. Research was carried out by ChildWise through a series of focus groups among girls aged 11 to 17 and through a quantitative poll of more than 1,000 girls and young women aged between 7 and 21.
  4. Girlguiding Scotland is part of a worldwide guiding movement calling for an end to violence against women through the World Association of Guides and Girl Scouts’ Stop the Violence campaign. For more information visit