On Saturday March 20th, women and girls gathered in a socially-distanced fashion to write on Lincoln High Street in chalk. The event was to raise awareness of street harassment, sexual assault, and violence against women. People were writing their names and ages, personal experiences of harassment and assault, and slogans such as ‘educate your boys’.
The death of Sarah Everard this month has inspired many forms of protest around the country, and this was one of those events.
Jess Beecham, 26, organised the event along with the hashtag #Iampartofthe97: “For a lot of people, the Sarah Everard case was really traumatic – similar to how the George Floyd case last year triggered a lot of Black Lives Matter protests. That was the thing that kicked it all off, but after a week of reading statistics online and speaking to people it just felt like we really needed to do something in Lincoln. If you’re part of the Lincoln Girl Gang Safety Chat, there are posts daily of girls witnessing exactly what we’re trying to show today.”
Women write the hashtag with along with their names. Photograph by Jessica Beecham
The statistic comes from a YouGov poll that found that 97% of women aged 18-24 said they had been sexually harassed, and 80% of women of all ages had been publicly harassed.
Ms Beecham said: “That’s 3% off 100%! That’s pretty much everyone you walk past on the street. That’s what we’re trying to do, to make people see what that actually means. You hear the statistic, but you don’t understand how many people that actually includes. It includes people you care about: your sisters, your friends, your mums. If people thought about it from that perspective, they’d probably care more about doing something to change it.”
The event took place all day with some arriving as early as 10:30am. The High Street from the Guildhall up to the War Memorial was decorated in large multi-coloured chalk slogans and personal stories peppered amongst large drawings of ‘97%’.
One of the women wrote about her experience in an abusive relationship: “I wrote this one myself because I think it’s very important to see that it does happen in a relationship. That it is powerful to see that. The more courage we have to speak out, the more someone else who doesn’t have a voice might be able to speak out.”
Ms Beecham hopes the event will spark more protests like these around the country.
For those affected by sexual harassment, assault, or rape here are some helpful service – Remember, you are not alone:
Text 61016 or call 0800 40 50 40 to report abuse to the British Transport Police.