Sexual Harassment Spotlight – What you told us

You Said – We Listened


In June we launched our first Spotlight topic, inviting feedback on how to tackle sexual harassment in Scotland. A huge thank you to everyone who shared their experiences and ideas. The First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) has read and discussed your feedback and your contributions will be considered with regard to the recommendations they make to the First Minister at the end of the year.


Please note: these reports summarise the responses received to this open call for submissions. They do not represent the views of the National Advisory Council on women and Girls (we are seeking feedback to gain more insight) nor do they represent a majority view or the view of the Scottish population. They represent the views of those organisations or individuals who have chosen, proactively, to respond.


Who did we hear from?

We had a great response and heard from both individuals and ‘Wee Circle’ group discussions. One Wee Circle sent out an open-invitation to staff, supporters, service users and local people.

We heard from both women and men, and the age of respondents ranged from high school students to 60. We heard from people of different sexual orientation, and people with disabilities.


View the full PDF summary


We asked three questions:

Q.1 In your experience, how big an issue is sexual harassment in Scotland? 

Everyone felt it was a widespread and important problem.

Several people felt the full scale was probably under-acknowledged. Suggested reasons included: some forms of harassment being so common they become ‘normal’; perpetrators being good at hiding it; and people being reluctant to disclose or report experiences, or not being believed.

People noted that sexual harassment affects (and can be perpetrated by) both women, and many people. Feedback, and personal experiences included mention of school, workplaces, pubs and clubs, gyms, and street harassment (including very young, pre-teenage girls). The impact of pornography consumption and its potential effect on attitudes and behaviours toward women was also discussed

Q.2 What needs to change to tackle sexual harassment in Scotland? 

Suggestions included:

    • Encouraging more respectful attitudes around sex in general.
    • Addressing the negative effects of access to extreme pornography.
    • Tackling the issue through schools and early years – including re- imagining sex education.
    • More safe spaces, and safe forums to talk about sexual harassment, including confidence you won’t be ‘ judged’ if the harassment involves a minority group; and confidence you’ll be believed.
    • Recognising ‘gender identity’ can be abused, making people feel very vulnerable. Tackling nervousness at reporting this for fear of being labelled intolerant.
    • More campaigns building on #metoo, to help people recognise and act on sexual harassment. Involving pledges from schools, businesses, local authorities etc. Involving big businesses to make a bigger bang.
    • Encouraging workers to understand harassment isn’t acceptable from customers.


Q.3 What ideas do you think the Advisory Council should recommend to tackle sexual harassment in Scotland? 

Suggestions included:

    • Focusing on all forms of sexual harassment, not just ‘men on women’.
    • Making pornography more difficult to access for under 18s.
    • Show health warning videos at the start of every pornography session streamed in Scotland.
    • Listening to people who’ve experienced sexual harassment.
    • Providing whistle-blowing mechanisms.
    • Looking at the ways sexual harassment can overlap with other issues, like the gender pay gap, and gender discrimination.
    • Recognising some people have strong concerns about gender identity and transgender issues, and the potential for this to put women in vulnerable situations, but feel it’s not socially acceptable to voice this (considering laws, and education).
    • Making training on consent and sexual violence a condition of accreditation for jobs and industries.
    • Looking at sentencing, as a way of improving conviction rates.
    • Holding focus groups across Scotland to better understand experiences and issues.


Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their feedback – it is valuable.

We’d love as many people as possible to share their ideas on our next Spotlight topic.