A CAMPAIGN has been launched after fears of a rise in the number of men harassing people on the beach.

Activists say girls as young as 12 have been subjected to harassment from males, ranging from unwanted sexual comments to up-skirting.

The Anti-Harassment Club has been founded to combat the issue after more than 100 women from across Brighton and Hove came forward to share their experiences.

Amy Smith, head of campaign activism, said: “Girls who are 12 years old onwards have had people approaching them taking pictures, up-skirting and committing sex acts at them on the beach.

The Argus:

“This is a real problem, it has got worse over lockdown and it seems to be widespread.

“Brighton is known as a city of acceptance, diversity and equality.

“But when this is having such a huge impact and people are sharing these stories every day, women are scared to go out and sit on the beach, they’re scared to be alone.

“We should strive to create a city which is safe and free from street harassment.”

The group is dedicated to combating, eradicating and raising awareness of sexual and gender-based harassment in public spaces.

They say the beach has been a hotbed for harassment since lockdown, leaving girls and women “genuinely traumatised”.

“Imagine you’re approached, touched and objectified,” Ms Smith said.

“It is threatening and is unsettling and not right.”

The founding members of the group are Emma Wilson, Helen Brown and Chloe Payne, who then joined forces with Daisy Banwell Brighton and Ms Smith.

The Argus:

They are advocating on behalf of people who have experienced street harassment and felt unsupported by a lack of relevant support services, or are fearful of going out in public alone as a result of street harassment.

They aim to provide a virtual safe space of comfort, support

and signposting to services for any person who has experienced problems.

They plan to “establish and maintain an open dialogue” with local support services, MPs, ward councillors, the council, Sussex Police and the media to highlight the frequency and severity of street harassment in the city.

The group also wants to put pressure on the Government to include education and awareness.

“We want to stress that it’s not gender exclusive, this is for every single person experiencing harassment,” Ms Smith added.

The Anti-Harassment Club has been working in tandem with Sussex Police through its beach

hut station called The Lookout, which can be found on Brighton beach.

Its website, including links to support for victims, can be found at www.antiharassment.club.

The Argus:

People can anonymously leave their stories of harassment on the website, which will then be passed onto the police.

One user said: “I was sunbathing on the beach in Hove at the end of the lawns.

“As I left a man followed me almost all the way home asking for my name, number and I didn’t know how to stop him following me.

“Obviously it is rude to just tell someone to ‘f*** off’ and could trigger him to be aggressive towards me so instead I had to take a different route home so that he didn’t find out where I lived.”

Another said: “I was going for an early morning run across the seafront when I was by the West Pier I saw a man standing clearly flashing me.

“I don’t know if he was drunk or whatever but I just wanted to run in peace without having some strange man showing me his genitals.”

Harassment is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 if it is because of, or connected to, age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.

Harassment is as defined unwanted behaviour which you find offensive or makes you feel intimidated or humiliated.

Unwanted behaviour could be spoken or written words or abuse, offensive emails, tweets or comments on social networking sites, images and graffiti, physical gestures, facial expressions, or jokes.

However, the group is campaigning to make gender based harassment a specific crime, similar to the up-skirting law.

Up-skirting has been a criminal offence in England and Wales since 2019 after a campaign by a woman targeted at a music festival.

The Argus:

Offenders face up to two years in prison for taking an image or video under somebody’s clothing.


Authorities taking the issue 'very seriously'

AUTHORITIES say they are keen to work with the new group to combat harassment.

The Anti-Harassment club is looking to work with organisations and authorities in Brighton and Hove to tackle the issue. 

Organisers say this could take the form of posters, public campaigns and signage on the beach. 

Councillor Steph Powell, who jointly chairs the tourism, equalities, communities and culture committee, said: “Gender-based harassment, violence and aggressions are not acceptable in Brighton and Hove. 

The Argus:

“This is an area we take very seriously.

“We work in partnership with many groups in the city to tackle harassment and antisocial behaviour. 

“Third party reporting mechanisms can provide a better picture of the issues faced and we’re keen to work with the Anti-Harassment Club to explore anything that could help improve support.

“All those who identify as women should be able to feel safe from any form of harassment in our city.”

The group said women frequently say bystanders often do not intervene to help victims.

People who witness harassment could find someone in a position of authority, intervene to stop the harasser, or lend support to the person being harassed.

Sussex Police have asked people to speak to their officers on patrol, should they are a victim of harassment or witness it taking place.

Sergeant Andrea Leahy said: “As the Neighbourhood Police Team we are always supportive of crime prevention awareness in Brighton and Hove. 

“There is no place in modern society for the harassment of any people and we aim to provide a safe and welcoming space for all to enjoy. 

“Sussex Police encourages reporting of crime, you can do so on our website, on the phone or in person a police station.

“When you see us on patrol please speak to us and tell us about any issues that you are aware of.”