The 97%

By Makenna Adams

What is the 97%? This number has been a recent topic of debate, both in online spheres and in conversations globally. The figure refers to the 97% of women ages 18 to 24 who have experienced some form of sexual harassment. 

The data was collected by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women). To “develop and uphold standards and create an environment in which every woman and girl can exercise her human rights and live up to her full potential” is one of many goals for the branch. Published on March 10, 2021, the survey compiled reports from 1,089 women and shed light on the atrocious statistic that nearly all women (97%) have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. Equally disturbing, the survey also found 71% of respondents had been sexually harassed in public spaces, like “on transport, in venues like pubs or clubs, at events such as concerts or sports games, in streets, parks, commons, recreational spaces, and on social media.” The respondents were not prompted regarding harassment at work or school.

The 97% statistic gained traction on Tiktok in recent weeks, as users have taken their stories of sexual harassment to the platform. Sharing their experiences, girls and women detailed the moment they joined the “97%.” At the time of writing, the “#97percent” hashtag has garnered over 23.3 million views across millions of posts, according to Tiktok data. 

Women have experienced sexual assault and harassment throughout history, but a recent event inspired women to speak out: the death of Sarah Everard. On March 3, 2021, the 33 year-old woman was abducted and killed while walking home in South London. Although she followed the alleged preventative measures outlined by authorities, including speaking with her boyfriend on the phone and walking on a well-lit street, her safety was not ensured. On March 11, Home Secretary Priti Patel issued a statement that “new laws are being considered to protect women against sexual harassment in public, including the potential of making public harassment a specifically defined crime.” While a suspect has been arrested, the pertinent issue still prevails. 

Ms. Everard’s death is one feared by many women, who are now determined to eliminate its reoccurrence.