Young women in large cities are the main victims of violence in public space

Population and Societies

550, December 2017

Violence against women in the street and in public transport is a major social issue. The VIRAGE survey conducted by the French Institute for Demographic Studies in 2015 gives a clearer picture of men’s and women’s experiences in public space and of the violence – verbal, physical and sexual – to which they are exposed. What are the characteristics of the most frequent victims?

A quarter of the women interviewed in the VIRAGE survey reported experience of at least one act of violence in public space over the last 12 months. Out of 100 women, 20 mentioned receiving wolf whistles at least once. This is followed in order of frequency by insults (8%), being  followed (3%), groping sometimes associated with forced kissing (2%), persistent sexual advances (1%), and exhibitionism or voyeurism (1%). Sexual assaults are most frequent in public space – generally groping and touching of the sexual organs – with 7.9% of women and 2.2% of men being affected at some time in their lives. Rape and attempted rape in public space concerns 0.9% of women and 0.3% of men aged 20-69.

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