Combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU

Commission statement - Combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU

As a lot of us here, I was shocked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I was shocked by the violence of the stories told by the victims, but I was not surprised. Some people have said they were surprised by the number of victims who then spoke out online with the MeToo hashtag, but I was not. All women and girls have been victims of sexual harassment or assault at some point in their lives.

I welcome the courage of the women, girls and gender non-conforming people who speak out. However, I believe that no one should be forced to relive their trauma and that it essential that we respect the victims’ different healing paces. The victims should not either be forced to put themselves in danger by publically giving the name of their perpetrators.

Education of young boys and men should play an important role in the fight against sexual harassment and abuse. Instead of telling girls how to dress or act, we should educate boys about consent. Another essential dimension of our fight should focus on the victims: we need to stop blaming them for the attacks they were the target of, and take seriously the mental health issues that arise from their trauma.

The EU ought to see that sexual harassment and assault are problems that affect all women, regardless of their race, class, (dis)ability, etc. But we also need to take into account the fact that women at the intersection between two of these discriminations face specific challenges. We should stand with these women.