Yesterday the Evening Standard shared with London the story Pagan Lilley Motlagh-Phillps. The telling of her powerful story is so important and we commend this paper for telling it – more importantly we want to acknowledge Pagan’s strength in speaking out.
Her experience of harassment reminds us to respect survivors and their survival mechanisms. So often women and non-binary people are told that there is a set way to respond to harassment. We are sometimes told that one way to respond is to ignore those who harasses. This does not always work, but sometimes it does.
For Pagan ignoring her harassers did not work, and her story consequently forces us to remember that the onus to respond to harassers should never be on those who experience harassment. Harassment exists upon a continuum of violence against women and girls. It is one of 8 strands of violence which flow between each other, and which women and non-binary people experience every single day.
It is time that we start to truly challenge the roots of this violence rather than staying on the surface. We have to focus our blame and judgement on those who harass and enact this violence. We have to respond to and criticise their choices, not the actions of survivors.
What happened to Pagan was horrendous, but this is the reality of what women and non-binary people live with every day. At Hollaback we stand in solidarity with all who experience harassment and violence, and hope that with constant pressure and the sharing of stories we can alter this system of oppression.