Witney protest against sexual abuse and harassment
A YOUNG woman who was afraid to go out at night after being sexually harassed has staged a protest to raise awareness about the problem.
Amber Ianniello, 20, who lives in Carterton, organised the demonstration in Witney yesterday.
She said she wanted people to better understand sexual assault and harassment and to help those who have been victims to get the support they need.
She was involved in an incident last month when she was walking home at around 9.45pm from a bus stop on Burford Road in Carterton, when three teenage boys approached her.
She said: “One of the boys shouted ‘jeez’, followed by another that said, ‘want me to give you a wet shave?’.
“I didn’t know what this meant so I just ignored them and treated the situation as kids messing about.”
She later learned that the phrase is a slang term for a sexual act.
Ms Ianniello, who is a student at Oxford Brookes University, added: “I didn’t report the incident to the police because there were no other witnesses as I was walking alone, and it was dark when it happened, so I’m doubtful that I would be able to identify the three boys.”
Instead, she wrote about her experience on social media to spread awareness of this type of harassment in the hope that it would deter people from acting in a similar way in the future.
She said: “I was overwhelmed by the amount of women who messaged me privately or were commenting on my post saying that they had experienced similar scenarios but, like me, were reluctant to report the incidents for various reasons from fear of judgement to not knowing what support was available to them.”
She held a demonstration in Witney yesterday which around 40 people attended, including local councillors and town mayor Joy Aitman, who said she would now meet with Ms Ianniello to discuss what else could be done to tackle the problem locally.
Ms Ianniello said: “More people came than we expected and a few councillors came too. At the end people wrote suggestions on how the town could be made more safe.
“Having councillors there gave people a peace of mind that the protest can make a difference.
“My experience affected me more than I thought – I didn’t go out at night and my brother would have to meet me at the bus stop. I didn’t know where support was available.
“The protest was to help people who have had bad experiences know where to turn and to emphasise to those who commit crimes that it is not okay and that there will be repercussions.”
If you need help, call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.