How old were you when you first experienced street harassment?

Street harassment is a widespread, pervasive problem. It’s something that almost every woman experiences in their lifetime, all over the world. And it starts really, really young.

According to a new survey conducted by Hollaback! and Cornell University, most of them say that they experienced their first negative interaction when they were only in their teens.

It’s one thing to hear about an issue anecdotally, but the statistics here are truly alarming: 84% of over 16,600 women surveyed said they had encountered street harassment before the age of 17, and more than half said that they had also been fondled, groped or otherwise assaulted. Of those polled, 82% of transgender women also reported being harassed because of their gender identity.

“This is a global problem. This really points to the fact that it is a global epidemic,” said Debjani Roy, deputy director of Hollaback!, in an interview with the New York Daily News.

An infographic provided by the Daily News highlighting some of the statistics found in the global survey really puts the problem into perspective. It’s tough to argue with cold, hard data that presents some problematic truths about street harassment.

The Daily News also spoke with several women from New York City who confessed to using different strategies in order to draw less attention to themselves so they’d be less likely to be on the receiving end of unwanted harassment. These ranged from pretending not to hear the comments to wearing headphones to block out any catcalling.

But the fact that this is a problem that starts for many girls in the midst of puberty is not only disheartening, it’s frightening.

“People don’t want to recognize that this starts really young,” said Roy. “The emotional impact it has as girls develop is quite significant.”

What’s to be done about street harassment? Well, awareness is the first step to fostering change. There are organizations like Hollaback, who work to combat catcalling and other forms of street harassment, as well as artist campaigns like “Stop Telling Women to Smile” working everywhere to create the kind of awareness that can really help things change. Thanks to a survey like this, more and more people are going to be able to recognize that this is a problem that needs to be tackled head-on.

[Featured image via.]