Emily Atack says it’s ‘important’ to make catcalling a ‘public health issue’

Emily Atack says it’s ‘important’ to make catcalling a ‘public health issue’

Emily Atack says that it’s important to make catcalling a “public health issue”.

The comedian and Inbetweeners star made the statement in her new BBC Two documentary Emily Atack: Asking For It? about her experiences of sexual harassment.

Atack said that shouting sexual comments in public can be “very damaging” to people’s lives.

“Minor and normalised” behaviour can evolve “into something way more sinister and malicious,” she said. “I think bringing things in like making catcalling a public health issue are important.

“People can tut and roll their eyes when they hear things like that, but I can now understand the importance of that kind of thing.”

She continued: “Catcalling isn’t just catcalling, it’s what that means – it means that someone has that easy access to you but is able to rid themselves of it by driving or running off and you’re left with the feeling. That can be very damaging over a period of time.”

In the documentary, Atack opens up about online harassment and a range of social media messages she’s received in the past.

The 33- also discusses her experiences, which include attracting unwanted sexual attention from a very young age, with her parents.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“When you grow up with that sort of behaviour in your life, your family and the people that care about you do everything they can to stop it,” she said, adding that this would involve people trying to “change” her behaviour, including “privileges” like wearing make-up or a skirt to school being taken away.

“I do feel that as bumpy and as difficult as it was to go through that process, I do genuinely feel stronger for it and proud of the film we’ve made,” she said.

“If it stops one man from sending an explicit image to a girl that day, then it’s done something right.”

Atack has previously campaigned against cyber flashing, where individuals send unsolicited explicit images online and spoke about the issue in Parliament in 2022.

Emily Atack: Asking For It? airs 31 January at 9pm on BBC Two.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.

Additional reporting from agencies