Sexual Assault on the Dance Floor

I’ve wanted to touch on this subject for months but until now have silenced myself in order to keep my blog toned down, and for want of a better word, vanilla.

At 19, I went to a rave in Cambridge and had my first taste of feeling lost amidst a crowd all off their face. Early on in the night, when I was leaning more towards sober than drunk, I was grabbed by the arm and pulled towards a man that I hadn’t even looked at. I half laughed and pulled away, to be met with a punch in the arm. I shrugged and then walked away. Up until this point I’d never experienced an unknown male putting his hands on me. I felt almost apologetic, as if it was somehow my fault and that I’d misread the situation. Why do we do that as women? Instinctively assume a submissive position when we’re made to feel uncomfortable?  It’s almost as if it is engrained in us that we mustn’t speak out or cause a scene. We mustn’t embarrass the man that assaulted us.

Since then, I’ve experienced countless men laying their hands on me without me even having given them eye contact. A calculated move most make is to grab you whilst they are walking past so that it doesn’t register with you until they’ve disappeared. I have been touched inappropriately whilst wearing a dress, trousers, with female friends, with dates, when sober, when drunk. There is no common theme except men who think they have some form of ownership over my body in a bar or nightclub setting.

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In a recent Drinkaware/YouGov survey, 63% of women aged 18-24 said that they had been on the receiving end of some form of sexual harassment in a pub, club or bar and 79% said they expected inappropriate comments, touching and behaviour to take place when they went out – either to themselves or to their female friends. This is such a harrowing statistic. Young women have been conditioned to believe that inappropriate behaviour towards them is to be expected on a night out. 

I’ve worked in different roles in bars and clubs over the years. I took it as my responsibility to look out for vulnerable girls and would get any man behaving inappropriately thrown out. I truly believe that rolling out compulsory training for all staff within a bar or nightclub on spotting sexual assault and reporting it would be the catalyst for women beginning to feel safer on a night out. Women need to feel like they will be heard and seen, at any given moment.

There’s a seedy undercurrent in the drinking scene that makes sexual assault almost seem admissible on the grounds of lad behaviour. It is normalised for a man to grab at women in the dark, to blaring music and after a few beers. Why? Sexual assault is sexual assault, there are no grey areas and it is no more appropriate in a nightclub than it is in the supermarket.