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.