TW: This post will go into detail about sexual harassment and assault.
This will be the last post in ‘series’ that we’ve done on sexual harassment, if you want to read the previous posts; my post on catcalling can be found here and my post on sexual harassment in the workplace can be found here. This post is focusing more on the sexual harassment I’ve personally experienced in public, in the hopes that it can support more people to speak out about their experiences.
According to Citizens Advice, sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which: violates your dignity, makes you feel degraded, intimidated or humiliated and/or creates a hostile or offensive environment. So this could be anything from sexual comments or jokes to unwanted physical touching. It isn’t necessarily a one size fits all though, because what could make one person extremely uncomfortable may not bother another person.
I’d experienced a lot of catcalling when I was younger, but I can’t remember experiencing any form of harassment until I was 18 and able to go on nights out. One of the first nights out I went on after I turned 18 resulted in ending up in a club, I remember I was having a great time and really enjoying myself.
For some context, I was wearing a skirt that was around half way up my thighs (not that this matters or makes it ok in the slightest) and underwear. I remember feeling someone come up behind me, and I just carried on as normal because it was very crowded and just assumed they’d accidentally pushed into me. Thats when I felt a hand hook itself inside my underwear, trying to get to my vagina.
As quickly as it had started, it was over. I turned around to try and swing for the individual, but he grinned and was gone. I didn’t get a clear enough look at him because it was fairly dark, and I couldn’t see any security in the building, so I tried to shake this off and continue as normal. It was in the months afterwards that this really left an impact, and even now I won’t go on a completely packed dance floor unless I can be on the outskirts of it and see everyone.
This is the worst form of sexual harassment I’ve ever personally experienced, and I remember at the time thinking “I should have worn something different” when actually that boy shouldn’t have thought it was hilarious to put his hands on me. There have been times after this where I will be out, and men will come over whilst I’m ordering drinks or waiting for the toilet and grind against me and when I move or push them away, they just come straight back. Or when I’ve been on public transport I had men come and sit next to me when the bus or train is completely empty, this puts the fear of god into you because your mind starts to race and ask “why has this person sat next to me when absolutely no one else is around”.
Sexual harassment is something that everyone can experience, it isn’t specifically an issue for women but we do seem to experience it more than most (at least this is what studies show). As I said earlier in the post, different things will make different people uncomfortable so as a rule of thumb, just don’t make sexual advances, jokes or physical touching towards anyone unless they have actually used the words “yes this is absolutely fine with me”. If you aren’t sure whether someone would find this funny, then you probably shouldn’t do it. Especially if its a stranger.
There are always going to be a few bad eggs that think its okay to treat someone in such a way, but I hope by speaking out and educating people there will be more people to stop those few bad eggs. I plan on raising Grayson to understand that he should never treat anyone in such a way that makes them feel frightened, intimidated or uncomfortable and if he sees anyone being put in that position he should find a way to help that person without putting them or himself in danger.
If you have experienced any form or sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, catcalling, abuse – I know it is easy for me to say, but it is never your fault. We as as society need to teach this lesson better, and support those that are going through these experiences.
Please see below for a number of different helplines that can offer support for different situations.
Rape Crisis – England & Wales
Rape Crisis – Scotland
Refuge – National domestic abuse helpline
Women Against Rape
The Survivors Trust
Survivors UK – male rape and sexual abuse