By Lucy Hill | @lucyyhill. | Image by Lucy Hill.
For most women, sexual harassment on a night out is seemingly unavoidable. Many people around Nottingham are calling for safer nights out, so why isn’t anything changing?
Lights out. People everywhere. You’re enjoying your night, dancing with your friends. A group of boys walk past you, one sliding their hands down you as they get past. Another boy grabs you, asking you to dance with him. He tells you you’re coming home with him. You try to push him off you but he refuses to let go and only grips you harder. Nobody comes to help you. People walk past and what they see is normal in a club, so they don’t try to stop him. Despite the amount of people packed in here, you are alone, and scared. You only came out to have fun with your friends. You didn’t ask for this.
Nobody asks for this. Nobody should experience sexual harassment in public places like nightclubs, yet nearly 80% of young women have. When does this stop? When do women become a priority? What about women?
“What about women?” This is exactly what Melanie Duffil-Jeffs asked in 2014 at the start of a two year long battle to get sexual harassment and misogyny classed as an official hate crime in Nottingham. After hearing time and time again about women experiencing sexual harassment at the women’s centre she worked at, she decided it was time for change: “It struck me as manifestly unfair that I could report a hate crime against me for my sexual orientation, race or disability, but not my gender.”
So Mel begun campaigning to have sexual harassment officially classed as a hate crime in Nottingham: “We had to make the case that it was an issue, get enough support on board and then push for change – and then roll everything out effectively. Having a smart, sympathetic chief constable Sue Fish, really helped things to gain momentum but it was a slow process”. Despite the time it was taking, Mel did not give up and slowly her voice was being heard by more and more people. News of the campaign spread and this is when a huge part of the problem with eradicating sexual harassment became abundantly clear; some people just don’t care: “There were many concerns that this wasn’t a police matter and that by focusing on women, we were ignoring the experiences of men”. This complete disregard of the power that men hold highlights why sexual harassment is such a huge issue in the first place. The evidence shows that men do not experience the same issues that women do in public spaces like clubs.
After two years of fighting, sexual harassment was officially added to Nottinghamshire police’s list of hate crime qualifiers; an amazing achievement and a credit to Mel and her team. This is a great first step in regards to stopping sexual harassment, but there is still a long way to go. In 2018 alone, there were still nearly 10,000 reports of women being sexually harassed in clubs around Nottingham. Although Nottingham is ahead of other cities in regards to their sexual harassment policies, being sexually harassed in clubs is still a reality for many women and there is still so much that can be done to change this.
Sexual harassment has become a huge problem in nightclubs especially. DJ Mio is a Nottingham based DJ who explains what he has witnessed in nightclubs: “I have seen various types of sexual harassment throughout my DJ career, predominantly women being sexually harassed by drunk men, from groping to just hounding for a dance.” This kind of behaviour is awful and if the DJs can see it happening while they’re working then the bouncers who are walking around can too, yet it is hardly ever stopped.
Sexual harassment needs to be stopped and Mio is among the DJ’s that want change: “It’s a case of promoting a more healthy, inclusive clubbing environment free from harassment, that way everyone feels safe and respected” – and who wouldn’t want everyone to feel safe and respected? “The education surrounding a safe clubbing environment needs to be constant, we have a chance for a reset with us returning to the clubs soon, the government could help with a campaign” he adds, suggesting government help would change the game in regards to safe clubbing experiences. This is true; the government hold the power to make sexual harassment illegal everywhere, so why aren’t they doing this?
The government aren’t the only people with the power to make change though; nightclubs across Nottingham need to do their bit to stop sexual harassment in their venues and help women feel safe on nights out. DHP is one of the companies trying to stop sexual harassment in their Nottingham venues and their marketing director Maddy Chamberlain shares some of the policies they have put in place: “We have sexual harassment training for all employees to ensure our safe space policy is always upheld. We also have safe space posters everywhere so clubbers know the venue does not tolerate sexual harassment”. The safe space policy that DHP enforces in their venues is a huge step in the right direction and is something that could really help to prevent sexual harassment in clubs. “When we get a report of sexual harassment, we take action against the perpetrator immediately, removing them, or detaining them until the police arrive, and then barring them from the venue in the future” Maddy adds, showing how seriously DHP takes sexual harassment in their venues. The fact that everyone who visits a club owned by DHP is made aware of the consequences of sexual harassment is fantastic and is something every venue needs to do to allow women to feel safe there and know that they will be protected.
However, DHP only own 4 venues out of many in Nottingham and no other venue seems to have a policy as clear as theirs with sexual harassment training provided to all staff and a detailed women’s safety charter. If every club was to follow their lead and show that safer nights out are prioritised, Nottingham would be a lot closer to preventing any sexual harassment in their nightclubs. Sexual harassment is clearly still happening in clubs here, but with people actively speaking out and with the recent calls for government help, Nottingham can become a place where women feel safe.
The effects sexual harassment can have on women are devastating. Being violated in this way is life altering and the effect it has on mental health and self-esteem can be irreversible, yet all too often you hear the same phrases when women are brave enough to come forward;
“She must have been asking for it.”
“It must have been that dress she was wearing”
“Maybe she just had a few too many drinks.”
Being touched when you don’t want to be. Feeling hands on you where you don’t want them. People pushing themselves against you as they’re just ‘brushing past.’ Being spoken to in a way which makes you feel uncomfortable. Being called names you don’t want to be called. This is sexual harassment. Nobody asks for this.