I was in my second year of university and on a night out with three of my house mates. At the time, my friendship with two of them was slowly breaking down, and I was desperately hoping it wouldn’t. We went to the 80s night at the SU and I started dancing with a boy. He told me his name. He said he was 21 and a fresher, but a mature student. I can’t remember if he told me what he studied. When he wanted to take it further, I said no. He smirked at me, and grabbed my butt as he walked away. I screamed at him, and felt really sick. I felt like I had somehow done something wrong. I also felt like I had to keep dancing and pretend that everything was fine. One friend asked if I was ok. The other two carried on dancing. Even if they hadn’t seen what that boy did to me, they could have asked why I was upset, why their normally quiet friend was left screaming and swearing in the middle of the club. But they didn’t. They just carried on dancing. I was furious. I was furious at them for not caring and at him for taking advantage. I wanted revenge. About an hour later, I spotted him, walking across the room with another girl. I decided to confront him. He apologised, laughing, and I once again called him names that I won’t repeat on the internet in case my grandmother ever reads this. The girl was very confused. To her, it must have looked bizarre, but I felt vindicated. After my friend pulled me away, I was still shaken, but extremely proud that I’d stood up for myself. The other two ‘friends’ again carried on dancing, as if everything was fine. Would they have done that to our other friend? No. At home a few hours later, one of them asked me if I was ok ‘by the way.’ I lied and said I was. I wasn’t. I could still feel his hand on my body. The other ‘friend’ never bothered to ask. They simply never brought it up. Looking back, that night marked a turning point for me. I realised that no one is safe from sexual assault, even if you say no. And I also learned to choose my friends wisely. I think their lack of empathy was partially due to the normalisation of groping. Despite sexual assault being commonly regarded as something that men do to women, women can also be complicit in rape culture. The silence of my so-called ‘friends’ allowed the perpetrator to get away with it, and made me feel like it had been my fault. Their silence showed that they blamed me for dancing with a stranger, not the stranger for sexually assaulting a woman. It didn’t happen to them, so it wasn’t their problem, right? Lack of education was also a problem here. Until I started researching for this campaign, I myself did not realise that groping is sexual assault. Sexual assault is a crime. So why is groping ‘normal?’ Why do we think that ‘boys will be boys?’ I know that some people see groping as part of a night out. I also know that groping is by no means the most violent form of sexual assault out there. But numerous studies have shown it to be the most common. It’s a piece of a much bigger and much scarier picture. A picture where male students made jokes about raping their female friends in the infamous Warwick group chat and went virtually unpunished. A picture where the university did virtually nothing to help the girls, and where some of the perpetrators were eventually allowed to return to campus. Two years after my sexual assault and their ordeal, I’m still angry. I’m fucking sick and tired of the normalisation of sexual violence. Concrete action from universities is long overdue. It’s no longer good enough for institutions to say that they do not condone sexual misconduct, that allegations will be taken seriously, that perpetrators will receive due sanctions. There are too many stories of the victims not being believed. I know that if I had made a complaint to my university, they would have brushed it under the carpet. Insufficient evidence. Too few witnesses. Am I sure I said no? Two years on, I now have the opportunity to do something about it. At Reclaim The Campus, we’re trying to give survivors of sexual violence a voice, to show that it’s not ‘just banter’ and that sexual violence takes on many different forms. To show that this doesn’t just happen to girls or in an alleyway late at night. It’s happening right in front of our eyes.
To anyone else who has been in a similar situation to me, and was made to feel like they shouldn’t speak up, I’m so sorry that happened to you. Please know that you deserve friends who will ask if you’re ok after getting sexually assaulted and who will let you be angry about it. Please look after each other. You’re not alone and I believe you.