Trigger warning: Domestic violence and sexual harassment
Over the past couple of weeks I've gone out with my housemates and girl friends, celebrating the end of exams, birthdays and just having a good laugh after all it's the end of term. Naturally, these jubilations were done in a stereotypically student state (with a heck of allot of alcohol). But does my unsober state give anyone the right to grab my bum and make an inappropriate comment? Personally - I think not, no one has the right to invade mine or anyone else personal space. But many of my friends at RHUL have just accepted this to be the norm, their reasoning is "What can you really do about this?"
I have two little stories to tell you now. The first began after a night at the SU on a Friday, walking home and feeling rather tired and drunk and considering ordering Papa G's when I got in. I noticed something in the corner of my eye and had to double take when I saw a good friend being hit by her then boyfriend. I don't condone violence or ever say that it is a way to solve a situation, however I had to step in and stop her from being hurt. She is my friend, it was an innate reaction to protect her, after all I know exactly what it's like to be an abusive relationship to the point that I never want anyone to experience that type of pain. Anyway I ended with a ton of bruises but I got my friend out of that situation. It wasn't my smartest decision to get involved in a fight with someone twice my size but I wasn't prepared to sit on the side lines and just watch on.
The second story is less dramatic yet knocked what little self confidence I had at the time. Typical Wednesday at the SU, my housemates spent two hours convincing me that I looked good in a dress I had borrowed from one of them, but we finally got out and down to the SU and had a laugh. While I was standing outside in the smoking cage with a friend, gossipping about the day's events, a very tall ill-mannered guy came up behind me and grabbed my bum and said "you've got a bit of a tummy on you, haven't you?" I went into shock, I couldn't believe that at a stranger could dare touch me and comment on my appearance. Thankfully the friend I had with me got rid of him and I was later told not to worry, as he did this all the time. But that made it even worse for me, that some "lad" felt that it was socially acceptable to treat, not just me, but other women on campus in this way. I spoke to a few of my guy mates back home and agreed that it was the weirdest approach they ever heard of.
These experiences sound awful and have spurred me on to want to help bring up awareness for RHUL FemSoc's Zero tolerance campaign. I told theses events to an someone who is going to be in an official SU position next year and they genuinely replied with "What can I do about it?" This seems to be the mindset of most people, they don't report what has happened to them because they don't know how to, or argue "whats the point? It happens all the time and nothing will change". I want this mentality to be changed to say "it's not okay to enter someone's personal space without their consent".
Note from Rhul FemSoc President-elect:
Sexual harassment and abuse is not acceptable, If you are made to feel uncomfortable in a SU please report it to a member of security or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or us and we will pass it on to people that can and want to help. Stories like these aren't normally shared out side friendship groups, however there are plans in place to make next year better with our soon to be Zero Tolerance Union. Zero Tolerance doesn't exist to spoil peoples fun, its there to remind people that whatever people are wearing, however drunk they are, what ever gender or sexuality they identify as, treat them like human beings and respect their rights and their bodies, and try and make our campus a safer place.