“It was summer. Some friends and I were coming back from swimming, walking home through the village. It was chilly and I was wearing a polo-neck jumper and trousers, but nothing underneath. The others went into a grocery shop and I was waiting for them by the entrance. A woman came up to me and started talking to me. She told me I needed to be careful and not walk around like that, as people could see my nipples through the jumper and would get excited. Suddenly she grabbed my breasts. I was completely shocked; I had not expected that at all. But I reacted quickly and batted her hand away. She grabbed me again and said, actually she didn’t even fancy me, but walking around like that I was just calling out to be touched. My friends came out of the shop just then and we walked off. I can’t forget it, though: it was absolutely not OK that she touched me and then tried to tell me that it was my own fault.”
Zero tolerance for harassment!
Sexual harassment can happen in all kinds of different places and take many different forms – it could be inappropriate looks, sexist gestures or suggestive remarks or even unwanted touching. Nobody has the right to harass you verbally or physically. You do not have to tolerate anything you do not want! Sexual assault violates a person’s mental and physical integrity and is a criminal offence.
If you have been assaulted, get in touch with a victim advice centre. They will help you understand your rights, the advantages and disadvantages of reporting the incident and what happens in the criminal process. Victim advice centres can help you deal with the incident and organise ongoing support.
Tips if you are alone and somebody is harassing you:
- You have the right to defend yourself however you can. Send a clear STOP message; scream, loudly if necessary or defend yourself physically, using your bag or an umbrella if you have one. Use your attacker’s startle reaction as time to run away – ideally towards a bright, populated area. If there is a shop or restaurant open that you can take refuge in, even better.
- You do not have to engage in conversation if you are addressed and do not want to respond.
- Call someone you trust and explain the situation.
- If there are other people around, call for help. Address specific people, for example: “Hey, you in the blue coat, could you help me?”
- Make a note of the incident, including details such as the place and time and any features of the perpetrator’s appearance: height, size, hair colour, skin colour, how they were dressed, and anything else you noticed to give the police as detailed a description as possible.
- If something does happen, seek help, for example from a victim advice centre. You will be offered free and confidential advice about your rights and options.
- If you are harassed, threatened or physically attacked, call the police on 117.
If you see someone being harassed:
- Don’t look away. Go to the aid of the victim. Speak to them directly, offering help.
- Avoid putting yourself in danger by asking people around you to come with you to help the victim.
- If you see other people being harassed, threatened or physically attacked, call the police on 117.