This article contains themes of sexual assault. If you are affected by anything in this story please follow the links for support.
Have you ever given a man a fake number in a bid to get him to leave you alone, or pretended your ‘boyfriend’ was picking you up? Have you ever had to make a fake call when this tactic didn’t work, or pretended your friend nearby was your partner, just to get a pest to go away? Have you ever been hurt by something a man has said, but brushed it off because everyone else just laughed. Or been told to cheer up and to stop being boring when you questioned them? Have you ever said no, and it not be enough? I experienced every single one of those, and I know I’m not the only one. There are many things that have happened over the years that have made me feel uncomfortable, but there was one moment that stuck with me. As a student, I went to bed at a friend’s house and woke up with a man in the same bed as me. He sexually assaulted me, and when I asked him to stop, he laughed. I said no again. He shrugged, called me ‘boring’, and then left. But what hurt the most weren’t just his actions. It was the people around him. I told my friend, and she laughed it off whilst declaring ‘you probably flirted with him’ I told another, who brushed it off and said ‘oh you know what he’s like’. Two people, who I trusted, accepted his behaviour and left me blaming myself. I remained silent. In that moment I felt alone and confused. If a friend doesn’t believe me, why would someone else. I never reported it, and he was left to carry on with his behaviour. I carried on with my everyday life, but it didn’t feel the same. I lost confidence in myself and my abilities, and I lost trust in people. It is 12 years since this happened, and sadly I still see those behaviours. Men being allowed to get away with what they want, because ‘boys will be boys’. And women remaining silent - too scared to say no. Or being ignored when they do. But things are changing. Women are speaking out and people are listening. But there is still a long way to go. If I can encourage you to do anything, it would be the following: Listen. Support. Challenge behaviours. Call your friends out. And if you are ever in a similar situation, do not remain silent. Report it, speak to someone and do not let people carry on with their behaviour.
If you were affected by this blog, remember there is support available.
Project Firefly is our response to making women and girls feel safe in the night-time economy. Through improved training to officers and licensing staff, increased patrols and partnership working, the force is pursuing perpetrators and improving safety.
Victims of rape and sexual assault can receive support and guidance from us and our partner agencies, including the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), as well as support through the criminal investigation process.
Reports of sexual assault, even if non-recent, can be made to the police by calling 101 or online.
Always call 999 in an emergency or if you are in immediate danger.
If you have been affected by crime, Bedfordshire Victim Care Services offers free and confidential support to victims in Bedfordshire, whether or not the crime has been reported to police, and irrespective of where and when it occurred.