We are launching a campaign to highlight the issue of sexual assault in bars and clubs, which has become so routine, that some victims now expect it to happen to them every time they go out.
Lottie, who is 18 and from Bristol, told us that she and her friends are routinely sexually assaulted when they go on a night out in town. The assaults can range from bum pinching or grabbing, hands up skirts or down tops, being pushed up against the bar and assaulted from behind, being touched sexually on other parts of the body, as well as other things.
Lottie said: “This has happened to most of my friends at least once, and a lot of times to others. It happens most of the nights that we go out. It’s just part of the night, you think ‘I’m going out tonight, but I know that this is going to happen’. I sometimes wear shorts underneath skirts.
“It makes me feel like a piece of meat. The message I get is that the people who do this are doing it because they can get away with it, and that there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s horrible, and it ruins your night out.”
Our message is clear – it is not acceptable and there will be consequences for anyone who behaves like this in our licenced premises.
Chief Inspector Marie Wright, force lead for rape and sexual assault said: “The fact that Lottie and her friends expect this kind of thing to happen to them every time they go on a night out, quite frankly sickens me.
Nobody has the right to touch someone in this way without their consent. The people who do this may think it’s a laugh, but they are wrong. It is sexual assault, and it unacceptable.
“I would encourage anyone who experiences this kind of assault to tell someone. It doesn’t have to be the police, although we will always listen and act when people do report these incidents to us. Remember you can tell the bar or door staff, there and then, who can support you and take action against the person or people who assaulted you. Even if you don’t know who assaulted you, you can still tell someone and things can be done to help you.”
We are working collaboratively with partners including Bristol Women’s Voice, who are encouraging venues to sign up to the Bristol Zero Tolerance campaign, making venues safer spaces for those on a night out. When venues sign up their staff can receive specialist training on how to deal with harassment and assault, and how to support their customers.
Ch Insp Wright added: “Ultimately, if the people who do this know they’re likely to be kicked out, then that’s their night ruined and they may think twice about doing it again in the future.”
Clare Lowe is the Events Manager at No.1 Harbourside, The Canteen and The Old Market Assembly, all of which have signed up to the Zero Tolerance campaign and whose staff have received the training. Clare said: “Since our staff have been trained, we have noticed a marked improvement in the atmosphere at our venues. Staff now know how to support people who disclose an assault to them and our door staff waste no time in identifying who the culprits are and throwing them out. This in turn makes people feel safer and more likely to return, as well as making offenders think twice about their behaviour. I would encourage all licenced premises to sign up to the Bristol Zero Tolerance campaign.”
As part of our campaign, new posters will be displayed in venues encouraging victims to report when they’ve been assaulted and warning offenders that their behaviour won’t be tolerated.
Lottie said: “I think with lad culture these days, this kind of behaviour can be praised almost, and they all have a laugh about it. It’s very intimidating. And if I’m with a boy when it happens, and he gets involved, it can lead to a fight, and that’s never pleasant.
“We need boys to be able to challenge other boys and say ‘that’s not acceptable, don’t do that.’”
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Firstly I would like to commend Lottie for bravely raising this issue and encouraging others to talk about it. I am saddened to hear that this sort of behaviour has become something that Lottie and her friends have come to expect on a night out.
“What they are experiencing is sexual assault. Sexual assault is a crime and will not be tolerated on any level in Avon and Somerset. No one has the right to touch another person in this way and I’m delighted the police, our partners and the local bars and clubs are coming together to tackle this unacceptable behaviour.
“Only by working together can we stop this from happening, challenge perpetrators and encourage victims to come forward and report and ultimately help to make events a better place to be for all who want to enjoy them.”
Support our campaign on social media, use #thisisnotanexcuse
You can report a sexual assault to the police online or by calling 101. If a crime is in progress or in an emergency always call 999
For more advice and support, visit www.thisisnotanexcuse.org