Hands Off

Sexual assault is astoundingly commonplace in the UK. You will know a few women who have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, or you may even have been assaulted yourself.

But it’s an issue we continue to turn a relatively relaxed attitude to on a night out. Some creep squeezes a girl where he shouldn’t, and can often get away with it completely.

So what are the facts about sexual assault in the UK?

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Sexual Assault in the UK – the Facts

  • 1 in 5 women in the UK have experienced sexual assault since the age of 16.
  •  5 in 6 victims of sexual assault did not report their experiences to the police.
  • Women are 5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than men.

If you’re sat in an office, or on a tube, or at a coffee shop, have a look around and realise just how many people who may have been affected. Let’s not forget that there will be many people who don’t count being pinched on the bum on a night out as sexual assault (it is).

The reason the number of sexual assaults reported to the police is so low is likely due to these victims being too scared to report these crimes, or having little faith that there will be any conviction at the end of the process.

If you think the UK wide statistics are high, wait until you look at sexual assault at university.

  • 62% of 4,500 students surveyed reported experiencing sexual assault during their time in higher education.
  • Only 10% of these respondents reported their experience to the university or the police. 56% said it “wasn’t serious enough”.

All sexual assault is serious. It makes people feel uncomfortable, uneasy and powerless. The idea that it is just another risk of a night out is heinous, and serves to reinforce the issue. If you don’t understand the impact it can have, read the quote below carefully.

“My university failed me entirely when I reported my sexual assault, and it was brushed under the carpet. I didn’t bother reporting the second incident. I figured out that I had the emotional strength to do one of two things: I could pursue a complaint against my rapist, or I could finish my degree. I chose the latter and went for counselling after graduating, but I still have not recovered and I think about it literally every day. I am still so angry.” Revolt Sexual Assault respondent

ABC News
Image credit: ABC News

Sexual Assault and our so-called “Role Models”

Our role models can be a fine moral compass to us in both life and business – I’m all for having good role models. But if we hold celebrities and sportspeople in such high regard, what happens when they are convicted of sexual assault?

This list could go on forever, but I’ve only included those who have been convicted or been forced to step down from roles because of the allegations against them:

  • Kevin Spacey
  • James Franco
  • Louis C.K.
  • Ed Westwick (under investigation)
  • David Blaine (under investigation)
  • Harvey Weinstein
  • R. Kelly
  • Donald Trump (by his own admission, on tape)
  • Boy Better Know’s very own Solo 45

Celebrities like these are role models for millions of people collectively, and the celebrity sphere is often where sexual assault receives its highest profile. And the sentences for many are woefully lenient. When the rich and famous we aspire toward are committing sexual assault, this bleeds out into our society on every level.

I’ve left a large number of names off the list because celebrities are obviously easy targets for sexual assault accusations, and a number of cases are too suspect to include.

But the message being sent is clear and toxic – if celebrities are committing sexual assault and getting away with it with no more than a slap on the wrist, why can’t you?

Why do men commit sexual assault more than women?

The only truth is that there is no excuse nor valid reason for sexual assault being committed more often by men than women. Men having an “over-stimulated sexuality” is an excuse with no credibility whatsoever to any human being with self-control.

Men are on average physically stronger than women and once again, to those of a neanderthalic mindset, this subconsciously gives them the disposition that they can take what they want from those physically weaker than them.

Displays of aggressive or over-confident behaviour have previously been seen as an attractive trait, perhaps providing some confusion to those clinging to ties with their ancient ancestors.

There is no valid reason why men should commit sexual assault more than women.

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What can you do to Effect Change?

Unfortunately without security footage, or sufficient witnesses, it’s exceptionally difficult to convict someone of sexual assault. But this doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference on an individual level. It’s time to make those committing sexual assault, no matter how minor, feel even a modicum of the shame they impose on those that they assault.

The female and male friends I admire the most are those who won’t let the creeps get away with this behaviour. They grab the lingering hand, and turn around and shout in the face of their would-be attacker for everyone to see. Others are the men who step in right away when perhaps their female friend is worried of a physical retaliation from confronting their attacker. Only by acting can we force these individuals to think twice before making the same mistake again.

The battle against sexual assault is being lost every time we say or do nothing to address it.

If you’ve read this blog and would like to speak to someone about your own experiences with sexual assault, please visit https://www.safeline.org.uk/.