Louise Gundry, Comment Editor
It doesn’t matter what my name is. It doesn’t matter what I am a student of, and my age doesn’t makes a difference because I look far younger than I am. It hardly matters what I was wearing on a Friday night (just jeans and a t-shirt), or even which pub I was at (though the fact that there was a second floor made the situation what it was). The purpose of this article is to reveal the existence of violence against women in every corner of the world; it occurs even in the tiny seaside town of St Andrews.
I was trying to avoid drunken teenagers on the Friday of Freshers’ Week. A friend and I went to a pub and were having a good conversation for almost an hour despite the blaring pop music. It doesn’t matter which gender my friend is because he/she left my side to get us a second round of drinks and had no clue that I was assaulted in the meantime.
A song came on that I actually knew the words to: Billy Joel’s “Small Town Girl”. I am, admittedly, a small town girl myself but spent the last year living in one of the biggest and most dangerous cities in the world. This doesn’t make a difference except to underscore the unexpectedness of the incident. It seemed like the whole pub was singing the song with me. I stood on the second floor balcony looking down on the drunken teenagers I had obviously not avoided that evening. It does matter quite a bit that they were boys, about fifteen of them.
At some point they all noticed me standing there above them and began chanting, “Show your tits!” over and over. I was not about to remove myself just because of my gender, so I shouted down, “You show me your tits!” in hopes that they would understand that I certainly was not interested in showing mine. While gender equality is a cherished ideal of mine, we must recognize that there is a difference between male and female breasts and the showing thereof. A lot of them did indeed lift their shirts up, and I laughed at how ridiculous the whole scenario was.
I believe I was laughing still when a man was suddenly pressed up against my back, grinding himself into me. I was not amused at all by that and was about to turn around to tell him to stop when his hands reached around my hips and lifted my shirt up to reveal me to the crowd of chanting boys below. In that moment, I stopped hearing the music and the celebratory “Woo!” of the boys below. All I wanted was to punish this man who had decided for me that my tits indeed be shown.
He ran from me, back towards the stairs, and I grabbed his shirt so he would turn and look at me, so I could at least see the perpetrator’s ugly face. My shoe fell off in the tussle at the top of the stairs and I lost hold of him, but he did look over his shoulder at me for a brief moment. I did not follow immediately. Instead I found my shoe and collapsed into the nearest booth. My friend returned oblivious to what had just happened and why I was so upset. I decided to see if I could identify exactly which boy had had the audacity to do such a thing. They all looked the same: collared shirts (some solid colours, some tartan) and buzzed haircuts everywhere. All I knew what that the boy who did it was wearing a black polo.
I went downstairs and immediately told one of the security guards that I had just been sexually harassed. He went off to tell his colleague or look for the boy, but suddenly the crowd realized I was the girl from the balcony and surrounded me. I was smacked, groped, tugged at and pushed around amongst them for several minutes, all shouting again that they wanted to see my tits. All I could do was try to push them away and tell them to “show me yours, you f—— a——-!” If I had continued to cry like I wanted to, they would have seen weakness and felt like they had won. Several of them lifted up their shirts and actually forced my head onto their bare chests, demanding raunchy favours. If I had been out in the street like a certain girl was several years ago, I am certain it would have become a gang rape.
I don’t remember how I got myself out of that disgusting crowd, but I did. I retrieved my coat, purse, and friend from upstairs and went outside to talk to the security guards. A few minutes later, a fairly large group of boys came out and were very aggressive towards me, which leads me to believe they were part of the group of attackers. They called me “a f—— knob” and a “crazy slut”, and while I did smack one of them on the back of his head after such a comment, I could not say for certain which one had lifted my shirt up or who exactly had groped me on the dance floor. The security guards pushed several of them out of my face, but the group of drunken boys just walked on down the street.
The police constable I spoke to that night told me to not let the incident ruin my night, that these things rarely happen but it has been an especially wild Freshers’ Week. The point is not whether it ruined my night (though it did, as it would for any woman), or that sexual assault rarely occurs in St Andrews; and it doesn’t matter how crazy the students have been during this year’s Freshers’ Week. The point is that a man decided he had the right to choose when a woman showed her breasts and to whom.
A person’s physical security should never be violated, and the fact that it was the violation of a woman’s physical security is a rude awakening for every female in St Andrews. It could have happened to any girl, perhaps in any pub, on any night of the week, and it is unacceptable. But it happened to me, and they chose the wrong female to violate. The façade of gender equality has been shattered into even tinier pieces for me, and we must realize that the idea of women’s safety is taken largely for granted. Yes this is the UK, yes this is a small town, yes it is safe for the most part. But we must not lie to ourselves in thinking that because we as women have inalienable rights, men will respect them; clearly, they do not sometimes.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, I urge you to report it to the police as I did so that the men involved can be prosecuted and learn that no matter where they are, no matter how innocent their original intentions were, a woman’s body is no one’s property but her own. We all deserve to live, to study, to relax in peace whether we have tits or not.
Article submitted anonymously.
Image Credit – European Parliament