I got punched in the face because I refused to give a guy my number
‘If it weren’t for the blood gushing from my nose I wouldn’t have believed it had actually happened’
As students, we’re repeatedly drilled with the usual mantras to stay ‘safe’ on nights out. “Don’t, drink too much, don’t leave your friends, don’t leave your drink, don’t walk home alone…” But the reality is, this wouldn’t be necessary if we all just got our shit together and retained a little bit of the respect and normality that seems to disappear once we step inside a club.
A survey of 2,000 students by the NUS shows that a quarter of students had experienced unwelcome sexual advances at university, particularly in a club or party setting, they also found that a third of the female and male students questioned had had overtly sexual comments or advances directed at them which had made them feel uncomfortable.
The idea that university is a hotbed of casual sex and endless one night stands that’s drilled into us takes away an element of respect that you’d normally have for your fellow students. Pulling someone in a club is great, and approaching someone who you find attractive is too, but you’re not entitled to them, no one is, and similarly, no one is obligated to humor your advances – even if they are drunk, showing flesh, or getting with other people that night.
We spoke to a Nottingham Trent fresher, Olivia Harridence, who had her night out ruined by a fellow student who physically assaulted her when she rejected his advances, here’s her story.
On one seemingly normal night out in mid-October, I was dancing in a circle with my flat mates. We’d all been drinking but were having a great time, just a normal first year night out. I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, and as I turned around to face the stranger who was trying to grab my attention, he thrust his phone into my hands, signalling for me to put in my number. I was caught off guard, I was just having fun with my flatmates. I didn’t recognise the guy at all, and hadn’t spoken to anyone but my friends all night. I politely declined, but he couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to give him my number. A look of sheer bewilderment crossed his face and he kept asking me why not, do I have a boyfriend? Was I a lesbian? I tried to explain, as gently as possible, that I was just having a good night with my friends and thanks, but I wasn’t interested.
Even though I’d made it clear I didn’t want to, he was repeatedly shouting ‘let me have your number’, over the blaring music. Needless to say, I soon lost my patience. After what felt like the millionth time that my night was interrupted, I politely made it clear that I was getting fed up by taking him aside and asking him to leave me alone. As the words left my mouth his face suddenly changed, I saw a fist appear out of nowhere, soaring towards my face, and he punched me. I don’t remember anything after falling to the disgusting, Jäger bomb covered floor. By the time that I had picked myself up, he had vanished. It felt as though I had entered a dream, a kind of hyper-reality, where things like this actually happen. In fact, if it weren’t for the blood gushing from my nose and throbbing pain in my cheekbone, I may not have believed that it had actually happened.
After being comforted and cleaned up with wads of tissue by some sympathetic bystanders I went in search of my friends, (half of whom had gone to find the boy who had punched me, presumably to do the same to him). I felt scared walking through the crowds of people alone, suddenly aware of how vulnerable I was. What had I done? Should I have just lied? Put my arm around a girlfriend, and pretended I wasn’t interested in guys? Or just gone with the classic ‘I have a boyfriend’? Why wasn’t I allowed to just say no? Why did me being single and in a club make me fair game? I felt like prey being stalked, terrified him or someone else was going to loom out of the crowds for round two, terrified that this time he wouldn’t run away, that he’d grab me or grope me and I wouldn’t be able to stop him.
I decided to tell security in hopes of him being removed from the club to avoid more trouble. After the initial compassion and warmth expressed by the security guard at the sight of a drunk, teary girl with a bloody nose, he began to ask me more awkward questions about what had happened. He assumed I had done something to provoke the outburst, like him finding me attractive was somehow my fault. It felt like he questioned if I was to blame for the whole incident. I didn’t want to be involved in any more fights so I dropped it, and just went home to painkillers and frozen peas – the chances of finding that particular guy in a venue with a capacity of approximately 2000 people were slim to say the least, but it still makes my blood boil to think that he got away with it, that he might do it again, and that his next victim might not be as lucky as I was to be okay.
A study from earlier this year shows that over half of female university students are sexually harassed on a night out, and fifteen per cent of male students. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that universities need to have a clear stance on sexual harassment, and also that attitudes towards it need to be changed. No doesn’t need justification, no one is obligated to give you their number, and no one deserves to be punched for not being interested.