‘Lads’, stop making light of assault in Selly Oak
Saying ‘was this you?’ on Facebook under a comment about assault isn’t banter
Unfortunately for the students of Birmingham, the town we all know and love has a pretty serious crime rate. As a fresher on the Vale, I heard about the infamous Selly Oak – the negatives and the positives. Despite the upside of Cheeky Joe’s and the many, many pubs, the downside was the horror stories of some of the girls that had to walk home alone at night. Living on the Vale, a few of us felt unsafe. But today that feels like child’s play compared to the current situation on the other side of campus.
It’s hard to ignore the facts when it comes to the issue of female student safety in Selly Oak. If you’re on the Fab ‘n’ Fresh page, it’s likely you’ll see weekly posts from girls warning others to avoid certain roads because they fear for their safety. From the posts about someone running home because they thought they were being followed, to others about girls being grabbed and asked for oral sex, and even people trying to force girls into their cars, the Fab ‘n’ Fresh page is rife with information about the latest assaults on female students.
The seriousness of the issue of female safety however, appears to be downplayed in the comments of these posts. Time and time again girls post on Facebook to get the message out to other girls to be careful so that they don’t go through the same ordeal. And yet despite the messages of support on these posts, it’s never too hard to find the ‘lads’ who use the horrible experiences of these girls for ‘banter’.
Rather than asking if these girls are okay, the ‘lad’ think it’s funny to tag their friends and make fun of the situation by blaming other ‘lads’ for the horrendous trauma that the poster has experienced. A typical example is “ah mate, was this you again” (I mean wow, you got me, comedy gold). It is this ‘banter’ that undermines the girl who has posted. It is this ‘banter’ that makes light of a horrible situation. It is this ‘banter’ that fuels the rage of so many people reading these comments.
What these immature people do not understand is that by simply joking with their mates, they are commenting on the post of the girl who has just been assaulted. They are not privately showing their friend what’s been written, they are writing on the post. The girl’s phone will buzz every time they decide to make a joke at her expense. Not only does this have an immediate effect on the poster, but these childish and ‘joking’ comments distract focus from the issue in hand. The point of the post is ignored and people just take notice of the banter, missing what the real problem is.
I am appalled by the behaviour of these people. The safety of girls walking home at night is not a joke. The issue is that they can’t put themselves in our shoes. They don’t have to arrange their evening around being walked home. They don’t have to pay out the extra money to take a taxi simply because they don’t have the liberty of walking home without someone touching them inappropriately or shouting in their faces.
What’s worse is that it’s not just ‘lads’ that comment. Girls comment too, tagging their friends or boyfriends, joking at the expense of girls who are posting. On a post where someone was grabbed and asked for a blowjob, a girl was quoted saying “I’d probably give him one”. (Can anyone else picture these girls in the Women’s March, because same.)
On the same post, someone commented asking people to stop joking, and people continued to comment for the sake of ‘banter’ with their friends. That post has 16 comments, and only two of them were asking after the victim’s welfare. This isn’t a matter of gender, it’s a matter of respect.
These situations are not funny; they are registered with the police and usually classified as ‘assault’. These girls are terrified, and seeing these posts spreads the terror to others. We are all scared that one day it will happen to us. And now, not only do we have to deal with that looming possibility, but we also have the piss taken out of us by people on Facebook for the sake of banter. It’s not even good banter, it’s actually pretty sub-par banter.
What’s worse, is that making light of these situations could prevent people from posting, and even prevent them from reporting them to the police. Making fun of these people will scare them into doing nothing about their situation. It will have an even bigger effect on boys, because what guy would want to post about sexual harassment when ‘lads’ will just rip them to shreds?
I would like to take this opportunity to tell the people who have been making light of these situations to please just stop. Put yourselves in the shoes of the girls who have to face this every day. Think of your sisters, your housemates, your girlfriends – would you seriously be reacting like this if they were assaulted? It’s immature, it’s petty, it’s dumb. You’re acting ludicrously. You’re not clever, you’re not witty, you’re laughing at the expense of a horrible situation. Not only that, you’re laughing in the victim’s face. That doesn’t make you cool or banterous, it makes you a prick.
There will be ‘lads’ reading this who will tell me to take a joke, have a laugh, live a little. Well, ‘lads’, I’m speaking directly to you now. Laughing at a scared girl isn’t ‘banter’. Spare us your ‘humour’, because I hate to break it to you, but you’re not actually funny. Soz.
It must be noted that it is only the ‘laddish’ few that are behaving in this way, this is not an attack on all boys. I know many guys that have been equally concerned, so this is also a thank you to the boys who walk girls home in order to avoid these situations, it’s better to be safe than sorry. I share the terror that the possibility of assault brings. It could happen to any of us. And if and when it does, please, support them. It’s terrifying and, honestly, people need comfort, not the piss taken out of them.
The Fab ‘n’ Fresh page is a great place to spread the information about an assault happening to you in Selly Oak, but can I please just urge everyone to contact the police on 101 before they post. The police always want to know about any situation, whether it’s someone acting a bit weird or genuine assault.
The guild has a campaign combatting sexual assault and harassment: The Not On Campaign. Please follow the page on Facebook and spread the word.