I want to share a few incidents of sexual assault I have experienced…

I was at a busy pub with my friends and walking up the stairs to the upper floor. A man, a lot older than me, coming down the stairs looked my body up and down. As I passed by him, he reached over and grabbed my breasts. His friends laughed in the background and the people I were with didn’t seem to care. I was about 17.

I was in a queer nightclub with my friend in London. I am not queer myself but my friend is, and we always had a great time together with his group of friends. A girl came up to me and kept on saying how attractive I am and that she really wanted to kiss me. I said thank you but I’m not actually into women. She wouldn’t leave me alone and grabbed my breasts before leaving. I told my friend about it as I was quite shocked. His boyfriend laughed and grabbed my breasts again as if to say “what’s the problem?”. I was young at the time and laughed but it ultimately made me feel like it was ok for him to touch me like that and for other people to touch me too.

I was at my brothers birthday party with my friend. He’s a bit older than me and I was about 16 at the time. I went to get some money out from a cash machine with my friend while one of his friends stood behind me in the queue. I could hear him making noises/speaking to the boys next to him about my backside and how badly he wanted me. As I was bending down to pick up by cash I felt him kick me between the crotch. Me and my friend often used to laugh at this incident, but it really hurt at the time and shocked me.

I was at a festival with some friends who I knew fairly well. We were drinking in our tent and the conversation got on to the topic of bodies. They all kept on saying how jealous they were of my body and how badly they want to see my breasts. They insisted I showed them there and then. It was a new friendship group and I felt under pressure and pulled down my top. I felt really alone in that moment and really vulnerable.

All these incidents sent the message to me that my body was not mine. In all cases, my friends just laughed or even encouraged this message.

I am 23 now. I hope the narrative changes for girls at school growing up so we can teach each other that it is not ok to sexualise your friends or touch their bodies without consent. And to validate each others experiences of sexual assault when they occur rather than becoming an anecdote. Friendships should be a safe space where we have the potential to disrupt the discourse and narrative around sexual assault. Not another space in which sexism pervades and assault is made to same ok. It never is, and I am sorry if anyone has felt alone or let down in these ways too.