TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains information about and depictions of sexual assault, harassment and/or violence that some may find triggering or upsetting.
Ignited just last month by a New York Times exposé on allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo hashtag has become a movement that extends to not only the endemic climate of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood: rather, #MeToo has become a call to action for survivors everywhere. Cynics of the social media age may decry this movement as insignificant at best or a “witch hunt” at worst, but to them I say this: when survivors use a tool so accessible and so public, society may finally begin to understand the enormity of this problem.
Sexual violence and harassment isn’t exclusive to one industry, place or social group; much like the patriarchy that emboldens it, sexual violence is universally and insidiously pervasive all across the world. Glasgow is no exception to this rule. From clubs who appear too forgiving of predatory men on the dancefloor to patriarchal professors protected by their tenure, sexual harassment and violence is an inescapable fact of life for far too many students in Glasgow.
Below are accounts voluntarily given to The Glasgow Guardian from students that attend the University of Glasgow. In sharing these accounts, we hope not only to give a platform to survivors that choose to use it, but also to raise awareness of sexual harassment and violence in Glasgow institutions.
“Since moving to Glasgow over two years ago the frequency of experiences I have had with sexual harassment has increased dramatically and, although sexual harassment and assault are prevalent absolutely everywhere, I have personally been far more exposed to it since moving to a large city. As somebody who enjoys going on nights out with my friends, a lot of these experiences have been in nightclub environments. Obviously, when in a club most people drink a fair amount of alcohol, but this is a baseless justification for some of the treatment that I, and every single one of my female friends, have experienced.
My most recent experience of harassment was last month when I was celebrating a friend’s birthday at Mango. I was walking up the stairs to the next level of the club and the man that was walking behind me placed his hand on my arse and proceeded to try and push his fingers past the playsuit that I was wearing. I hadn’t been speaking to this man, I’d been with my friends all night. I hadn’t even seen his face before walking up the stairs and I don’t think he had seen mine either. It was an opportunistic assault that left me feeling violated and disturbed. #MeToo.”
- Third year, female, 21.
“After my parents split up, my abuser took the form of my mum’s new partner. I was seven years old. Being guilted into staying quiet through blackmail, for years I blamed myself and questioned if the reason I was gay was because I was abused by a man. It has, at times, almost ruined my relationship. I fully believe it has been a factor in me developing mental-ill health as an adult, causing some of the most ordinary things to act as triggers, leading to anxiety attacks. Sexual abuse isn’t about attraction, it’s about power; adults over adolescents and children, men over women, majorities over marginalised groups. #MeToo.”
- Third year, male, 20.
“When I was in my first year, my friend and I were dancing with two men in Kokomo. I was young and felt like I had to be nice to men even when they were being creepy. One guy went to the bar to get me a drink and, after declining a few times, I accepted the drink when he seemed annoyed that he’d spent the money. I was watching him at the bar the entire time but I still didn’t see that he’d slipped something into my drink. Thankfully, once I started to feel off I ran outside and my friends found me passed out. I still don’t know what would have happened if he’d found me instead of my flatmates. #MeToo.”
- Fourth year, female, 22.
“During my second year, a senior lecturer at the University insinuated to me that if I slept with him he’d give me an A grade. I’d heard rumours that he did this before but didn’t believe it until it happened to me. I felt too scared to report it in case I wouldn’t be believed and it would affect my degree. #MeToo.”
- Fourth year, female, 21.
“When I was a fresher I became friends with a guy on my course that I’d met through a Facebook group. He was a self-identified intersectional feminist and socialist, and seemed to me (at the time) to be exactly the kind of male thinker that my school was so desperately lacking. I was excited by the chance to meet all these new people - male and female - that held beliefs similar to my own.
When he asked me on a date, I told him no but that I wanted to be his friend. I made it explicitly clear that I wasn’t interested in anything other than friendship. Assuming that he’d respect the boundaries I’d set, I continued to hang out with him. One night, he was at my halls (I lived at Queen Margaret Residences and he lived at Murano Street) having drinks in my block, but once the party died down he said that he didn’t want to walk home at that time of night. He also claimed to have no money for a taxi. I offered up my bedroom floor but, sensing something off, told him - again - that I wasn’t interested in anything other than sleeping.
When I returned to my bedroom after getting changed in my bathroom, he was stood in the middle of my room in his underwear. I didn’t know what to say or do so I just got into my bed, and he continued to stand in the middle of my room and comment on how “hot” it was that a girl had so many books in her room. After ten minutes, he began complaining that he couldn’t sleep because the floor was too hard and the blanket I gave him was not warm enough. Feeling guilty, I told him that he could share my bed.
It took him all of two minutes to start grinding into me from behind. I told him to stop and that I didn’t want to do anything, but he insisted that I’d 'feel better' if we did. He then put his hand under my pyjama bottoms, at which point I again told him to stop. He didn’t, once again insisting that I’d 'feel better' if we had sex. I shot out of the bed like a rocket and, loudly, told him to leave my flat.
To this day I still sometimes see him parading around campus posing as a feminist, QMU liberal. I sometimes wonder if he even knows what he did was wrong. #MeToo.”
- Third year, female, 20.
“During freshers’ week I was groped by a freshers’ helper. #MeToo.”
- First year, female, 18.
“I like Hive, but every time I go there on a Thursday I have at least two or three guys touch my arse without my permission or start grinding up against me when I’m obviously uncomfortable. #MeToo.”
- First year, female, 19.
“I have never had a night out in Glasgow where I haven’t been touched without my permission by a man. #MeToo.”
- Second year, female, 19.
“I’ve worked in multiple bars and restaurants in the City Centre and West End and I can’t count how many times men have said lewd things to me or touched my arse. Most of my managers never seem to care. I don’t understand why bars and restaurants don’t impose a zero tolerance policy on the harassment of staff. They obviously care more about revenue than the wellbeing of their employees. #MeToo.”
- Postgraduate, female, 24.
“I used to think that sexual harassment and rape were clear-cut things, that the perpetrator clearly exhibited a violent or hostile attitude. Perhaps this was the reason why it took me a full year to realise what was happening, or perhaps I was just in denial. I had been warned to not get involved in a relationship with this guy by my friend who had previously dated him. However, he seemed so lovely and notably innocent in his demeanour - almost childlike in nature. Everyone liked him, his apparent easy-to-read and endearing countenance drew everybody in and I found it charming. Everything was completely normal at first - I knew that he was insecure but I let it slide because I was insecure too. Then, one day, I started to feel stressed in the relationship - something in me just changed. It was at that point that he started to have sex with me when I didn’t want to. I would vocally object and try to physically push him away but eventually I gave in because I didn’t know how to deal with the situation. What made it worse was that by this time I had become completely dependent on him. He had become such a big part of my life that I didn’t know how to remove him from it. So, when I managed to officially break up with him it was like we’d never really broken up at all. I began to feel depressed and messed up inside, recognising that there was something seriously wrong with the situation, but this was my first ever relationship and part of me still cared about him and appreciated him as a friend. At the end of the year, however, things came to a conclusion when we were having a friendly chat on Facebook, joking to each other, and then a chord suddenly struck in me and I became incredibly and uncontrollably angry. Over a couple of hours I just lost it, becoming increasingly frustrated until I came to the point where I openly accused him of rape. He, being the innocent and childlike boy he was, cried to his cousin who then messaged me furiously exclaiming that I was wrong and horrible to accuse him of such a thing. I left the situation feeling like the villain. A year after that I apologised to him. I apologised to him. For a long time, I felt nothing when I had sex, it simply felt mechanical. It has taken me two years to remember the innocent, romantic buzzing feeling that I had back in first year, and thank god for that. But I hate that I became the villain in all of this, and that I couldn’t defend myself to anyone. Sexual harassment and rape aren’t clear-cut at all, and the perpetrator often doesn’t fit the stereotype that we might imagine. #MeToo.”
- Fourth year, female, 21.
Rape Crisis Glasgow: 0141 552 3201
Victim Support: 0808 168 9111
SRC Advice Centre open Mon-Fri 11:30 - 16:00
0141 330 5360
EDIT: This article has been changed to include the statement from the university below.
A spokesperson for the University told us, "The University takes any allegation of harassment - whether sexual, physical or verbal - very seriously. We would urge anyone who feels that they have been threatened to contact a member of staff, their advisor of studies, the SRC or the Police. We are ready to help whether the incident took place on or off campus. Students have an absolute right to feel safe and secure at all times."